Different types of scars require different treatments. It’s important to have your scar examined, because sometimes skin cancer can look like a scar. If you see a scar and don’t remember injuring your skin, you should make an appointment to see your dermatologist.

Q: What are the different types of scars?

A: Most scars are flat and pale. However, in cases when the body produces too much collagen, scars can be raised. Raised scars are called hypertrophic scars or keloid scars. Some scars can have a sunken or pitted appearance. This kind of scarring occurs when underlying structures supporting the skin (for example, fat or muscle) are lost.

Some surgical scars have this appearance, as do some scars from acne. Scars also can appear as stretched skin. Such scars result when the skin stretches rapidly (for example, as in growth spurts or during pregnancy).

Q: Can scars be treated?

A: Scars never completely go away, but there are some methods that can help reduce their size and appearance.

Methods for improving the appearance of scars include:

• Topical treatments, such as vitamin E, cocoa butter cream, and several commercial skin care products are available over the-counter with the claim to help heal scars, but typically are not very effective.

• Chemical peels remove the uppermost layer of skin (epidermis) leading to exfoliation and the alleviation of certain skin conditions including superficial acne scars.

• Dermal fillers can be used to temporarily raise atrophic scars to the level of surrounding skin, reducing their appearance.

• Dermabrasion involves the removal of the surface of the skin. Dermabrasion is useful when the scar is raised above the surrounding skin, but it is less useful for the treatment of sunken scars.

• Microdermabrasion is a much less invasive form of dermabrasion, but is minimally useful for very superficial scars.

• Laser treatments are similar to dermabrasion and remove the surface layers of the skin using different types of lasers. This treatment may achieve more subtle results by working on the collagen in the dermis without removing the upper layers of skin. This treatment offers little down time as opposed to traditional laser resurfacing and dermabrasion, which require a longer recovery.

• Corticosteroid injections may help to soften the appearance of keloid or hypertrophic scars through a long-term course of injections.

• Surgery can be used to alter a scar’s shape or make it less noticeable. Surgery is not recommended in cases of hypertrophic or keloid scarring (raised scars) because there is a risk of recurring scars as well as more severe scarring that results from the treatment

If you have a scar and are considering treatment, call a dermatologist.

Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.