- Reference Number: HEY-435/2023
- Departments: Plastic Surgery
- Last Updated: 2 January 2023
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This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about scars, for patients who have undergone surgery or had an injury to their skin. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team, but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.
What is a scar?
Scars are areas of fibrous tissue that replace normal skin or other tissue after injury or surgery. Scarring is a natural part of the healing process of the body. No two scars are the same and each person’s scars heal differently. Your scar may be reddened at first and may settle down to become paler in colour and smoother. It will take up to 12-18 months after your surgery/injury for your scar to settle fully.
How should I care for a scar following surgery/injury?
- Pat dry your scar after a bath or shower.
- Use a non-perfumed moisturising cream such as E45 cream or aqueous cream to moisturise the skin surrounding your scar twice a day.
- Avoid picking or scratching your scar.
- Keep clothes loose around your scar to avoid tension or friction which may irritate it.
How can I help my scar to heal?
- Eat a well-balanced diet
Especially food rich in vitamins, minerals and protein such as milk, yoghurt and green leafy vegetables.
- Smoking is not advised
Smoking delays the healing process. Scars in people who smoke do not heal as well as those in people who do not smoke.
- Protect your scar from sunlight
Your scar is very sensitive to strong sunlight and can burn easily, so please try to avoid exposing your scar to the sun. You should use a very strong sunblock (SPF30 or higher) on your scar for 18 months after the surgery/injury that caused the scar. Afterwards, a normal SPF15 or higher should be used before going out in strong sunlight. Apply it 1 hour before going outside and reapply frequently and generously. If you have facial scars, wear a hat to shade your face. This should protect your scar from burning or tanning.
Your Consultant will advise you when it will be safe to resume exercise before you leave hospital. This also includes what type of exercise you need to take.
- Concealing your scar
You can use make up or skin camouflage cream to disguise your scar, provided it is completely healed. Further information about this can be found on the following website: www.changingfaces.org.uk
What changes might I notice in my scar?
- Scars can itch or tingle from time to time.
- Scars can go through a phase of becoming pinker or slightly red.
- You may experience a little numbness in the area of the scar and in some situations, the numbness may be permanent.
When should I seek medical advice?
- If your scar is excessively swollen, red or painful or there is a discharge or odour.
- If your scar becomes red or itchy.
- If you are concerned about your scar and its changed appearance.
If you have any concerns please contact your General Practitioner (GP).
This leaflet was produced by the Plastic Surgery Department, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in January 2026.
General Advice and Consent
Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.
Consent to treatment
Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.
The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:
- you must be able to give your consent
- you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
- you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person
Information about you
We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.
We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.
If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.