Cover or reduce an old scar
January 8, 2008 4:31 AM   Subscribe

I've been looking for a way to help my girlfriend cover, or at least reduce the visibility of, a scar on her stomach. She is quite self-conscious about it, especially when we make love. I've searched up and read many discussions of similar topics here on AskMeFi, but most of the suggestions seem to assume that the scar is recent. My girlfriend's scar dates from 2002. We know that surgery will eventually be necessary, but for various reasons it isn't practical at this time. What techniques have MeFites found successful when trying to cover or eradicate older scars?
posted by zainsubani to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I get keloid scars and had a very visible one near my collarbone. My dermatologist gave me a medicated patch which gradually reduced the scar's color and made it softer. It is now not so raised. Most people don't really notice it now. Or rather, if they do, I rarely get the rude questions about it that I used to receive.

For OTC products, I know there is one called Mederma. Check with your local pharmacist. Mederma is not what I used and I do not know how effective the OTC products are.

The process is very slow and can be a bit itchy. Patience is required. Either look into the OTC products or talk to a dermatologist.
posted by onhazier at 5:50 AM on January 8, 2008

5-6 years really isn't enough for large surgical scars to fade. Obviously YMMV, and I haven't seen your girlfriend's scar, but I used to have some really obvious scars on my legs (from surgery). Hugely contrasting with the skin color around it, puckered in, and generally very apparent. They did gradually fade, and now I can't even find some of them. Even the ones that I can are flat, and have become close enough in color to the rest of my skin that they could be covered with makeup if I thought it was necessary.

For me, it's been 12 and 15 years since those surgeries - give it time. In the interim, her doctor can likely provide advice on covering them up.

Granted, some scars never go entirely away. But with some exceptions (hugely disfiguring or distracting scars), you're going to want to think very carefully before you consider surgery - it's painful, it's imperfect, and the results are not guaranteed. It might be worth it to think about this not as a "how do I get rid of this scar" issue, but as a body-image issue.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 5:50 AM on January 8, 2008

Er - the scars that did disappear didn't take 12-15 years to disappear, but it was at least 8-10. Again, give it time.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 5:51 AM on January 8, 2008

Is it visible when she's out and about, perhaps with midriff-showing clothes; or is it just a problem when she's naked with you? If the former, she may have to be like a teetotaler at a bar - don't wear the belly-baring stuff. If the latter - you're going to convince yourself that scars are hawt. Kiss the scar when you're kissin' on her.
posted by notsnot at 5:52 AM on January 8, 2008

There's very little information poster, but she may be able to cover with something like this

If it is raised or Keloid it can still be felt, so her discomfort may not decrease. Other info which might help: Is it only the look of the scar she finds objectionable? Is it other's seeing it? Is it what is stands for, trauma, accident etc.,? Does she have other body issues? Is she intensely self-critical?
Her skin type is another important unknown. Some people scar badly.

Even a scar revision operation will only reduce the surface area of the scar to hopefully a thinner neat line. Whoever does the surgery will give post-op advice on trying to ensure the best possible aesthetic outcome but it will still be visible. A very neat scar and the right skin type and it may "disappear" enough but that would take a lot of time.

I echo the above re: body issues and perhaps even counselling would help.
posted by Wilder at 5:56 AM on January 8, 2008

or until such time as she has the surgery there's an amazing amount of sexy lingerie which covers the stomach but leaves other areas, ahem, ...accessible?
posted by Wilder at 6:01 AM on January 8, 2008

After reading a lot about scar reducing ointments and serums, I decided to try Bio-Oil. I read through loads of Internet forums and saw it recommended by scores of people. I had to order it from a British Internet retailer because it isn't available in the U.S. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to ever use it and it's sitting in my dresser drawer; therefore I can't tell you whether it worked for me.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:47 AM on January 8, 2008

Any oil or cream with lots of Vit E will do the same as Bio-oil. Buy the cheapest vit E capsules you can find and breach the gelatine cover. It's a lot cheaper than the oils that are marketed for scarring. To the best of my knowledge studies I read (admittedly a few years ago) suggested that regular moisturising with any cream/oil has the same impact as Vit E.

But this is all in the early stages after the wound has initially healed. It won't really have any major impact on an old scar.
posted by Wilder at 6:53 AM on January 8, 2008

I had great results by wearing, pretty much non-stop for three months, those silicone scar pads available near the Band Aids at the drug store. It changed a very red, raised three-year-old scar to a very flat scar that matches the tone of the rest of my skin.
posted by juggler at 7:37 AM on January 8, 2008

I checked the Bio-Oil website and it is now available in US drug stories, e.g., Walgreens, CVS, et al.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:07 AM on January 8, 2008

The goo inside vitamin E capsules is very think and sticky--at least the goo in the capsule I once pierced was. I've heard it works quite well on skin, but I didn't use it because of the thick, sticky, gummy texture.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:18 AM on January 8, 2008

I think what onhazier us talking about is Cordran Tape, which I had some, but not a lot, of success with.

