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Caring for your new skin

Scarring

A scar is a mark that is left on the skin after a wound or an injury to the surface of the skin has healed. Scarring is unpredictable and varies from person to person.

Please contact your Burns Therapist immediately if your scar has any of the following signs:

  • Increase in height
  • Increase in size
  • Increase in firmness
  • Increase in colour
  • Increase in itch

Scar massage

Following a burn injury the glands which produce the skin’s natural oils can be damaged and therefore your skin is likely to be very dry.

Once your wound has healed, it is important that your scar is washed with a mild soap 3-4 times a day. This is important to prevent a build-up of cream which in turn can block pores and cause spots.

A plain, non-perfumed moisturising cream should be used.

Initially you should apply light pressure as your newly healed skin will be fragile. This pressure should be increased so that when massaging you are applying enough pressure so that the tissues underneath becomes paler.

Scar massage should be performed across the scar, along the scar and in a circular motion over the scar for 5-10 minutes depending on the size of your scar.

Itch

It is common for your newly healed tissues to be itchy. It is very important that you don’t scratch as this may cause the skin to break. To ease the itch you may find it helpful to keep your moisturising cream in the fridge, bathe in cool (not cold) water, wear cotton clothes and sleep under cotton bed sheets. If you have been given one, your pressure garment should also help with the itch. If these do not help, please speak to your consultant or GP regarding medications for the itch.

Skin sensitivity

It is common for your scar to be very sensitive following a burn injury. To reduce sensitivity perform regular massage. It is also helpful to use different textures on your scar to get the new skin used to normal touch/textures such as towels and cotton wool. Returning to normal function as soon as possible will also help sensitivity.

Sun care

Your scar tissue does not have the same protection against the sun as it did previously and therefore is at very high risk of blistering or burning in the sun. It is therefore important that factor 50 sun cream is applied every time you go outside, even in the winter and that a hat is used to protect your face and neck.

Colour

Your skin may change colour with changes in temperature. This is normal due to changes in the blood flow through the scar tissue. This will improve as your scar matures.

Your new scar tissue is a different colour to the rest of your skin; this is due to the layer containing your skin’s natural pigment taking longer to recover. It may take many months for the pigment to change and in some cases the skin pigment may not always return to the original colour. If you have any concerns regarding this, your therapist will be happy to discuss these with you.

Swelling

Swelling is common after having a burn injury. Elevation, positioning, splints, exercise and pressure garments can assist with oedema. Please speak to your therapist if you are experiencing any swelling.

Stretches

As injured skin heals, the wound heals inwards from the edges to make the wound area smaller. This forms scar tissue which shrinks and tightens as it forms and can cause the movement of a joint to be limited. This can lead to a permanent loss of movement (contracture).

The first 6 months is the most important time to start to prevent contractures as the scars are more easily shaped and influenced in this time. If the scar is left without treatment, it can be extremely difficult to shape or move. Therefore, it is important to maintain movement and shape the scar tissue before it reaches this point. Joint contracture can be prevented or minimised through a therapy programme.

Your Therapist will give you advice and instruct you about ways to minimise the formation of a contracture. This may include:

  • Positioning
  • Exercises and stretches
  • Splints
  • Scar massage
  • Pressure garments provided by your therapist

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