Scars on legs can be frustrating if you have them, but scars are also a natural part of wound healing. Most scars never fully go away but there are some medical and over-the-counter (OTC) options that can help reduce their appearance.
The best way to reduce the appearance of scars on your legs is to treat wounds properly. Doing so can help prevent scar tissue from forming. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following:
- Keep the injured area clean.
- Use petroleum jelly for moisture.
- Cover the skin with a bandage.
- Change the bandage daily.
- Get stitches if needed.
- Use sunscreen on the wound area once it has healed.
- Seek care right away if your wound becomes infected or is deep or painful.
Avoiding hypertrophic scars
You may be able to reduce or avoid hypertrophic (raised) scars and keloid scars while your wound is healing. Your dermatologist might suggest specific treatment, such as pressure therapy, laser therapy, cryosurgery, or polyurethane dressing. Some of these treatment options (which we discuss below) can also be used on older scars.
If you’re worried about a scar, it can be important to have a doctor take a look. Sometimes, a cancer spot can resemble a scar. Other conditions can also cause the appearance of scars.
Treatment for a scar on your leg depends on the type of scar you have and what caused it.
Scars can form on the legs for a number of reasons. You can identify the type of scar you have by how it looks:
- Atrophic scars are usually depressed or flat on the skin. They’re often darker than the surrounding skin. Acne scars and chickenpox scars fall under this category.
- Hypertrophic scars lie over the affected skin. They’re usually darker than the surrounding skin.
- Keloid scars are raised, fluffy, and thick. They can grow out from the affected area and the skin is usually darker.
- Contracture scars most often result from burns. They occur when a big area of the skin is lost or damaged. The remaining skin is then tight and shiny.
Burn scars appear from the extra collagen that the body produces to help heal the burn. Burns can cause hypertrophic scars, contracture scars, and keloid scars on the legs. First-degree burns generally don’t leave a scar. Second- and third-degree burns are more severe and often require medical care.
Treating a second-degree burn
- Apply antibiotic ointment to the burn.
- Cover the burn with sterile, nonstick gauze.
- Usually heals within two weeks and sometimes leaves a scar.
Treating a third-degree burn
- Wear a compression garment over the burn.
- Ask your doctor if you’ll need a skin graft.
- Your doctor may recommend surgery to release a tightened area.
- See a physical therapist for range-of-motion exercises.
- Usually heals in months or years and always leaves a scar.
Razor bumps, or razor burns, sometimes appear on your legs after shaving. Ingrown hairs are often the cause of razor bumps. The affected area may be red and inflamed along with the appearance of bumps.
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to treat razor bumps. Here are some treatments you can try:
- Let the area heal before shaving again.
- Try to reduce the frequency of shaving, even by just one day.
- Apply moisturizer after shaving.
- Apply a washcloth with cool water.
- Exfoliate your skin before you shave to release ingrown hairs. (Don’t use tweezers or a needle.)
- Apply aspirin paste to the affected area.
- Use coconut oil, aloe vera, witch hazel or tea tree oil.
- Try a hydrocortisone cream.
If your razor bumps don’t heal in two to three weeks, contact your doctor. Your doctor might prescribe topical or oral medication.
Atrophic scars are depressed in the skin because the damaged skin couldn’t regenerate tissue. A licensed dermatologist may recommend applying one of the following treatments depending on the size, location, and other factors regarding the scar.
- Chemical peels. This treatment destroys the damaged layer of skin with chemicals, revealing healthier skin underneath.
- Fillers. This procedure levels or raises indented scars to match the surrounding skin using injections of soft-tissue or dermal fillers, such as hyaluronic acid.
- Skin needling. This procedure punctures the skin with a group of small needles to regenerate a healthier layer.
- Punch excision and grafting. A punch excision removes the scar tissue with a needle the size of your scar, and closes the area with stitches. In a punch graft, the area is filled with healthy tissue before being closed to heal. These options may be combined with laser resurfacing to improve the appearance of the area.
- Subcision. This treatment loosens the depressed area around the scar with a needle, and a new wound forms at the normal layer of skin.
Old scars (scars older than a couple of years) are often there to stay. However, there are some treatments that can fade scars. A dermatologist can suggest any professional treatment options or you can try one of the following home remedies.
Some scars can be treated at home or your doctor may suggest home remedies along with professional treatments.
Oils and essential oils
Essential oils can help improve the look of a scar. Some essential oils can encourage skin cells in the affected area to grow. Common essential oils used to treat scars on the legs are:
- rosehip seed oil
- helichrysum essential oil
- frankincense oil
- geranium oil
- lavender oil
- carrot seed oil
- cedar wood oil
- hyssop oil
- tea tree oil
- neroli oil
Other oils that are popular for use in scar management are:
- vitamin E oil
- coconut oil
- almond oil
Massage can help heal scar tissue by softening or flattening it. Massage also helps scar tissue from sticking to blood vessels, tendons, muscles, nerves, and bones. You can get a professional massage, or speak to a doctor about good techniques, and try it on yourself.
Exfoliating your scar helps remove it by getting rid of dead skin cells.
- Use an exfoliating cleanser and a loofah.
- After exfoliating, dry the area and apply a moisturizer.
- You can exfoliate as often as every three days.
Keep reading for more home remedies that use products you can buy at the store (or online).
Some over-the-counter products can help reduce scars on the legs.
While the wound heals
While a wound like a cut or scratch is healing, here are some products that could help keep the scar relatively small:
- Place medical tape or an adhesive bandage over the wound or scab. Change as frequently as needed to keep the dressing clean.
- Use sunscreen on scabs to prevent further discoloration.
- You can buy silicone ointments or sheets over-the-counter, place these on the wound after it closes to help it heal.
- Polyurethane dressings can also be used to help scars heal quickly; they’re moist, flexible pads that you’ll wear for six weeks to reduce the appearance of scar.
After the wound heals
- Wait for the wound to close up and heal before touching the area and trying scar reduction strategies such as massage.
- After a scab has fallen off, continue using sunscreen on this new patch of skin.
- A massage roller can help break up scar tissue.
- Moisturizers, including those with infused essential oils, can keep the skin supple.
A licensed dermatologist should perform all medical treatments. Some of the treatment options include:
- Pressure therapy. You can use a pressure dressing for up to one year; they’re available over-the-counter, but have your doctor teach you how to apply them properly.
- Laser therapy. This treatment uses focused beams of light to remove damaged skin.
- Corticosteroid, 5-FU or bleomycin injections. These injections are placed directly into the scar to reduce its size.
- Cryosurgery. This treatment freezes the scar to destroy scar tissue.
- Scar surgery. Surgical treatment is typically used as a last option.
Treatments also include those listed under atrophic scars: skin needling, punch excision, and subcision.
- Don’t exfoliate every day.
- Don’t massage before your wound has healed.
- Don’t expect the scar to completely disappear.
- Don’t pick at scabs or the scar that develops.
- Don’t use treatments that aren’t backed by a licensed professional.
If you’re worried about a scar, it can be important to have a doctor take a look. Sometimes a cancer spot or other condition can resemble a scar.
Treating keloid scars, raised scar tissue that may be growing beyond the original wound area, benefits most from professional treatment.
Most scars can’t be removed, but many can be reduced with dermatological or at-home remedies. Here’s to putting your best foot forward.