With the new year right around the corner, many of us are turning an eye to the future and thinking about our skin goals for the next year. If your skin has been looking dull or you’ve been having trouble with dark scars and pigmentation issues, then you will be thrilled to learn that there are several scar removal options to minimize the appearance of your scars. At Vibrant Dermatology & Skinbar MD in Dedham, MA, we believe every patient can achieve their glowy skin goals with the right scar removal and cosmetic treatments!
What Causes Scars to Turn Dark?
Not all scars are created equally. While there are some atrophic scars and hypertrophic scars that can change the texture of your skin, there are also scars that can change the color or tone of your skin. To be sure, neither scar is an appealing prospect to your goals for even-toned dewy skin, but you might be happy to learn that dark scars are generally easier to treat than textured scars.
There are a few reasons why a scar might turn dark. For example, if a scar was exposed to sunlight during the healing process, there’s a good chance the scar tissue will become pigmented. Dark scars can also be caused by inflammation, poor healing, or the genetics of your skin and how your skin heals. Dark scars are more likely to appear on those with medium and dark complexions, but those with fair skin may also experience dark scars.
How Dark Is a “Dark” Scar?
So, when we’re talking about a dark scar, what exactly qualifies as “dark”? Most patients are surprised to learn that the technical definition of a dark scar is any patch of skin where the pigment is darker than the surrounding skin tone. In other words, dark scars can be a shade or two darker than your complexion, or they can be several shades darker.
The depth of pigment on a dark scar is something that will vary depending on factors like your natural skin tone, the location of the scar, and how long it took the scar to heal. For those with medium to dark complexions, dark scars tend to be brown patches; for fair-skinned people, dark scars tend to be red or red-brown. Dark scars that change the pigment of the skin are usually referred to as hyperpigmentation.
Can Hyperpigmentation Happen Anywhere?
Yes. When it comes to scarring, all skin is created equal – so the same type of injury on different areas of the body always poses the same risk of developing the same type of scarring. Take stretch marks, for example; you are just as likely to develop stretch marks on your stomach as you are on your knees, thighs, buttocks, breasts, arms, and hips.
The same is true for hyperpigmentation scars, so you are just as likely to have a hyperpigmentation scar from acne on your face as you are on your back. However, it should be noted that there is some exception to the rule when it comes to injury healing and sun exposure, which increases the likelihood of dark scarring.
Hyperpigmentation and the Sun
New scars are exceptionally vulnerable to hyperpigmentation from unprotected sun exposure. This has to do with the way the melanin in your skin responds to UV rays, which is usually to darken the natural pigment of the skin. The new skin cells that have formed over your injury are particularly keen to respond to UV rays since they have no natural protection against the sunlight. In other words, new skin is prone to absorbing sunlight and darkening.
What Types of Injuries Are Most Likely to Cause Hyperpigmentation?
There are plenty of injuries that are likely to cause hyperpigmentation. Burn scars, for example, tend to create pigmentation issues on the surface of the skin, usually by creating shiny, darker skin on the area of injury. Likewise, very bad sunburns are also likely to leave pigmentation marks.
However, the most common injury to the skin that will cause hyperpigmentation is acne. Acne is a condition that routinely causes minor injury to the skin due to the way skin responds to acne-causing bacteria by inflammation – in fact, dark scars caused by acne are usually called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is common across all skin types and skin tones and can occur on any area of the body where acne is present.
Can You Treat Hyperpigmentation?
Yes! Treating hyperpigmentation is very possible. There are many cosmetic treatments for superficial skin concerns that are designed to directly address the scar removal of dark scars, dark spots, melasma, and hyperpigmentation. Most patients meet the qualifications of several cosmetic treatments, which means treating dark scars and uneven skin tone is one of the most common aesthetic goals across the nation.
The most common treatments for dark scars and hyperpigmentation include:
Dermatologists frequently turn to topical medications to help lighten and brighten the skin. Among topical medications, hydroquinone is one of the most reliable creams used to reduce the visibility of dark scars and produce an even skin tone for the rest of the skin. However, many of these prescription-strength topical medications can only be used for a few months at a time, which means that those who have on-going acne flare-ups or other skin breakouts that cause pigment issues may not find hydroquinone a good long-term treatment option.
