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We already know that keeping the skin moisturized ensures young, soft skin. Moisturizing is also important when it comes to improving the appearance of scars and stretch marks. An article in the December 2012 issue of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science reviews this very topic.
How are skin cells in a scar different from skin cells in normal skin?
Some time ago, we thought that the stratum corneum (upper most layer of the skin) was just dead cells: the nucleus–void end result of skin cell proliferation, nothing more. How naïve we were!
It turns out that this outer most layer of skin cells has a unique structure and function: it keeps water in, and keeps microbes out; it’s the first line of defense against UV rays; it senses external temperature, humidity and pH. And this is just a very short, over-simplified list!
Sadly, however, skin cells in a scar or a stretch mark do not function properly, and the skin barrier function is damaged.
This means that these cells are less able to hold in water, that the skin in this area is dryer, and all the functions mentioned above are compromised.
Worrying about eliminating scars is not just a matter of vanity anymore; it’s a matter of restoring proper skin function.
One sentence in this review says it all: “Thus, the effects of moisturizers are complicated, they have more effects on the skin than simply hydrating it, they have pleotropic skin benefits and they are the ultimate vehicle of corneotherapy.”
After a wound in the skin heals, trans-epidermal water loss increases, and needs up to a year to go back to normal. When the skin senses that water is lost excessively, an inflammatory response is stimulated that leads to abnormal production of collagen in the newly healed skin, which facilitates scar formation.
Moisturizing the newly healed wound would prevent this excessive water loss, which would prevent the inflammatory response, and therefore lessens the chance of scar formation.
This review points out 2 important facts:
1 – Moisturizing plays a very important role in improving the appearance of scars.
2 – Moisturizing under occlusion offers even better improvement.
So, basically, regular creams and oils can help, but a better choice is a silicone gel or film: something that would keep the scar hydrated under occlusion for longer periods.
Of course, some scars just won’t improve. This could either be because of the nature of the scar or the difficulty of remaining compliant with the treatment. In those cases, other options can be explored for improving the appearance of the scar, such as cosmetic surgery or laser.
Thank you for reading!
AV. Rawlings, S. Biefeldt, KJ. Lombard. A Review of the Effects of Moisturizers on the Appearance of Scars and Striae. International Journal of Cosmetic Science 2012; 34 (6): 519-24.
PM. Eias, JS. Wakefield. Skin Barrier Function. In: Nutrition for Healthy Skin. Springer 2011; Part 1, Chapter 4: 36-41.
TA. Mustoe. Evolution of Silicone Therapy and Mechanism of Action in Scar Management. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery 2008; 32: 82-92.