Unlike your normal skin tissue, scar tissue has a different form of collagen structure. The collagen in your unharmed skin is laid out in a reticulate formation, with the fibres crisscrossing each other. On the other hand, scar tissue collagen is laid down in a unidirectional manner. It can take up to two years for a scar to reach full maturation and may only resolve to be 80% as strong as surrounding healthy tissue. Therefore, sun protection should be of upmost importance from the very beginning of the healing process.
For the scar tissue, the danger lies in:
- Degradation of non-mature collagen tissue
- Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
In this formation, the scar tissue is weaker than the normal skin, possessing less durability and elasticity. Exposure to the ultraviolet section of the sun’s rays will damage these fibres, making the collagen fibres not align as neatly which may cause the scar to thicken and result in an unattractive scar.
Exposure of new scar tissue to the sun also more often than not results in hyperpigmentation of the area, due to the increase of inflammation and the effect it has on melanogenesis (the formation of melanin). Melanin is produced in an attempt to protect the vulnerable new tissue. Those with a darker fitzpatrick skin type are at higher risk of developing hyperpigmentation. In simpler terms, this means that the area of and around the scar becomes darker than the rest of your complexion and may appear brown to a deep red. Cosmetically, this is unwanted and it remains a treatment concern for many dermal clinicians in Melbourne, due to the harsh UV of the Australian sun.
HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR NEW SCAR FROM SUN EXPOSURE?
With what we have gleaned from this article so far, it is safe to say that the scar needs to be carefully looked after in a bid to prevent a breakdown of the wounds delicate infrastructure.
We recommend that you keep your scar covered with light gauze or cloth because even the most inconspicuous of exposures to sunlight will exert their damage in an accumulative manner.
On any scar that is exposed to the light opt for UV protection topical creams with a sun protection factor of 30 or above (SPF 30), ensuring that the label reads, ‘broad spectrum’. These filter out the harmful parts of the spectrum of the sun’s light, protecting your new scar.
And if your scar has shows signs of darkening there are professional treatments and home care products to lighten which we will discuss in future articles.
Hasan, A. T., Eaglstein, W. and Pardo, R. J. (1999), Solar-Induced Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation after Laser Hair Removal. Dermatologic Surgery, 25: 113–115.
Scars and UV. (2018). [image] Available at: https://www.newgelplus.com/blog/2017/11/23/scar-needs-sun-protection/ [Accessed 14 Mar. 2018].