Cleft Palate Foundation

Answers to Common Questions About Scars

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Why is my child’s scar red?
All new scars are red, more so in some people than in others. When the body first begins to heal a wound, it produces a lot of scar tissue. In order to nourish this healing process, the body creates many tiny blood vessels to bring in a temporary supply of extra blood, causing a red color. Scars in children typically get progressively red for perhaps three months. During this time the scar will often be raised off the skin and fairly stiff to the touch. Reaching a peak after several months, the scar gradually fades, softens, and flattens.

What will the scar look like?
Eventually, the scar should become a soft flat white line.

When will the scar go away?
Once there is a scar, it is there forever. However, when the scar matures it should be much less noticeable than when it was new. Some people heal with less obvious scars than others, so that the scar may be very fine or, at the other extreme, very wide. Most people’s scars are fairly thin but not hairline. Normally, scars take 12 to 18 months to fully mature.

Will applications of vitamin E to the scar help?
Many people believe that there are special healing qualities to vitamin E, aloe vera, or cocoa butter. In fact, there is no consistent evidence that these will truly improve the long-term appearance of the scar. Since a normal scar will spontaneously improve, some people mistakenly think that the improvement is due to the vitamin E they are applying. Although we do not recommend the use of vitamin E, there is no evidence that it will do any harm. Therefore, aside from the very small risk of a skin allergy to vitamin E, there is no known ill effect that will result if you wish to use it. However, it should be avoided during the first two weeks after surgery.

What can I do to make it look better?
Since the scar will be getting better by itself, mostly you just need to wait. However, many doctors believe that applying sun screen for three or four months after surgery is beneficial because some people can develop permanent excess color in a scar as a result of early sun exposure.

My child’s operation was two years ago. What can be done to make the scar less visible?
Once the scar has matured (become soft and white), it should not be expected to undergo further spontaneous changes. However, sometimes the scar is not as refined as might be possible. In this situation, your surgeon may recommend cutting out and re-closing a portion of the scar in an attempt to make it thinner or more level with the surrounding skin. Another treatment that might be recommended is dermabrasion, a process of sanding down the scar surface, again in an effort to make it more level with the surrounding skin.

What is a keloid?
A keloid is a tumor of scar tissue that can develop when the body continues to make scar tissue for many months or even years, rather than maturing normally and becoming white and flat. A keloid is a scar that is permanently red, hard, and raised. Fortunately, these are fairly rare. Your surgeon can tell you more about keloids.

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Last Updated: Oct 25, 2007

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