Editor of VITALITY Becci Vallis investigates the opening up of conversations around scarring and the advancements in treatments.
Scars shouldn’t be seen as things to hide but like with anything that doesn’t fit the ‘norm’, it can cause people to feel self-conscious and insecure. But if there’s one thing that everyone knows – it’s that there’s no such thing as perfect and one of the most positive things to come from social media are the people hghlighting their so called ‘imperfections’. Whether it’s acne, hair loss or in this case, scarring, the more people are embracing the skin they’re in, the more they are encouraging others to do the same.
“Social media and celebrities openly discussing and sharing their experiences has significantly diminished the taboo around scarring,” says Dr Selena Langdon, medical director and founder of Berkshire Aesthetics. “People have often hidden or been ashamed of their scars, feeling entirely alone or isolated from their feelings. When celebrities share their personal stories and challenges with a broader audience it can help to facilitate discussions for others and help them to process their own feelings.”
Influencers like @natalie_amber1, @behindthescars_ and @catrinpugh are all leading the conversation while campaigns such as @getyourskinout and celebrities like @katiepiper_ are at the forefront of raising awareness about the mental health side effects of scarring. Even the royals haven’t shied away from the topic. “Princess Eugenie chose a wedding dress that fully revealed her scar from scoliosis surgery which was a lovely way to honour the people who looked after her and a way of standing up for young people who have had similar experiences. Reframing a scar as part of a person’s life experience can alter their relationship with it and help them process it more positively,” continues Dr Selena.
NEW WAYS TO TREAT SCARS
As well as conversations around scars developing, so too is the education and understanding of scar biology which means different protocols are being put in place when it comes to treating them – if and when people want to, in particular technologies with mixed modalities which are being combined to get the best results, for example microneedling, lasers and light therapy.
“Scar treatment often means causing injury to the area to stimulate the body’s own healing process. Contracture, acne and stretch marks respond well to treatments such as microneedling to stimulate the skin’s natural healing process leading to increased collagen and elastin production,” explains Dr Selena who also favours the Dermalux MD light therapy device in her treatment of scars.
“Recent advances including non-fractional ablative laser resurfacing and radiofrequency treatments have been particularly helpful in enabling more effective treatments of scars, in particular those with pigmented skin types,” says Dr Magnus Lynch, consultant dermatologist.
The MOXI and BroadBand Light (BBL) are two advanced skin treatments that have been found to pair together especially well to rejuvenate skin and can deliver tonal and textural improvements. With multiple levels of intensity, each treatment can be bespoke to the clients’ needs too.
AT HOME ADVICE
While in clinic LED treatments have been found to get good results for reducing scarring, the at-home devices often don’t have enough proof to back them up. What can be helpful are topical products that contain silicone or oil based products that contain vitamin A as this can assist in blood cell production which can boost the skin’s healing process.
For clients with scars it’s crucial you stress the importance of sun protection too as UV rays can darken the scars making them more noticeable. There is also some evidence that 10 minutes of firm massage can be helpful in smoothing and flattening scars but excessive scar manipulation can widen the scars (depending on the type) so definitely keep a time limit on it. It’s also important to manage expectations as how a scar heals and repairs is down to each individual. “While some people will heal well from an injury, the appearance, texture and colour of a scar will vary depending on factors such as the type of wound, the depth of the injury, skin type and genetics,” says Dr Selena.
The personalisation of beauty doesn’t stop with products and because genetics play a large part in determining how a person will scar it means that bespoke scar treatments will inevitably get the best results. “Other exciting developments closer to being available are nanoparticles and nanomaterials that could be used to deliver therapeutic agents directly to scar tissue at the cellular level,” continues Dr Selena. “Growth factors and cytokines are naturally occurring proteins that play a role in the body’s healing processes and could be used to stimulate a more controlled and efficient healing process meaning scars are less visible in the first place.”
More research into scar formation will also continue and help develop more advanced treatments predicts Dr Magnus: “This is likely to include both topical treatments and injections that target the molecular pathways responsible for the formation of lumpy (keloid and hypertrophic) scars and may also include the development of cell therapy approaches to treat dipped (atrophic) scars.”
One thing that is certain in the future is that scars, while they won’t disappear completely, do have the potential to be significantly improved, and as long as the conversations around body positivity continue, the acceptance around scars will continue to grow. As a beauty professional, that’s down to you too so ensure you keep the conversation positive, offer the best advice you can and keep up to date on the developments so you and your clients feel confident in their treatments.
SCALE OF SCARS
With various characteristics, recovery times and treatments it’s important you know what type of scar you’re dealing so you can prescribe the correct course of action. Dr Selena Langdon makes it easy to identify them:
Normal Scars: slightly different in colour and texture compared to the surrounding skin, but they generally fade over time and become less noticeable.
Keloid Scars: Keloids are raised, thickened, and often larger than the original wound. They occur when the body produces excess collagen during healing and may extend beyond the original wound.
Hypertrophic Scars: Like keloid scars, hypertrophic scars are raised and thicker than the surrounding skin but do not extend beyond the original wound area.
Atrophic Scars: Atrophic scars are characterised by a depression or sunken area on the skin. They can result from the loss of underlying tissue, such as in cases of acne or surgical scars.
Contracture Scars: These scars often result from burns, leading to tight, constricted skin due to scar tissue formation. Contracture scars can limit movement and flexibility in the affected area.
Acne Scars: Acne scars are a type of atrophic scar resulting from severe or repeated acne. They can manifest as pitted or depressed areas on the skin.
Stretch Marks (Striae): Stretch marks are a form of scarring that occurs when the skin is stretched rapidly and are common during rapid growth, pregnancy, or significant weight gain.