Dermatology

Why are fresh scars red, pink, or dark?

Have you ever wondered why a newer scar on your skin appears pink, red, or dark? 

The reason is that your skin actually creates a network of new blood vessels in response to injury.  Injury may be due to trauma (such as a scrape, cut, or burn) or a surgery (such as an incision or scraping).  

I marvel at the fact that our skin is actually programmed to respond to a wound with an inflammatory response of specific cells that are designed to repair the injured skin.  And part of this repair process is the creation and growth of new blood vessels to nourish the healing skin by providing oxygen and other nutrients.

The visible results of this new blood vessel growth is a scar that is pink or red in appearance.  In individuals that have more pigmented skin types, this may manifest as a darker area compared to the surrounding skin because the natural pigmentation in their skin becomes accentuated by the healing process in the area of injury.

If you look closely at the scar, you can distinguish the network of fine blood vessels that have been created.  If you press firmly on the scar, these vessels will temporarily blanch as you restrict the blood flow before quickly filling back up in response to release of the pressure.  

Over time, as the healing process continues within the scar, and the skin in that area no longer requires as much oxygen and nutrients, those new blood vessels start to recede.  The reddish, pink, or dark appearance of the scar begins to evolve into a more natural skin tone, and ultimately, a lighter or whitish appearing scar because of the loss of pigment producing cells in the area of the scar tissue.

If a scar remains pink, red, or dark, vascular lasers that are designed to target and treat blood vessels may be used to normalize the color of the scar and help it blend in with the surrounding skin.

Note the pinkish hue to this scar on the upper back

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