Q: I suffered facial injuries in a car crash a year ago that have left a noticeable scar across my cheek. I’m worried my scar won’t fade. Every time I look in the mirror it reminds me of the accident and I have started to avoid some social events because I feel self-conscious when people stare. I have heard that silicone creams may help improve its appearance but worry that it’s too late for it to make a difference now. What do you suggest?
A: I’m so sorry to hear about your accident. Scars can be hard to come to terms with, particularly if they are on the face or have traumatic associations. It’s not unusual to have flashbacks of the incident in which they occurred and it can be hard to move on.
The process of adjustment often leads to feelings of loss, anger, embarrassment and depression. It’s not unusual to avoid social contact, but this can create a vicious cycle of withdrawal and loneliness. Cognitive behavioural therapy-based counselling and using mindfulness techniques can be useful.
In social situations, the charity Saving Faces says some people find it helps if they make a brief comment or even a joke to acknowledge their scars, then change the subject. One of my sons had a pronounced Harry-Potter like zigzag scar across his forehead after a fall. At first he covered it with his hair before he decided to claim it was his wizard’s badge of honour.
Remember, you are not alone – there are 66,000 people living in the UK with disfigurements such as burns and facial scars from accidents. It can help to meet with others in a similar situation, which you can do through the charity Changing Faces (changingfaces.org.uk). It also offers confidential advice on 0300 012 0275.
Attitudes are changing, however. Walking down the aisle in her low-backed wedding dress last month, Princess Eugenie, right, proudly showed the scar on her back from spinal surgery when she was 12. ‘You can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars. I think it’s really special to stand up for that,’ she said.
To find out whether silicone is effective as a topical treatment, I asked Miss Sherina Balaratnam, surgeon and medical director of S-Thetics Clinic in Buckinghamshire, who often treats facial scarring. She explained that silicone works by increasing hydration levels in the healing scar and reduces excessive collagen production, which occurs in unsightly scars. This leads to a softer, flatter and better-coloured scar.
Although the earlier you start the better, she says you can still see improvements when treating a scar 12 to 18 months on. ‘I advise patients to massage scars using firm pressure to reduce the likelihood of thick, red and raised scars forming – known as keloid scars. Silicone allows the skin to breathe and reduces itching and discomfort. It can also be used on sensitive skin and on children,’ she says.
Sherina recommends the following products for treating facial scars at home:
- Dermatix Silicone Gel (£29.99, boots.com).
- ScarAway Silicone Scar Sheets (£29.39, amazon.co.uk): these are like a plaster.
- IS Clinical Sheald Recovery Balm (£41.99, facethefuture.co.uk). ‘This potent scar recovery balm is a pharmaceutical-grade botanical containing antioxidants, kava kava [a plant extract with anaesthetic properties] and ceramides [which maintain and improve the skin’s barrier] to decrease inflammation and soften and hydrate dry, sensitive skin. This will help to minimise scar formation and reduce redness and irritation.’
Finally, adds Sherina, use sun protection as it ‘is vital for scars during their healing phase to help reduce pigmentation or discoloration’. Try Heliocare Sunscreen SPF 50 Cream (£18, amazon.co.uk).
This week I’m reading…
Three Things About Elsie by psychiatrist-turned-novelist Joanna Cannon. A delightful novel giving a touching and quirky insight into ageing and dementia.
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