How to Prevent and Fade Scars, An Expert Weighs In

Over the past few years I’ve been racking up the scars: matching marks on both of my knees from a fall playing soccer, two patches on my elbow from another game, and, most recently, three dark marks on my face after I hit my head on vacation. Two years after my tumble on the soccer field, my knee scars are dark, defined, and struck a sharp contrast with my fair skin. What could I have done differently to stop the deep scratches from scaring? Or better yet, how can I fade them now?

To learn more about scars, I met with Dr. Harold Lancer, Beverly Hills dermatologist to half of Hollywood: Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Ellen DeGeneres, Victoria Beckham, and Julianne Hough are all patients. Dr. Lancer treated my scars (read about my experience below) and answered 12 of the most important questions about scars, from the best at-home options to what to expect at your own dermatologist’s office if you seek professional treatment. (Which you’ll find in our slideshow.)

“I spend most of my day dealing with scars,” Dr Lancer told me. “Whether they’re from traumatic injuries or elective surgeries, like a breast lift, they bother everyone.” Scarring is a complicated topic with countless treatment paths. “I was burned as a child, which is why I got started in dermatology and why I have such a tremendous interest in scars,” he says. “Improving a scar is truly an art form.”

The art project that was my scars included texture in need of smoothing and dark pigment that needed to be lightened. I started with a regime of topical products: “It’s important to prime the scar before you start any other treatment,” Dr. Lancer says. “You want to treat scars slowly.” After a round of microdermabrasion, I started a routine of Dr. Lancer’s own products: daily Polish Scrub ($75) for physical exfoliation, a prescription cream rich in glycolic acid for chemical exfoliation, and a prescription hydrocortisone cream to prevent irritation.

After six weeks, my scars had faded slightly and become smoother, a perfect canvas for laser therapy. This included a variety of strengths of Q-Switched and Pixel lasers. We’ve talked about this before, but a laser works by disrupting the skin, prompting it to regenerate itself. While not unbearable, the treatment was painful. It was a hot, sharp, and severe burning feeling, similar to touching a hot baking dish, but more fleeting. After the laser treatment, my skin was tender, red, and slightly inflamed in a pin-prick pattern for about 24 hours. “The care after your treatment is as important as the treatment itself,” Dr. Lancer warned me. The goal of the post-treatment is simple: don’t let scabs form. A thick layer of Aquaphor keeps the skin moist, providing the ultimate environment for skin to heal itself.

And the downtime? For about five days the treated areas looked like red, open burns. Letting a wound heal without letting it scab over is a commitment, to say the least. I had to keep the area covered in Aquaphor and stay out of the sun. Once healed, my scars were much lighter and very smooth. The first round of lasers successfully treated my scar’s damaged texture, and, much to my excitement, I didn’t need another round. Instead, the remaining darkness was treated with a strong retinol. “Using a laser again may depress the skin,” Dr. Lancer says. “It’s not worth the risk.” Six months after I started this process my facial scars are about 80 per cent gone, and the ones on my body are significantly better. Was it worth it? One hundred per cent yes.