By: Soey Park for Body1
The formation of scars is a natural result of the healing process after an injury. The skin is the largest organ of the body, and as a result, any trauma to it can cause the formation of scar tissue. Scars tend to be easily visible because the cells that make up scar tissue are inferior compared to healthy, normal skin cells.
Although scar tissue forms to replace the damaged or destroyed cells, it tends to be thicker, paler and denser than the surrounding tissue due to limited blood supply. Other differences between scar and healthy tissue include the lack of hair follicles, reduced protection from ultra-violet (UV) radiation, and functional limitations including reduced movement, circulation, and sensation.
A variety of factors influence a scar’s appearance, including the size, depth, and location of the wound. However, your age, diet, heredity, and even ethnicity all play a role. One thing that is universal, however, is the fact that scars can never be completely healed.
The appearance of scars may be minimized by methods such as laser surgery, dermabrasion, etc., but none of these methods can actually fully remove the scar. In some instances treatment can cause permanent injury to the skin. Before spending potentially thousands of dollars on complicated surgical procedures, some safe herbal methods for scar treatment may be considered first:
An effective moisturizer and bleach with cooling properties, cucumber juice can sometimes effectively reduce the appearance of scars within a week. Part of its effectiveness comes from its alkaloid content, which helps to regulate the production of skin cells. For treatment of scars, apply an extract of cucumber or cucumber juice on the affected area and leave on for 15 minutes before washing off with cold water.
Full of vitamin C, lemon juice is also a natural bleach which can help with lightening the appearance of scars and blemishes on the skin. The citric acid in the lemon not only helps reduce the appearance of scars and blemishes, it can also clean the pores of your skin. Vitamin C, essential to the healing of wounds, helps the body synthesize collagen, which acts as a cementing material necessary for blood clotting and can be beneficial for the treatment of superficial scars. Applying lemon juice directly or simply rubbing a lemon cut in half to the affected area of the skin may also help to reduce the appearance of the scar.
Garlic has been used in both food and medicine for years. Known to help lower blood cholesterol, garlic can also be used to treat acne and scarring that results from acne. For acne treatment, gently rub a fresh cut clove of garlic on the affected area. For better results however, crush a garlic clove, mix with a cup of warm water and apply the mixture on the acne. Be careful however, when applying garlic topically. It is especially inadvisable for use on young children. Make sure to test out a small area of skin with a low concentration of garlic before trying out this method. Though a slight burning sensation is expected, there have been reports of burns resulting from the topical application of garlic.
Though essential in the process of wound healing, vitamin E is only minimally effective in removing the scars once they are formed. However, as a preventative, increasing the amount of vitamin E in your diet may help speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of scar formation after injury. Some foods high in vitamin E are raw sunflower seeds, dry roasted almonds, olives and papayas. Despite its minimal effectiveness, breaking open and smearing the oil from vitamin E capsules onto a scar several times a day may help to minimize its visibility and facilitate its healing. Mixing this with aloe vera paste has been said to produce better results.
Honey has long been known to have healing properties, but only recently have its antiseptic and antibacterial properties been chemically explained. For example, the pH level of honey is usually between 3.2 and 4.5 (on a scale of 1 to 10, wherein a pH of 7 would be considered neutral), which is relatively acidic and thus prevents the growth of many bacteria. Applying honey directly on the scar or wound has been found to help with the healing process. To minimize scars apply honey frequently and try to leave it on overnight before washing.
Used primarily as a culinary spice (i.e. curry), fenugreek is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop. A good source of protein, vitamin C, niacin, and potassium, the many health benefits of fenugreek seeds include acting as an effective topical treatment for certain skin problems. To minimize the appearance of scars, steep some fenugreek seeds in about 730mL (approx. 25 oz) of boiling water for about 5-7 minutes. After the solution has cooled, wash affected area with solution. For maximum results, use once a week.
For years, sandalwood (the common name referring to a variety of fragrant plant species), has been valued for its fragrance, carving, medical and religious qualities. In the medical field, the benefits of sandalwood paste and essential oils are primarily linked to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. A potentially effective method of minimizing the appearance of a scar or any skin discoloration is the use of sandalwood paste. Soaking sandalwood in water overnight will produce a paste which can be applied to the affected area. After allowing the paste to dry for a few minutes, wash it off with cold water.
Similarly, applying sandalwood essential oils directly onto the affected area can help minimize scarring and promote healing as well. A word of caution: applying undiluted sandalwood oil directly onto the skin can be dangerous, as it may cause burns. Therefore, make sure that any essential oil bought at a local health store is approved for external use.
* image courtesy of Forrest and Kim Starr
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