Do your scars itch? This post is about why scars itch and how to get some scar itch relief.
Fresh scars tend to itch more often but also older scars, especially surgery scars, may itch. Even scars that are years old can be itchy. Many people describe the feeling as itchy and numb at the same time. In most fresh scars the itchiness will fade away with time.
Scar Itch Causes
The itch is part of the healing (maturation) process. New tissue is created, nerve endings are stimulated, and other nerves have been disconnected which may cause the numb sensation.
The blood circulation is affected and overlapping scar tissue being stretched may also cause itchiness or sometimes a burning feeling. (e.g. in case of c-section scars during a new pregnancy) Some people experience a burning sensation followed by itch after stretching their scar full out.
Causes of scars itching are the aforementioned healing process, the scar drying out, the nerves being damaged and disconnected, collagen reacting and moving, and skin irritation as a result of (surgical) tape or other topical applications used.
Scar Itch Relief
Make sure to avoid scratching your scar whenever possible. It might damage the tissue especially when the scar is young and the tissue still thin and delicate. Damage caused by scratching will worsen scar appearance and may cause infection (which will also worsen appearance).
This is just theorizing but I think whether or not you can treat the itchiness depends on where the itch is exactly located. Is it superficial, on the scar itself, the skin so to say? Or is the itch deeper, probably caused by nerves and/or collagen turning over. If it’s the latter I guess there’s nothing much you can do about it except for maybe massaging.
- Massage A good massage therapist will be able to loosen up the scar tissue thus effectuating less tension and friction. This way the scar tissue is under less physical stress which will lead to less burn or itch. When massaging your own scars keep in mind that fresh scar tissue is relatively thin and fragile so massaging should be done very gently.
- Moisturizing Scars tend to dry out a bit because the skin’s ability to hydrate itself has been affected. That’s why moisturizing the tissue regularly may offer relief by diminishing itch.
- Anti-itch creams I haven’t used any anti-itch creams on my scars myself because I used silicone gel sheets and ointments (more on this in a bit) but here are a few popular creams that are reported to offer scar itch relief. Benadryl is a so called antihistamine cream. Prolonged use of such creams is said to possibly result in the development of an allergy to the active ingredient (Benadryl) Other itch relief creams are topical anesthetics such as lidocaine and benzocaine. These have shown to cause skin irritation in some cases. Therefore the best anti-itch creams are the topical steroids such as hydrocortisone cream. Examples of commonly used and well reviewed hydrocortisone creams are Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream and Member’s Mark Hydrocortisone Cream Apart from these there’s a skin spray called ThermaSkin Itch Blocker that uses hot pepper extract (capsaicin) to stop itching.
- Silicones There are several topical silicone gel brands such as Dermatix, Kelocote, Zeraderm, and ScarAway. These silicone ointments do not only offer relief from itch and pain they will also reduce redness, prevent problematic scars from developing, and flatten and soften excessive scar tissue.
For me these silicone creams (and sheets) were a godsend because apart from the occasional itch some of my scars really felt uncomfortably sensitive so each contact with clothing or e.g. a seat belt made me shiver.
Do you have any questions or comments on scar itch relief? Don’t hesitate to share your opinion below.
Here are a few home scar massage techniques. Scar massage can be administered by a trained physician or be done at home by yourself. The advantage of consulting a scar massage therapist is that you will learn the proper technique. You will also be able to get feedback on your progress. For problematic scars it is recommended to at least consult an expert once or a few times to know what you are doing.
Scar massage should only be started after the wound has closed completely and once your surgeon or dermatologist has authorized you to do so. This is usually a few weeks after the wound was inflicted. Premature massage might lead to damaging the tissue (the wound could open up) which will probably lead to more scar tissue.
Sometimes the advice is given not to use oil or a lotion during massage because this would lead to the fingers slipping away. I do not agree with this. When I started massaging my surgical scars they were very sensitive. In fact I’d rather not touch them at all, even clothing getting in contact with some scars was very irritant. That’s why using oil and lotions really worked for me. Because it reduced friction it made me tolerate the massage better.
Scar massage should always be conducted gently and with great attention. When the scar tends to get redder, will hurt, or a burning sensation will occur, immediately stop massaging.
- In case you’ll use lotion, oil, or a cream apply it.
- Massage it in by making circular motions or dabbing if this feels better.
- Use the pads of your fingers to make gentle circular movements over the length of the scar and the surrounding tissue.
- When the tissue becomes less sensitive expand with vertical and horizontal movements.
- Gradually increase the pressure over the next few days as the area becomes less sensitive.
- Massage at least two times a day for about 5 minutes. (Depending on how it feels and looks).
- It is best to use non-scented lotions. In case you use scar sheets make sure to clean the scar and surrounding skin thoroughly after massage and before re-applying the sheets.
Apart from massage, moisturizing the scar will help keeping it from drying out and making it more pliable. Heat application can add to the suppleness of the scar. Most commonly used for heat application are heating pads, paraffin wax, and in lesser amount, ultrasound.
Some people prefer to use a scar tissue massage tool.
This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional. Scars come in all types and the directions provided are only a general guideline for informational purposes only.
Disfiguring scars can drastically affect someones well being, both physical and psychological. That’s why treating scars the best way possible can be very important. Scar massage is a way of taking action and part of the ‘doing all you can to improve your scar’ approach. Whether you administer self-massage or make use of the services of a trained physical therapist, scar massage has some proven benefits.
The overall purpose of scar massage is to control the development of a fresh scar. It improves the blood circulation, and is said to promote collagen remodeling by the application of pressure to the scar. (studies on other therapies have also shown pressure to be an effective factor) In other words, massage helps break down thick layers of collagen thus preventing scar tightness.
Benefits of regular scar massage are that the tissue will turn out be softer and more pliable. Redness, itching, and pain can be reduced. Also the stimulation of new tissue growth is thought to be an effect of massage. Then there is the reduction of the chance on problematic scars such as hypertropic, keloid scars and contractures. A contracture is when the presence of scar tissue hinders a muscle’s ability to stretch. On top of that the scar surface will be prevented from becoming dry, cracked, and sore. These conditions, if left untreated, might lead to infections or other complications.
Study on effects and possible benefits of scar massage therapy. The outcome: The massage therapy group reported reduced itching, pain, and anxiety and improved mood.
Whether or not scar tissue is sensitive depends on the person and the location on the body. In my case, especially the scar on my chest bone was very sensitive. (The skin in this area seems to be very delicate.) For example clothing with zippers or the seat belt caused an annoying, irritant feeling. Massaging the scar is also a way to gradually get used to the scar tissue getting in contact with and getting touched thus making it less sensitive.
Commonly, scar massage can be self-administered when done cautiously and with care. With severe scars such as burn scars and for example in case of contractures it is best to consult a skilled physical therapist.
It is generally advised to massage at least three times a day for about ten minutes at a time. Only start after the wound has closed completely. When the scar tends to get more red then before stop massaging. Even when you are visiting a skilled skin therapist, working your own scar tissue in addition will often lead to greater improvements. Always massage as directed by your doctor or therapist. In case of surgical scars, always check with your surgeon or dermatologist before starting scar massage therapy. Directions on how to massage your scar yourself in my next post.