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So You Have a Scar?

How to maintain your scar



What is a scar?

Scars form as a normal part of healing when the skin is damaged from a burn, trauma, or surgery. Everyone forms different scars 


How long will it take to heal?

Scars take between 6 months to 1 year to heal completely. Over this time, they begin to change from a thick, red, raised scar to a thin, flat scar. 


How can I lessen my scar?

Scars heal best with the 4 S’s.

Sun protection

Scar massage

Scar moisturization

Silicone tape

Sun protection

Scars, when exposed to sun, will get darker (hyperpigment) more than the surrounding skin. This is true for the first year of healing. This hyperpigmentation does not improve and so it is very important to protect the scar from the sun. If you can cover the area with clothing, do so whenever you are exposed to the outdoors or to sunlight through windows. When not covered, apply sunscreen that is SPF 30 or greater. Make sure the sunscreen has zinc oxide as an active ingredient. Remember, even if it’s cloudy outside, the sun is still out. 


Scar massage

Scar massage will promote flattening and smoothness of the scar helping to prevent overgrowth (hypertrophy) and potential keloid formation. 



When should I start massaging my scars? 

You should start massaging your scars two weeks after surgery. Wait until the sutures have been removed and all scabs have fallen off by themselves. Do not pull your scabs off. 


How do I massage my scars? 

Use the pads or soft tips of your fingers to massage the scar and tissue around the scar. Massage in all three directions. 


Circles: Using two fingers make small circles over the length of the scar and the skin surrounding it. 

Vertical: Using two fingers massage the scar up-and-down. 

Horizontal: Using two fingers massage the scar from side-to-side. 


How much pressure should I apply? 

You should apply as much pressure as you can tolerate. Begin with light pressure and progress to deeper and firmer pressure. Massage lotion in, applying enough pressure to make the scar area lighten in color or turn white. 


How often should I massage my scar? 

Massage should be done at least five times a day for five minutes each time. 


How long is massaging necessary? 

You should massage your scars as instructed for at least six months following your surgery or injury. Massaging for more than six months will not hurt your scars and may actually prove beneficial. 


When should I stop massaging? 

Stop massaging and contact your doctor if you experience any of the following: 

  • Redness 

  • Bleeding 

  • Scar feels warmer than the skin around it 

  • More pain than usual at the site of the scar 


Scar moisturization

Scars heal best when the skin is moisturized. Wearing silicone tape is one way to keep a scar well-moisturized. Other good ways to keep a scar moisturized are to use creams like Aquaphor, Eucerin, Cerave, or Cetaphil. If a scar cannot be covered by silicone tape, use one of these creams on a daily basis to keep moisture. Also apply throughout the day if you notice the scar/skin is starting to dry out.


Silicone tape


The use of silicone tape has several benefits. It:


  • Increases hydration of the skin.


  • Provides pressure on the scar promoting flatness.


  • Prevents the formation of and helps break down excess levels of collagen which lead to scar hypertrophy.



How do I use it?

Silicone tape should be worn 23 hours a day except while in the shower. After your shower, apply a clean tape to the incision. 



What brand do I use and where do I find it?

Any brand will do as long as it is “medical-grade” silicone. Silicone tape can found at any regular retailer (ie Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, Amazon, etc…)



Can I reuse the tape?

Silicone tape is not cheap, but the good news is that it is washable and reusable. Even if the tape has lost its sticky, the silicone is still working. So…wash your silicone tape daily and let it hang dry. If it won’t stick to your skin, apply the silicone to the incision and affix it in place with regular skin tape.



How long do I wear silicone tape?

Silicone works best while the scar is actively healing (ie for the first six months to one year).

Dr. Adebowale Odulana

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