Should you cover up that cut, or let it breathe?
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.
Dr. Alizadeh is a board-certified plastic surgeon and the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Westchester Medical Center and New York Medical College.
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There are a number of myths out there that
I wanna make sure I clarify with you,
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because I hear it from my
patients all the time.
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Hydrogen peroxide at its full strength
is extremely toxic to the tissue.
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Because not only is it
killing the bad cells, but
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it's also killing the good cells
that are trying to heal your wounds.
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I also hear from patients that they've
removed the bandage because they were told
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that they should help air out the wound.
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Wounds need to stay moist to allow
the skin edges to come together.
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So, please, make sure that the wound
environment stays moist by first cleaning
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it, and then applying a moist gauze or a
semi-occlusive dressing such as Tegaderm.
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It sounds good to apply a vitamin, but
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unfortunately vitamin E usually
has a petroleum carrier in it.
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It can literally stop
the wound in its tracks.
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What we found, actually,
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is that it's not necessarily the vitamin
E that's helping with the wound but
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the massaging and scrubbing that
actually allows it to improve.
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A lot of times, I'm surprised to find
my patients have done tanning or
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gone to a tanning booth to help
improve the color of their scar.
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And the reason for it is that the sun has
an inflammatory effect on the skin that
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can potentially hyper-pigment your
scar versus the surrounding tissue.
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Emergency wound care after a natural disaster. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on September 25, 2017 at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/woundcare.html.)
Proper wound care: How to minimize a scar. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on September 25, 2017 at https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/injured-skin/wound-care.)
Scars. Rolling Meadows, IL: American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. (Accessed on September 25, 2017 at https://www.asds.net/Scars/.)
Scar treatment myths & misconceptions: What really works. Kingston, WA: Scarfade, 2014. (Accessed on September 25, 2017 at http://www.scarfade.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/scarfade-myths-wp.pdf.)
Vaseline versus expensive scar remedies. New York, NY: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 2011. (Accessed on September 25, 2017 at https://www.surgery.org/consumers/plastic-surgery-news-briefs/vaseline-expensive-scar-remedies-1034552.)