These Myths About Scar Prevention Might Ruin Your Skin

Should you cover up that cut, or let it breathe?

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Sure, some scars you wear proudly (like that tiny scratch on your hand from your childhood cat—rest in peace). Others, however,  you’d rather do without.

So what causes those scars in the first place? When your skin is injured, the body has to generate new skin cells to fill in or close the wound. This often winds up a different color (pink, red, or white) or slightly raised compared to the surrounding skin, forming that signature scar look.

The appearance of the scar depends on how well it heals, so knowing the facts on proper wound care can make all the difference. Here are four myths about scars to stop believing, according to Kaveh Alizadeh, MD, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Westchester Medical Center and New York Medical College.

  • MYTH: Hydrogen peroxide helps the skin heal better
    REALITY: Hydrogen peroxide can actually slow down healing because it’s too harsh on the skin tissue and can destroy new cells. It’s best to clean your wound with just soap and water, according to the CDC.

  • MYTH: Let cuts “air out” to heal faster
    REALITY: Dry skin doesn’t heal as well. Period, end of story.  Always, always, always keep wounds moist with antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly and covered with clean gauze or bandages. Find more information about how to treat a cut here.

  • MYTH: Rub vitamin E on a wound to prevent scarring
    REALITY: Vitamin E might actually hinder healing and—in some cases—cause allergic reactions.  

  • MYTH: A tan helps your scar blend in better
    REALITY: There’s nothing about tanning that’s healthy for your skin. UV rays lead to hyperpigmentation, which actually makes those little scars stand out even more from red or brown discoloration, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. You’re better off covering your scars with sunscreen with at least SPF 30—or better yet, covering with clothing—to help the scars continue to fade and blend in. (Here’s the derm-approved way to apply sunscreen.)

Most scars fade over time, but dermatologists or plastic surgeons may be able to help if you have a stubborn scar that persists for several years and is making you self-conscious.