Dermatologist-Reviewed Articles

How to Prevent Facial Scarring

woman putting on an earring

When it comes to facial scarring, prevention is your best friend. There are three main types of scars: depressed or indented scars, discolored scars and thick or raised scars. While depressed, indented and raised scars are notoriously difficult to fade, getting a jump on minor abrasions, skin-deep punctures and discolored scars before they become permanent is key. A scar’s visibility ultimately depends on how well its wound has healed—to make sure small marks become nothing more than memories, encouraging a healthy healing process is absolutely essential.

Basic Prevention

A great many facial scars result from acne. When you have a breakout, don’t squeeze, pop, pick or otherwise irritate pimples at all, lest you cause permanent scarring. The same goes for scabs—they might not look nice, but they’re nature’s own wound dressing. Picking them prolongs the healing process and increases the chances of scarring. When popped pimples and skin-deep wounds do happen, disinfect them with a cotton swab dabbed in witch hazel—an antibacterial agent that won’t dry out the skin—and wash (but don’t scrub) them immediately with your favorite mild, non-drying facial cleanser.

Essential Moisturizing

If you already have a moisturizing routine in place to keep your skin supple, you’ll be glad to know that moisture is also paramount to healthy healing. When wounds dry out, they form scabs and are more likely to leave scars behind, so keep them moist with an oil-based moisturizer or ointment. Even plain-old petroleum jelly, or moisturizing products that feature it as a key ingredient, do the trick. Be sure to reapply the moisturizer after cleaning the wound daily with a facial cleanser.

Keep It Covered

Keep healing skin covered after you clean and moisturize it, to speed up the healing process and reduce the potential for scarring. Using a circular bandage or cutting a flesh-toned bandage down to size helps keep healing skin covered, while remaining fairly inconspicuous. Alternatively, you can turn to products such as hydrogel or silicone gel sheets. In any case, change the bandage or cover the wound every day after cleaning and moisturizing. If your skin is sensitive to adhesives, keep small marks covered with a nonstick bandage and a dab of petroleum jelly.

Protect and Massage

Once your wound has healed, continue to follow your regular moisturizing routine, and keep the mark covered with broad-spectrum sunscreen rated at SPF 30 or higher to prevent redness and discoloration. Each day, apply a bit of vitamin E oil to your fingertip and gently massage the scar for a few minutes. While vitamin E—contrary to popular belief—doesn’t actually fade scars, the oil does serve as a moisturizer and massaging the skin helps break down dense collagen bonds, minimizing the scar’s visibility over time.

This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.

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