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Health Information Center


  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




A scar is skin that forms over a wound as the skin heals. There are five main types of abnormal scars:

  • Keloid —Thick scars that grow out from the skin. They spread beyond the site of the wound.
  • Contracture—Often the result of a burn injury. The scar appears as a tightening of the skin. This type may also affect muscles and nerves below the skin.
  • Hypertrophic—Thick, raised scars. They look like keloid scars but do not spread beyond the site of the wound.
  • Atrophic—Thinned out, paper-like scars.
  • Pitted or acne—May look like deep pits or be angular and wavelike.


A scar is caused by an injury to the skin, such as a cut, scrape, puncture, or burn. It is part of the normal healing process. Scars are made of the same material as the surrounding skin, but they are made a little differently. They look different than the skin around it.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of scars are:

  • Deep injuries
  • How a person's skin scars—some people scar more easily than others
  • Where the injury happened
  • How long it took for the skin to heal
  • Infections
  • Acne
  • Surgery
Normal Surgical Scar.

Post-operative scarhttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=69626962post_operative_scar.jpgPost-operative scarNULLjpgPost-operative scarNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\post_operative_scar.jpgNULL57NULL2008-02-25204400Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


A scar may first look red and thick. It may feel numb, itchy, painful, or sensitive. Some scars may also cause physical problems, such as problems moving.

Over time, the scar will change. It often becomes less visible when it flattens and lightens. However, it may become raised, thick, sunken, or dark in color. The type and location of the wound will affect how noticeable the scar is.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the scar. People with scars may need to see a doctor who focuses on treating the skin.


Most scars will fade over time, although they rarely go away completely. Some types of scars do not fade at all. Some people may not like how their scars look.

There are many treatments that can help how a scar looks. Options are:


The risk of forming scars may be lowered by:

  • Keeping wounds clean and covered
  • Not scratching or picking at scabs
  • Not popping pimples




  • Facial scar revision. American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery website. Available at: https://www.aafprs.org/Consumers/Procedures/FacialRejuvenation/Scar/A/FR11.aspx?hkey=cfe6e6de-ce9d-4d04-a25b-86a32301985f.
  • Keloid and hypertrophic scar. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/keloid-and-hypertrophic-scar.
  • Scars. National Health Services website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Scars/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
  • Tips for taking care of your skin. Nemours KidsHealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/take_care/skin_tips.html.


  • Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.