You know those flaws that you see on yourself that seem enormous, and huge, and awful? And other people can tell you that it’s no big deal or that they don’t even notice it, but it still bugs the crap out of you?
For me that was my mole. Smack dab in the center of my chest was this (in my eyes) giant dark mole that stood out so clearly on my pale skin.
I was self conscious of this (in reality, little) mole starting around age 10, and I would only wear shirts that would cover it up. I did this up until I was 16 or 17, when I decided that it would be fashionably worse to wear crew neck tees until the end of time instead of letting people see my mole.
I’m going to just yadda-yadda-yadda through the boring middle parts, but this all ends with me noticing some changes in the texture and color of the mole, seeing a dermatologist for an opinion, and getting it removed just two weeks before packing up and moving from Chicago to New Orleans.
(PSA: Check your moles! Also, maybe don’t choose to have one removed when you are actively in the process of moving.)
After all that, I ended up replacing the mole with a bigger scar.
My high-school self would’ve cried. I knew getting an abnormal scar was a definite possibility because both of my parents are prone to keloids, and ya know, a scar is way better than skin cancer, but still. Ugh.
So seeing that, for 2016, I’ve resolved to do a better job with body care, I decided it was about time to take a look at treating this scar. I grilled a couple of derms for a professional opinion, the lovely Dr. Fayne Frey and the similarly awesome Dr. Michael Lin.
So first things first, what even is a keloid scar?
Dr. Frey explains that a keloid is an abnormal growth of scar tissue that grows larger than the original injury to the skin. “Keloids may develop within weeks or years after minor injuries. Keloids are benign tumors with no malignant potential (they do not become cancers).”
Dr. Frey also explained there are two similar types of abnormal scars that can form from skin injuries, keloids, and hypertrophic. Where as keloids can keep on growing, hypertrophic scars will eventually stop.
“A keloid should not be confused with a hypertrophic scar, a raised scar that forms at the site of the skin injury but that does not grow beyond the boundaries of the original wound. Hypertrophic scars usually form within four to eight weeks after a skin injury. They have a rapid growth phase which lasts up to six months and then they gradually regress over the next several years. They eventually flatten with no other symptoms.”
This leads me to think that my scar, although small, is a keloid because it has continued to slowly grow since I had the mole removed over a year and a half ago. In doing more research, I’ve seen how seriously lucky I’ve been that my scar has been so slow to grow and that it isn’t on a joint or an ear. For me, it only causes discomfort when pressure is placed on it, not in regular daily life, whereas some people have much worse, debilitating scars.
I wanted to know how to treat the little bugger before it becomes a problem.
Dr. Lin said, “In the office, I typically treat with intralesional steroid injections to shrink the keloid. I may also use 5-fluorouracil injections to soften it and prevent it from coming back. If the keloid is red or shows blood vessels, I may use a laser to reduce the redness. Sometimes, I will excise or debulk the keloid with a scalpel or ablative laser.”
Dr. Frey added, “Cryotherapy has also been used, often in conjunction with intralesional steroids with some success, especially on small scars. Surgical removal of keloids is often attempted but recurrence rates range between 45% and 100%. Excision of keloids may result in a larger scar than the original keloid, so this option should be carefully considered.”
All of this 100% squicks me out. I’m already nervous around doctors, and needles in general, but start tossing around words like cryotherapy and lasers? No thanks. Let’s maybe work up to something like that.
If I’m going to try to do something at home, what could actually work?
Both Dr. Frey and Dr. Lin suggested a silicone gel sheet to cover the scar could do the trick. Dr. Frey explains “Covering wounds with silicone gel sheeting, and other occlusive dressings, is a well-established treatment of scars, and research showing its efficacy is well documented. The use of scar creams, like Mederma, that contain flavonoids are a popular treatment option, although the scientific data showing efficacy is controversial.”
Dr. Lin adds another option with compression devices “Compression devices like pressure earrings or splints can help prevent keloids from growing, particularly on the ears.”
I also wanted to know if there were any DIYs that I could try with some ingredients I already have. I’ve been putting rosehip oil on the scar nightly with basically no other results besides having a well-moisturized chest.
Dr. Frey agreed, saying, “I have read about multiple home therapies to help reduce the size and redness associated with keloids, although I have not found a double-blinded control study that shows the efficacy of any of them. Although there may be no harm in trying these home remedies, there is little of any scientific evidence showing they work. These include the application of baking soda, aloe vera, herbal extracts and essential oil treatments, apple cider vinegar to name a few.”
So, yeah, bummer on the DIY front.
Since home remedies seem to be out the window this time around, I think what I’ll do is try out the silicone sheet for a while at home. If there are still no changes, I’ll have to pluck up my courage to see my derm and get this scar sorted out, lasers and all.