What worked for me with some keloid scars was an injection from my dermatologist, which was nothing short of miraculous. My advice is to go talk to a dermatologist. They can do some amazing stuff.
posted by 4ster at 8:21 AM on January 8, 2008

I've had lots of luck with Calendula ointments. (The one currently in my medicine cabinet is this one.) I'm seeing them recommended more and more by mainstream doctor-types as first aid creams, which is mainly what I use it for, but it also does a remarkable job on fading old scars (and helping skin issues in general).
posted by occhiblu at 8:38 AM on January 8, 2008

Also, more short term, maybe she (or you) can buy lingerie tops that she could leave on during sex, at least some times? I wouldn't try to cover a scar with much other than clothing during sex -- makeup and such is likely to rub off and make a mess.
posted by occhiblu at 8:40 AM on January 8, 2008

Wilder writes "Any oil or cream with lots of Vit E will do the same as Bio-oil. Buy the cheapest vit E capsules you can find and breach the gelatine cover. It's a lot cheaper than the oils that are marketed for scarring. To the best of my knowledge studies I read (admittedly a few years ago) suggested that regular moisturising with any cream/oil has the same impact as Vit E."

My father had very visible 20 year old scars on one leg from a nasty compound fracture. He religiously used aloe vera right from the plant and over the course of a year the scar practically disappeared. He'd just cut off a portion of the leaf, split it open and rubbed it on his scar for a few minutes every evening. It's pretty messy but cheap because he bought a pretty good size plant that grew faster than he was trimming.

Be warned that raw aloe vera is extremely bitter, make sure you wash your hands well after handling.
posted by Mitheral at 1:57 PM on January 8, 2008

I've been gutted by surgeons several times. Literally. I've got a scar from just under my sternum in to my "map of Tassie"*. It's faded a little over the years. The last time they opened me up was 2000. To be honest, the only thing is to get used to it. Unless it's very red, or hugely keloid, nothing's going to do much. Mine is flat but about 4 centimetres wide in parts.

Before the last surgery, I used to make sure I had sex with the lights off or under the doona**.

Now I'm so bored with it, I think it's kind of cool. Even though I've got the body of a smally hippo... ok, a medium sized hippo, I often wear tee shirts that sort of ride up when I pick up babytaff. People often get an eyefull of my scars. Nobody has ever asked about it.

This might be because I'm an old baggage. But I even used to wear bikinis with it. Back in my skinnytaff days.

I'm sorry that your beloved is going through this, but as I said, the scars don't fade that much, but the shame does eventually.

I'm a firm believer in making up fabulous stories about how people come by their scars. But I'm a dag***.

* map of Tassie: Map of Tasmania

** doona: counterpane, duvet, quilt.

*** dag: poo covered sheep bum or sweet jibe at someone who is somewhat unfashionable.
posted by taff at 3:24 PM on January 8, 2008

Does she "just" have a big puffy scar, or is it a real keloid, i.e. a super-collageny scar that is actually significantly larger than the initial skin injury? The tendency to develop keloids is generally a genetic thing; does she have relatives who have that tendency?

Because if her scar is hypertrophic, she may find relief from a lot of the stuff mentioned in previous threads, but if it's a real keloid, there's just not much she can do about that, despite what overenthusiastic dermatologists and plastic surgeons may tell her.

I have a giant keloid scar on my stomach and I have tried damn near everything to get it to fade and/or flatten. The only thing that worked somewhat was taping sheets of thick clear silicone gel (obtained from the dermatologist) to it with paper tape 12-24 hours a day. The pressure, over time, flattened the scar somewhat...until I stopped using the gel, and the scar slowly returned to its previous puffiness. They also sell a newer skin-colored type of sheeting with adhesive already on the back, but it was not thick enough to really work. I tried Mederma. I tried laser treatments (NOT recommended) and cortisone injections. Finally, I tried having the scar excised and re-stitched with micro stitches, then spent three weeks flat on my back at home one summer.

NONE of that worked. Keloid scars are the zombies of the scar world, they just keep coming back, and usually bigger and somewhat worse. I've done research online, too, including digging through PubMed, and the only other treatment I've heard of that might work is radioactive seed implanatation, but I was just not gonna go there.

Your girlfriend is going to have to learn to deal. May I suggest reading this AskMeFi thread?

Also, I recommend she learn to use the lie my brilliant husband developed for why I have the scar. To be said with a scary gleam in the eye, when asked how she got the scar: "Tijuana bar fight. But you should have seen the other guy..." And then smile real big.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:21 PM on January 8, 2008

Response by poster: My lady and I thank you all for your excellent suggestions. There's a lot to think about and to try here. Please, by all means, keep the ideas coming!
posted by zainsubani at 4:22 PM on January 8, 2008

Dermablend is makeup that will cover the scar (in terms of color -- obviously, if the scar is raised, Dermablend won't flatten the scar or change its texture). It's seriously hardcore makeup; if you set it the way they tell you to, it won't rub off on clothes or sheets, won't come off with sex or sweat, and it's even supposed to be waterproof (and it is, sort of, mostly). You can buy it online or in department stores.

However, I really think that it's a much better idea for you to help her work through it. If you want to hear more about this from someone who was where your girlfriend is now (with scars that went back about 9 or 10 years), my e-mail's in my profile.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:51 PM on January 8, 2008

Cordran tape is nothing short of awesome (I had a fasciectomy a year ago and it reduced a red, angry scar to something that was virtually indistinguishable). If she wears it every other day (to let her skin breathe) for about twelve weeks, her skin should respond. The flurandrenolide in it softens skin .
posted by kldickson at 1:14 PM on February 18, 2008

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