A scar is caused by an injury to the skin, such as a cut, scrape, puncture, or burn. It is part of the normal healing process. Scars are made of the same material as the surrounding skin, but they are made a little differently. They look different than the skin around it.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of scars are:

  • Deep injuries
  • How a person's skin scars—some people scar more easily than others
  • Where the injury happened
  • How long it took for the skin to heal
  • Infections
  • Acne
  • Surgery
Normal Surgical Scar
Post-operative scar
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A scar may first look red and thick. It may feel numb, itchy, painful, or sensitive. Some scars may also cause physical problems, such as problems moving.

Over time, the scar will change. It often becomes less visible when it flattens and lightens. However, it may become raised, thick, sunken, or dark in color. The type and location of the wound will affect how noticeable the scar is.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the scar. People with scars may need to see a doctor who focuses on treating the skin.



Most scars will fade over time, although they rarely go away completely. Some types of scars do not fade at all. Some people may not like how their scars look.

There are many treatments that can help how a scar looks. Options are:

Creams, Ointments, and Gels

Over the counter and prescription products can be used for scars caused by surgery or injury. Some examples are:

  • Corticosteroids—can also help ease itching
  • Silicone-containing patches, gels, or creams


Dermabrasion uses a special tool to remove a layer of the scar tissue. It can make the skin look smoother.

This treatment may be used for minor problems on the skin's surface. This may include acne scars or surgical scars.

Chemical Peel

A chemical peel uses specific chemicals to remove the top layer of skin. It can create a smoother appearance and even color.

This treatment is best for small acne scars or scars that are not deep.


Cryotherapy freezes the scar tissue with liquid nitrogen. The scar tissue will then blister and fall off.

Cryotherapy may be used to treat scars that stick out, such as keloids.


Steroid injections into the scar may shrink scar tissue. It may be used for scars that stick out, such as keloid and hypertrophic scars.

Tissue Fillers

The appearance of soft, indented scars may be reduced by injecting fillers. The filler may make them appear more even. Fillers used are:

  • Collagen
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Fat
  • Silicone

This effect is not permanent. Filler injections often need to be repeated.

Pressure Bandages

Pressure bandages may be applied around the scar. The pressure may help flatten it.


Surgery can help the appearance of some scars. It may help change the scar's size, location, color, or depth. However, surgery may not be able to fully erase the scar.

Some surgical options are:

Surgical Scar Revision

The scar is cut out. The area is then closed in a way that leaves a new, less noticeable scar.

Skin Graft

Skin graft surgery takes healthy skin from one part of the body and moves it to another part. A skin graft may be taken from the inner thigh, buttocks, near the collar bone, in front of or behind the ear, or the upper arm.

Punch Graft and Excision

A depressed scar is punched out from the skin, much like a cookie cutter. The punched out tissue is then placed back but is lifted up to match the skin around it.

In a punch excision, the tissue is not placed back in. After the scar is removed, the wound is closed with stitches. This treatment works best for deep or pitted acne scars.

Laser Surgery

There are many kinds of lasers that may be used. The type of laser will depend on the scar. Lasers may help lighten pinkish-purple scars and flatten red scars.


The risk of forming scars may be lowered by:

  • Keeping wounds clean and covered
  • Not scratching or picking at scabs
  • Not popping pimples

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.