Holly loved nothing more than riding her bike. But one day, she missed a curb and hit the pavement - splat! Now her knee was scraped and her elbow was cut. Her brother Darren helped Holly up and used his T-shirt to dab at the blood on her elbow. "Wow," he said, "You're probably going to have a huge scar."
What Exactly Is a Scar?
A scar is the pale pink, brown, or silvery patch of skin that grows in the place where you once had a cut, scrape, or sore. A scar is your skin's way of repairing itself from injury. Look at your skin. You probably have one or two scars already. Most people do. Why? Because a lot of things leave behind scars - from falls, like the one Holly had, to surgeries.
Scars are part of life and they show what you've been through. For some people, scars are special. A kid in your class might have a scar on his chest because he had heart surgery as a baby. Or you might have a scar from the chicken pox. Centuries ago, warriors showed off their scars as symbols of their bravery and to impress their friends with the exciting tales about how each one happened. Do any of your scars have a story?
How Do I Get a Scar?
No matter what caused your scar, here's how your skin repaired the open wound. The skin sent a bunch of collagen (say: ka-leh-jen) - tough, white protein fibers that act like bridges - to reconnect the broken tissue. As the body did its healing work, a dry, temporary crust formed over the wound. This crust is called a scab.
The scab's job is to protect the wound as the damaged skin heals underneath. Eventually, a scab dries up and falls off on its own, leaving behind the repaired skin and, often, a scar.
A scar isn't always a sure thing, though. "It's not so much how deep or severe a wound is that determines whether a scar will form, but rather the location of the wound and that person's genetic [inherited] tendency to form scars," says Brian Flyer, a doctor from California.
In other words, certain people tend to get scars more easily, and scars are more likely to form after wounds on certain parts of the body.
How Do I Prevent a Scar?
Of course, the best way to prevent scars is to prevent wounds! You can reduce your chances of getting hurt by wearing kneepads, helmets, and other protective gear when you play sports, ride your bike, or go in-line skating. But even with protective gear, a person can still get hurt once in a while. If this happens, you can take steps to prevent or reduce scarring. You can help your skin heal itself by treating it well during the healing process.
How do you do that? Keep the wound covered as it heals so you can keep out bacteria and germs. Avoid picking at the scab because it tears at the collagen and could introduce germs into the wound. Some doctors say vitamin C (found in oranges and other citrus fruits) helps by speeding up the creation of new skin cells and the shedding of old ones. Also, some people believe rubbing vitamin E on the wound after the scab begins forming can aid the healing process. Your parent can talk to your doctor about whether you should try this.
So Long, Scars!
Some scars fade over time. If yours doesn't and it bothers you, there are treatments that can make a scar less noticeable, such as skin-smoothing medicated creams, waterproof makeup, or even minor surgery. Talk to your parent and doctor to find out if any of these treatments would be right for you.
Sometimes the best medicine might just be to talk. Tell your parent or doctor what's bothering you about your scar and how you feel on the inside. Because when the inside feels good, the outside always seems to look better!
Updated and reviewed by: Patrice Hyde, MD
Date reviewed: January 2007