The Best Way to Lighten Scars

A scar can take up to two years to fully mature.

Photo: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

You tripped over that laundry basket, gashed your arm on the corner of the bed and now you have an ugly scar to remind you of the pain. It can take between one and two years for a scar to fully mature, says plastic surgeon Dr. Shirley Madhere, so the scar that forms immediately after the wound heals might not be what you see years later. Treat your wound with care when it first happens to avoid scarring, and then try to fade it later either at home or with help from a medical provider.

At Home

The first step to fading a scar is trying to fade it at home. Professional makeup artist Josephine Fusco recommends smoothing on the lightening cream Perle by Neocutis. “This is suitable for all skin types,” she says. “It reduces the appearance of skin discoloration such as scars.” The key to this particular cream is that it’s free of hydroquinone, which can irritate your skin and make the scar look worse.

Medical Procedures

About six to eight weeks after the wound heals and a scar begins to form, examine how it looks. If it still hurts pretty badly, is excessively red or is changing shape, talk with your doctor because these are all signs of abnormal or delayed healing, according to Dr. Madhere. A number of medical procedures exist to reduce the appearance of scars, such as chemical peels and silicone therapy. The best treatment for getting rid of a scar, however, is an Intense Pulse Light Laser, says Louis Silberman, president of the National Laser Institute School for Medical Aesthetics. It takes between three and five sessions to significantly lighten the scar, Fusco says, and this procedure works best during the early stages of the scar.


If you can't medically lighten a scar, try covering it with makeup. Start with a primer, Fusco says, which "will help reduce the appearance of the lines and divets associated with the scar, and will also help the redness." Apply a small amount of concealer to either a brush or your ring finger and lightly tap it on to the scar. "This way, too much will not go onto the scar, making it look cakey," says Fusco. Wait 30 seconds and then add more concealer if additional coverage is necessary. Finish by blending it in with a sponge, and then apply a facial powder to set the makeup.


Treating the wound with care when it first occurs can significantly lessen the amount of scarring, or perhaps avoid it altogether. “The best way to improve upon how a wound will heal is to use an ounce (or two) of prevention,” says Texas dermatologist Dr. Renee Snyder. Wash the wound as soon as it occurs, avoiding hydrogen peroxide, which kills healthy skin cells necessary for healing. Then pat the area dry with a clean cloth, smooth on an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage. Change both the ointment and bandage daily for seven to 10 days. Both smoking and tanning beds can increase chances of scarring -- as if you needed another reason to quit.

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Dr. Renee Snyder; Dermatologist; Austin, Texas Josephine Fusco; Freelance makeup artist; New York, NY Dr. Shirley Madhere; SoHo Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery; New York, NY Louis Silberman; President of National Laser Institute School for Medical Aesthetics; Scottsdale, Arizona

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