We all have scars, whether they're extremely noticeable or barely visible. Scars can result from simple accidents like getting too close to an iron or from bad habits like picking at pimples. Whether you have a newly developed scar or you're trying to stop a wound from turning into a prominent scar, there are ways you can minimize its appearance.

QualityHealth sat down with Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD, an Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Director of Dermatologic Research, and a board certified dermatologist at the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. He provided insightful information about the causes of different scars as well as what steps can be taken to minimize their appearance.

According to Friedman, a scar is simply an area of thickened or fibrotic tissue that's replaced normal skin. The way a wound will heal depends on certain factors:

  • Genetics
  • Health status
  • Health behaviors such as smoking or excessive sun exposure

There are four common types of scars:

1. Acne scars: Most people with moderate to severe acne can have a range of acne scars including pitted, deep "ice pick" scars, and angulated, crescent-shaped scars. You can also get a scar from picking a pimple. The skin trauma from acne inflammation can make you more vulnerable to scarring.

2. Contracture scars: Moderate to severe burns can result in tightened skin that can limit your mobility. In some cases, contracture scars can seep into the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.

3. Keloid scars: A result of overly aggressive, ongoing skin healing, keloid scars are almost considered to be tumors. As they grow, they can take on a pinkish, reddish appearance and become extremely itchy. Keloids can extend beyond the site of the injury and, over time, can form a large amorphous growth that may affect mobility. Your chest, shoulders, upper back, and earlobes are the most vulnerable places for keloids. And they're more likely to occur in African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.

4. Hypertrophic scars: These raised, red scars appear as a result of skin that hasn't healed normally. Unlike keloid scars, these types of scars won't spread beyond the boundaries of the injured skin. There is no family history or racial background that will increase your chances of this kind of scar.

Ways to Minimize Scars

Don't pick your cuts and scrapes. Protect them. Picking can over-stimulate the production of collagen-a component of scar tissue and the structural material that gives your skin strength and form. Once the scab falls off, keep your skin moist by trapping water on the wound with a thick emollient like Vaseline®. Protect your wound from the sun since the UV rays can slow down the healing process.

Eat foods with vitamins E and C. Vitamin E, found in foods such as tomatoes and peppers, has been shown to enhance the body's healing process. It works hand-in-hand with vitamin C to reduce poor wound healing caused by free radicals, smoke, and pollution.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. Gently wash an open wound with soap and water and keep it covered to prevent infection. Don't clean the wound repeatedly with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These agents are great for killing bacteria, but they can also kill your new skin cells and even prolong healing.

Use pressure. For keloid scars, pressure dressing can sometimes help prevent scar formation. This technique can be combined with other scar therapies. You should discuss this treatment option with your dermatologist.

If you are past the point of no return and have an unsightly scar, there are a few ways you can go about treating the lesions:

  • Creams, ointments, and gels: There are over-the-counter and prescription-strength medications that can limit scar formation as well as treat the symptoms associated with scars. Vitamin E topical application can be very useful. It has been shown to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and decrease the formation of free radicals that damage DNA and cellular membranes. But limit the use of vitamin E applications since it can inhibit collagen production and cause scars to widen. Silicone gel sheets can also improve pre-existing hypertrophic scars. Other forms of creams and ointments good for scar therapy include:
    • Steroid creams
    • Embedded tapes
    • Imiquimod 5% cream
    • Vitamin A-based medications
    • Retinoic acid found in acne medications
  • Injections: Steroid injections are often used to thin and soften protruding scars such as keloids or hypertrophic scars. Fillers, such as collagen or hyaluronic acid, can be useful for acne scarring.
  • Surgical options: Laser therapy has been proven to be a less invasive treatment option. Different lasers are used to treat hypertrophic scars and keloid scars. Before considering any surgical options, be sure to talk to your dermatologist first.

There are no treatments available that can offer 100 percent scar removal. Therefore, it's important to set realistic expectations when tackling your most severe scars and also take the proper precautions to prevent scars from forming in the first place.