Why Don’t Some Scars Tan?

Barbara10Broek By Barbara10Broek, 2nd Sep 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Beauty>Skin care

Discusses the effect of the sun on scars and the differences.


Its the end of the summer and most have great tans. Some however are asking why their scars didn't turn that nice brown.

The most obvious possible explanation is that the scar tissue has fewer melanocytes—cells that produce the dark pigment melanin—than the surrounding skin. However, this does not appear to be the case.

In one study, researchers took biopsies from old, pale scars and from the adjacent normal skin of Caucasian volunteers. The researchers were surprised to discover that the number of melanocytes was about the same in scar tissue and nonscar tissue. In addition, the amount of melanin appeared to be similar in the scarred and normal skin.

The researchers proposed two hypotheses to explain why scars may appear pale even though melanocytes are present and appear to be functioning normally. First, scar tissue may have fewer blood vessels, resulting in decreased blood flow and whiter skin. Second, the structural properties of scar tissue can cause it to reflect light differently than normal skin.

In normal skin, fibers of the structural protein collagen are randomly oriented. As a result, skin scatters light in random directions. When skin is injured, the interwoven arrangement of collagen is destroyed. In an effort to repair the damage as quickly as possible, the body lays down new collagen fibers in linear strips parallel to each other. The scar reflects light mainly along a direction perpendicular to the skin.

Also, the upper layer of the skin over the scar may be thinner and may absorb less light. Thus, the scar may reflect more light toward the observer and appear whiter.

Since vitamin E was found to be a major antioxidant in skin, physicians have recommended that patients apply it to injured skin to reduce scarring. Antioxidants mop up free radicals—highly reactive molecules that are produced at the site of a wound. Free radicals can damage cells and can also interfere with the production of collagen. Therefore, vitamin E should protect skin and promote healing.

Yet, despite its popularity, there is little scientific evidence that vitamin E reduces scarring. In fact, some studies have found the opposite. In one carefully designed study, published in Dermatologic Surgery (April 1999), patients applied a regular ointment (Aquaphor) to one side of a surgical wound and the same ointment mixed with vitamin E to the other side of the wound. In the majority of cases (90 percent), vitamin E had no effect or actually worsened the scar’s appearance. Also, about one-third of patients developed a rash on the vitamin-E-treated skin.


Scar, Skin, Skin Care, Skin Care Tips, Tan, Tanning, Vitimin E

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author avatar Barbara10Broek
Professional Librarian and freelance writer. Home Page: http://barbaratenbroekfreelancewriter.yolasite.com/

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
2nd Sep 2011 (#)

Very interesting. Thank you, Barbara.

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author avatar Susan
29th May 2018 (#)

When using Vitamin E on injured skin I put it on evert tim the skin feels dry & only use vitamin E. Do not mix with ointment. I had a 2nd degree burn on my hand & used that method & now I can’t tell which hand was burned. Worked on my sons burns from when he fell on a area heater at my brothers house while playing. Also second degree burns. I had to change the raps 2 X a day after soaking in cleaning medican giving by the dr, when the skin was healed enough to cover over a little I started using only vitamin E on them, no scars!

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