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UT Southwestern Medical Center is nationally recognized for expertise in dermatology, cosmetic surgery, and plastic surgery. Our highly trained specialists have the expertise and technology to effectively treat a wide range of skin conditions, including all types of scars.

Advanced Care for Scars

Scars are marks on the skin that can remain after a wound heals. They can develop after an injury, a burn, surgery, or a skin condition. Depending on the type of skin damage, scars can be flat, raised, or sunken. Most scars begin as red or pink marks that turn lighter or darker over time.

At UT Southwestern, board-certified specialists in cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery, and dermatology are involved in research to understand the causes of scars, such as genetic factors. We’re continuously working to develop better treatments to remove or minimize scars and prevent them from developing.

Our Scar Revision Clinics, located in the Plastic Surgery Clinic, Dermatology Clinic, and Multidisciplinary Surgery Clinic, offer state-of-the-art services to help transform the appearance of scars and restore a natural look. We offer:

  • Scar reconstruction and laser scar treatments
  • Decrease scar redness, thickness, and pain
  • Improve joint range of motion, limited due to scarring
  • Fractional CO2 laser
  • Scar rehabilitation and reconstruction
  • Treatment for scar folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle)

Types of Scars

The types of scars and their symptoms include:

  • Atrophic scars: These sunken scars result from severe acne or chickenpox, causing a pitted appearance.
  • Cicatrix scars: These scars first appear as raised, pink marks but become flat and lighter in color over time.
  • Contracture scars: This type results from severe burns and causes the skin to tighten as it heals, which can impede movement and affect muscles and nerves.
  • Hypertrophic scars: These red, raised scars do not go beyond the area of the original injury.
  • Keloid scars: These raised, red scars grow much larger than the original injury and can affect movement if they grow very large.
  • Striae: Known as stretch marks, these red, purple, or brown scars develop when the skin stretches quickly as a result of rapid growth or weight gain.

Diagnosing Scars

Scars might seem obvious, but it’s important to confirm an accurate diagnosis of the scar’s specific type for proper treatment. Our experienced dermatologists and cosmetic and plastic surgeons conduct a thorough evaluation, which includes a:

  • Physical exam
  • Discussion of personal and family medical history
  • Evaluation of signs

After our specialists determine the type of scar, they also consider other factors such as the patient’s age and how long the patient has had the scar. We can also evaluate scars to make sure they don’t contain skin cancer. If we see a suspicious area, we might perform a skin biopsy, which involves taking a tiny sample of skin cells in the suspicious area to examine under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.

Treatment for Scars

Although many scars fade on their own, some scars require treatment to make them less noticeable. At UT Southwestern, we offer a variety of treatment options to minimize the appearance of scars:

  • Chemical peels: Repeated applications of solutions using salicylic, glycolic, or retinoic acid to remove the top layer of skin
  • Dermabrasion: Skin resurfacing using a small, rotating device to improve the appearance of scars by removing the top layer of skin
  • SkinPen: The use of a small group of microneedles can help soften traumatic, surgical or acne scars. Most patients undergo a series of office-based treatments
  • Injections: Steroids to reduce the size of raised or keloid scars, fillers such as collagen or fat to fill out sunken acne scars, or Botox to relax skin around scars
  • Laser therapy: Uses a laser to create microscopic holes in the skin that promote collagen and skin renewal. Lasers also can target colors such as red without making any holes in the skin. Depending on the scar, multiple sessions might be required for gradual improvements.
  • Surgery: Minor procedures to remove individual scars and repair with stitches or a skin graft

Preventing Scars

Proper wound care after injuries, surgery, or burns can prevent or minimize scar development. Therapies we use to promote wound healing include:

  • Pressure therapy: Wearing a pressure dressing over a wound helps prevent scarring or the return of scars after removal.
  • Silicone gel sheets: These thin, self-adhesive sheets are used after a wound closes to prevent scarring or the return of scars.
  • Polyurethane dressing: This moist, flexible dressing can help prevent raised scars.