The role of collagen in scar formation

Key stages of scar formation

There are four key stages in scar formation:

  • The initial inflammatory response, triggered by injury to the skin, causes an influx of blood and white blood cells to the damaged tissue, which leads to oedema and haemorrhage.
  • Granulation tissue then forms at the wound site and continues to grow until it covers the wound completely. This is a soft and pinkish-red tissue that is rich in collagen, proteoglycans and matrix metalloproteases (MMPs).
  • Collagen deposition occurs next as granulation tissue degenerates and fibroblasts lay down collagen I in a haphazard arrangement known as type III collagen. Between three months and one year post-wound, this type III collagen is replaced with type I collagen arranged in a parallel manner characteristic of mature scars.
  • Scar maturation is completed once this process is complete; as such, it marks the end of scar formation.

The degree of scarring ultimately depends on how each stage unfolds; therefore, it is important for clinicians to be aware of interventions that can minimise scarring at each stage

What role does collagen play in scarring?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It’s present in your skin, bones, blood vessels and digestive system. Collagen is what makes up connective tissue and gives your skin strength and elasticity.

The word collagen has become a buzzword that’s found on many health and beauty products, but you may be wondering: What is collagen exactly? Where does it come from? And how can adding more of it to our diets benefit our health?

As you age, your body produces less collagen than before. This means you have to find ways to support the production of new collagen through diet or supplementation.

Working with your wounds to minimise scarring

Regardless of the scar treatment you choose, there is a lot you can do to ensure minimal scarring. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your treatment:

  • Avoid excessive rubbing against your skin. While it’s okay for massage therapists to use a light touch when treating a patient’s face, it is important not to rub in the same way when treating scars. Touching scars too aggressively can cause them to form puckered creases or irregular lines that could become permanent scars or even keloids (a type of raised scar).
  • Wear sunscreen daily. Excessive sun exposure increases the chances of developing brown spots and early wrinkles, making your skin vulnerable to more damage from UV rays. Because UV rays can also cause scars, sun protection is especially important for patients with blemishes, cuts, burns and other visible wounds that may trigger people’s negative reactions if exposed because they look like “old” scars!

Collagen plays a key role in the healing process, but a wide range of other factors are also important.

  • It’s true that collagen plays a key role in healing. However, it’s important to recognize that there are many other factors at play as well.
  • Factors like genetics, skin tone, the location of the wound, and the size and depth of the wound can all impact scarring. For example, darker skin tones tend to produce more noticeable scars than lighter ones and wounds on areas like hands or joints may not heal as well as those on less mobile areas.
  • Because of these other variables, it’s inaccurate to say that you can prevent scarring by boosting your collagen intake alone.