Brown and dark scars can be difficult to fade, especially in dark skinned people. People with darker skin tones have more melanin, making their skin predisposed to create even more pigment after injury.
Most brown and other dark colored scars are caused by hyperpigmentation. According to WebMD:
Hyperpigmentation in skin is caused by an increase in melanin, the substance in the body that is responsible for color (pigment).
This melanin increase can be a result of inflammation or an increased activation of cells called melanocytes.
Melanocytes are located in the bottom layer (the stratum basale) of the skin’s epidermis and produce skin pigment (melanin).
Brown marks or scarring can also be caused by acne breakouts or chicken pox.
Melanin and Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
Effective treatment of such scars (and spots) will address the inflammation associated with the hyperpigmentation as well as the darkening caused by excess melanin production. Exfoliating is not ideal because it only affects the top layer of the skin. New melanin may still be produced and therefore melanine production should be stopped.
The redness that commonly occurs when active acne outbreaks have faded is called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Other causes are skin injury such as wounds, acne lesions, friction, shaving, insect bites, and chicken pox.
People with fair skin are more prone to develop post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The reason is that these skin types are more susceptible to active pigment cells descending from the epidermis into the dermis thus consolidating the discoloration.
Also thickened collagen structures created during scar tissue formation that are retaining pigment cells make such scars difficult to lighten.
So What’s The Best Treatment Of Brown Scars?
1. Protect Against Sunshine and UV light.
First and foremost, keep sunshine and other UV radiation exposure at a minimum. Use sunblock (preferably SPF 25 or higher) and avoid tanning beds because ultraviolet light will darken already hyperpigmented areas. It is recommended to do this for at least one year after the initial injury.
Skin exposed to sunshine activates cells in your skin to produce hormone-like substances, commonly called inflammatory mediators. These hormones activate a wide variety of responses in the skin, of which one is the activation of the melanocytes.
2. Look For Effective and Safe Ingredients.
Secondly, dark scars can be lightened with the help of certain natural substances. There are several ingredients that work but not all are as powerful and some are known to have side effects.
Common Natural Lightening Agents:
Glycolic acid (e.g. citric acid), salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acid (fruit acid), azelaic acid, kojic acid, lactic acid, scutellaria, liquorice extract, bearberry extract (arbutin), mulberry extract, Burner (Burdock) Root Extract, vitamin C, lycopene, grape seed, CQ10, vitamin K1, citrus bioflavonoids, green tea extract, horse chestnut extract and German chamomile extract.
- Glycolic acid for example is a natural skin exfoliant and moisturizer but its safety and effectiveness is disputed.
- Use of concentrated solutions of salicic acid (formerly derived from willow tree bark) may actually cause hyperpigmentation especially in individuals with medium to dark skin types.
- Also kojic acid is an effective ingredient. Studies demonstrate that the addition of kojic acid to a certain cream further improves melasma. However, reported side effects include stinging sensations, redness, and skin exfoliation. (1)
Which Ingredients Are Side Effect Free?
Vitamin C is both effective and free of unwanted side effects. The thing with vitamin C is that it is unstable. This means that when it is exposed to oxygen it will lose its effectiveness and turn brown. Some manufacturers add brown coloring to their formulas so the vitamin getting ineffective will not get noticed by customers.
Another recommended substance is liquorice (licorice). Various scientific publications show several beneficial effects of topical administration of liquorice. Licorice extract contains flavonoids and glycyrrhizin which are known for their anti-inflammatory action in skin. Another substance found in licorice called liquiritin is thought to aid treatment of the skin-pigmentation disorder melasma.
Other ingredients that are thought to be safe are soy and niacinamide. Soy will help fade dark spots and marks whereas niacinamide reduces the melanin build-up that can cause brown scars.
Contrary to what is commonly thought, cocoa butter and vitamin E oil do not belong to the proven effective scar treatments.
Don’t expect overnight results. Melanin forms at the basal layer of the epidermis and for it to rise to the surface takes about a month.
Is There A Cream Combining These Ingredients?
Yes, as a matter of fact there is. A well-reviewed, natural cream that contains these effective and safe ingredients is Invicible scar cream. This “promising new formula” as stated by Allure Magazine combines the proven effective properties of silicones, stable vitamin C, liquorice, and some other substances. The unique formula is steadily becoming one of the most expert-recommended scar creams available. Widespread media coverage aids to the popularity of this fairly new product.
According to Dermascope Magazine it’s: “An exceptional new skin care cream that addresses scarring unlike any other…” And Plastic Surgery Practice wrote: “helps speed the healing process, smooths skin texture and evens out skin tone.”
Hypoallergenic Invicible does not contain preservatives or fragrances and was therefore awarded the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval. Visit their website to learn more, there’s also an abundance of unbiased information on scar treatment as well as links to clinical trials and other scientific reports.
1. Treatment of melasma using kojic acid in a gel containing hydroquinone and glycolic acid. Source: PubMed.gov.