Why do you get Scars?

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Scarring is a by-product of your bodies natural healing method.  So that we can heal very quickly our bodies close up a wound as fast as possible to prevent infection, rather than try to reproduce the skin exactly as it was previous to the wound.  This is believed to have been an evolutionary advantage, however now it means that we are dissatisfied with the marks left on our skin.  Once your skin has been disrupted it cannot grow back in an identical fashion.  Instead, your body makes a new form of skin, one that may appear paler or darker in colour to the original.  Scars are composed of collagen and other proteins that would normally be thought of as just your skin although slightly altered, however scars are very precisely positioned.  All of the cells that make up a scar will point in the same direction thus making them noticeable, and they react differently to the surrounding skin.  For example, scars are usually a lot more sensitive to UV rays, don’t grow hair and are often of a different colour than the skin that was there previously. 

How scars develop over time

When you initially break the skin your body will rush clotting agents to the site to initially quench the flow of blood.  This produces a scab, a temporary repair to the damaged skin.  Beneath the scab the skin is pulled back together, and a new strip of skin is formed, this is your scar.  Over around a two year period your scar will change in appearance, fading and shrinking in many cases, although it is likely that you will always have some mark where your initial injury was.  Over time your body will be able to repair the bloody system around your injury, however your hair follicles and sweat glands will never recover.

The Effect of Sunlight on Scars

Sunlight can seriously hamper the healing qualities of your skin, making the scar heal a lot more visibly than otherwise.  This occurs because the new skin being created does not have any in-built protection to U.V. light and the suns natural rays, contained in the rest of your skin as the substance called melanin.  The rest of your skin can cope, to a point, with direct sunlight, however scar tissue starts to react almost immediately. 

Everyone’s scar will react differently to sunlight depending on the scar type and your skin tone.  Some people may find that their scars lighten after sun exposure, others that they darken.  Either way it is likely that you scar will become more visible if exposed to sunlight when still developing, and your GP will advise you to use strong suncream and to cover up when in the sun.  Scars over a year are thought to be at less of a risk, but to be safe it is still a good idea to use a strong suncream over the area. 

What to do next

Scars are a much necessary product of skin repair, and are completely natural even though they can cause upset at their appearance.  Most people wish to have scars covered or treated if they are very visible, such as on the face, arms or legs.  Although there has been some improvement in the appearance of scars, they can never be completely removed. 

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