Laser treatments, especially IPL laser treatments, are usually good treatment options for patients who would like to resolve dark scars permanently. Laser treatments hasten the natural skin cell turnover cycle to renew and resurface the skin, which means a laser treatment is a good scar removal option for dark scars that haven’t faded with time.
Another advantage of laser treatment is the fact that these treatments may also help treat ongoing skin issues, including rosacea and acne, which may help prevent dark scars from forming altogether.
Microdermabrasion is an advanced exfoliating treatment that can buffs away the top layer of dead skin cells that are causing your skin to look dull and flat. As a treatment that accelerates the natural skin cell turnover cycle, microdermabrasion can help reduce the appearance of dark scars over time and also help your surrounding skin have a more even tone.
Microneedling is the current gold standard for aesthetic treatments across the nation due in large part to the fact that microneedling can assist with any number of superficial skin concerns – including dark scar removal. Microneedling is a treatment that uses 1.5mm or 2mm needles to pierce the surface layer of the skin to create micro-injuries, which in turn will stimulate the body’s natural regenerative process.
Microneedling is an effective treatment to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, enlarged pores, atrophic acne scarring, dark spots, and dark scarring. This treatment not only induces the production of collagen to restore volume and elasticity to the skin, but it also resurfaces the skin and helps exfoliate the top level of the skin to even out skin tone and quality.
Dermaplaning is another exfoliating treatment that sloughs away dead skin cells, as well as potentially pore-clogging peach fuzz on the surface of your skin. The main benefit of dermaplaning is the amount of brightening it can accomplish for your skin. Over time, dermaplaning will remove enough dead skin cells to minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Chemical peels are one of the oldest aesthetic treatments in the world, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that a chemical peel can help lighten the appearance of dark scars and aid in scar removal. Chemical peels use powerful acids to both remove the top level of dead skin cells and penetrate the sub-dermal layers of skin to stimulate the body’s natural regenerative response.
Usually, light chemical peels are adequate treatments to remove dark scars or reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. That said, you may also find that chemical peels can help even the texture of atrophic scars as well, particularly when the treatment is used regularly.
Many facials can help resurface the skin to perfect skin appearance and reduce visible dark scarring. One facial we favor is the Aqua Facial, which combines three aesthetic techniques into a single treatment that cleanses, exfoliates, and infuses the skin with active ingredients for both skin rejuvenation and skin health.
While some scars won’t go away by themselves, there are others where time does the trick to minimize the appearance of the scar. For dark scars that are primarily superficial, the best scar removal treatment is simply time and your natural skin cell turnover cycle.
This is the cycle that determines how quickly dead skin cells are shed and replaced with new skin cells. Most people have a skin cell turnover cycle that lasts between 28 and 40 days, with longer cycles being attributed to aging. What this means for you is that some superficial pigmentation and hyperpigmentation may be mostly resolved by itself through the natural skin cycle.
Can You Prevent Hyperpigmentation?
Yes. Although hyperpigmentation is somewhat inevitable depending on the type of injury that caused the scar, you will also find that there are some things you can do to prevent hyperpigmentation – or reduce the degree of hyperpigmentation, if your skin is particularly prone to scarring after inflammation.
Heal the Injury Well
Proper wound care is the best way to avoid developing dark scars. To heal an injury well, it’s essential that you keep the wound clean, covered, and moisturized. Adequate wound care will keep skin tissues soft and protect the new skin from any additional trauma that can cause hyperpigmentation.
Avoiding unprotected direct sunlight is also a good way to avoid hyperpigmentation, whether you have an active scar-causing injury or not. If you must be in the sun, then you should always be sure to wear sunscreen graded at least 30 SPF to protect your skin from the risk of dark scarring.
Can the SkinBar MD Club Help With Hyperpigmentation?
Absolutely! Our SkinBar MD Club can assess your skin and help you build a long-term beauty plan that will treat any current issues you have and help you prevent future issues down the line. In fact, one way to determine if you are a good candidate for dark scar removal is to book a consultation at our SkinBar MD Club.
Get Scar Removal Today
New year, new you – and new skin. If your goal is to finally achieve a healthy, even-toned glow for your skin, then the top of your to-do list is to find a treatment for your dark scars. If you’re ready to meet your skin goals, please schedule a consultation at Vibrant Dermatology & Skinbar MD in Dedham, MA today!