White scars can result from injury or treatments such as surgery, lasers and chemical peels.
Anything that damages the skin and the underlying layers of tissue such as acne or a wound can result in a white scar.
When the skin and underlying tissues are injured, the wound healing process begins with inflammation and then proceeds with tissue formation.
If the healing process is disrupted by too much or too little collagen one will get scar formation. Collagen is a protein in the body that is used for structural purposes.
Scars can be hyperpigmented, an excess of pigmentation, or hypopigmented, a lack of pigmentation.
Pigmentation is developed in the skin by melanin. Depending on the natural skin tone, either type can be significantly different from surrounding skin.
The build-up of collagen within a healing scar can prevent melanin from getting to the top layers of new skin.
The loss of pigment is neither serious nor dangerous but it can make one feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
White scar treatments
There is a variety of treatment options available ranging from surgical to home remedies when the appearance of a scar causes distress.
The scar’s depth, width, and quality of the underlying tissue will determine which treatments may successfully reduce the unwanted appearance.
In some cases the goal may be to induce pigmentation, bringing the scar to a more natural, less white color.
Medical Procedures to Minimize White Scars
If a scar is very large, a scar revision procedure can be done to reduce its appearance.
A piece of skin from another part of the body is used to cover the wound left from the scar.
Skin grafting is expensive and may require multiple surgeries so it is mainly used in the treatment of burns and other serious injuries.
Laser treatments focus concentrated light at the scar, removing layers of skin. This in turn causes the tissues to regenerate new skin which will have active melanin providing skin pigmentation.
This method can take several treatments depending on the size of the scar. Other lasers may target lower layers of the skin, restoring collagen growth and reducing scars from the inside out.
ReLume is an FDA-approved procedure that uses ultraviolet light to darken the scar until it more closely matches the surrounding skin.
Six to 15 treatments may be needed and then maintenance treatments may be recommended.
Smaller white scars may be reduced in appearance with the application of dermabrasion which eliminates the top layers of skin with an electrical or manual device.
This is often done in a dermatologist’s office.
A home version is called skin micro-needling or derma rolling. Collagen and elastin production are stimulated resulting in a less noticeable scar.
The device injures the top layers of skin allowing new skin to grow again so numerous treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired effect.
For many, topical treatments for scarring are more affordable and can provide an acceptable change in the appearance of white scars.
There are several creams available as a prescription from a dermatologist that can stimulate the production of pigment and reduce size of the scar. Drugstores and online stores carry a vast selection of scar treatment creams.
Camouflage and make-up are less expensive methods (compared to medical procedures) for those looking only to hide the scar and not eliminate it.
Camouflage tattoos done by a professional tattoo artist can cover a scar with a skin-matching pigment (or use it as part of the tattooed design) for an indefinite amount of time.
Make-up can be more than adequate to hide a scar depending on its size and location. Medical-grade make-up will contain more pigments and provide a more natural looking tone.
CoverBlend and DuraBlend are two medical-grade products for scar concealment and can be found online.
The downside to this method is the potential daily application, but it may be an acceptable alternative that costs less than dermatological treatments or if the scar is located somewhere on the body that is not always in plain sight.
Home remedies are often used for white scar treatment. Keeping a scar hydrated prevents tightening of the skin and promotes healing.
Aloe Vera gel is said to help the appearance of scars and is known for its hydrating and healing properties. Honey also hydrates and treats scars.
The preferred form is known as medicinal honey which can be found in drugstores or online. The honey is usually applied 30 minutes per day.
Another home remedy is Vitamin E which can be purchased as a liquid or capsule. Applying the oil to the scar three times a day is commonly thought to allow this strong antioxidant to fade scarring. Research however shows side effects that may actually cause scars to become more prominent.
Alpha hydroxy acid is a chemical that can improve the appearance of scars by removing dead skin cells.
Exfoliating creams containing alpha hydroxy acid can be found in stores or online. For a higher concentration there are prescription formulas available as well.
There are multiple ways to reduce or eliminate white scars. From simple camouflage to invasive skin grafting there is a scar treatment option for everyone.
There is hope when a white scar causes distress and is not aesthetically-pleasing. A dermatologist can provide guidance on appropriate treatment options that will fit any budget.
By: Anna Coss, RN, BSN, MSN