We are all scarred. Scars are a natural part of healing. They occur when there is damage to the dermis, the deeper layer of the skin. The wider and deeper the original injury, the more significant the scar will be.
Scars vary by the location of the injury and by your genetics. Some people, especially those with dark skin, are prone to develop thick, raised scars called hypertrophic scars or keloids. Keloids are more common on the upper chest, upper back, neck, and ears. Other people develop flat, white scars. In fact, even stretch marks are a type of scar.
Once a scar has developed there is little or nothing you can do to change it. Over the counter creams cannot change the appearance of a scar (no mom, not even topical vitamin E). However, your physician can sometimes surgically revise a scar or can inject it with steroid to flatten it.
A new study to be published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine has shown that the development of scars can be minimized by blocking osteopontin. Osteopontin is a protein implicated in chronic inflammatory conditions and in various types of cancer.
Research by Professor Paul Martin and colleagues at the University of Bristol shows that osteopontin (OPN) is one of the genes that triggers scarring and that applying a gel, which suppresses OPN to the wound, can accelerate healing and reduces scarring. It does this in part by increasing the regeneration of blood vessels around the wound and speeding up tissue reconstruction.
Once again, we see that chronic inflammation is the basis for disease, in this case scarring. Prescription drugs that block osteopontin are probably years away, but they might be worth the wait.
Photo of a keloid from the American Association of Family Practice Physicians. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20050801/lettersonline.html