Scars on the legs are common. They are a normal part of how wounds heal, and are not typically a cause for concern. However, some people may wish to treat scars for cosmetic reasons.
Some scars may fade over time, while others are permanent. Home care or professional treatments may help reduce their appearance.
People who have concerns about scars on their legs should see a doctor. In rare cases, they can resemble serious conditions.
In this article, we look at popular ways to get rid of leg scars.
Home remedies may reduce the appearance of scars on the legs. These treatments carry minimal risks and may help reduce new or minor scars.
However, older or extensive scars may need cosmetic treatment from a dermatologist. Learn more about treating older scars here.
Proper wound care can minimize the appearance of minor scars, such as skinned knees or scratches. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend:
- keeping the wound clean by washing the area daily with mild soap and water
- applying petroleum jelly to keep the wound moist, and prevent the formation of scabs
- covering the skin with a bandage (or using silicone gel sheets on larger wounds)
- changing the dressing daily
- seeing a doctor for stitches if needed
- using sunscreen daily after the wound has healed
Massage with oils
Once the scar heals over, massage may help. Gentle massage techniques on the area around the scar may reduce collagen build-up in the tissues, which can flatten out the scar.
While research that supports scar massage is limited, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may work for some people.
According to the British Skin Foundation, the general advice is to massage the skin for 5 minutes, 3–4 times per day. People can practice massage at home, or see a professional massage therapist who specializes in scar tissue.
Natural oils can make massage easier and may reduce tightness in the scar. Examples of popular oils for scar treatment include:
The research on the use of oils to reduce scars is limited, although a 2010 animal study suggests coconut oil can encourage skin tissue to heal.
Once the wound heals, regular exfoliation can remove dead skin cells, which may help the scar recover faster. People can exfoliate the area around the scar with an exfoliating cleanser, or use a loofah with mild soap and water.
It is important to apply moisturizer or natural oil after a person exfoliates. They should not over-exfoliate the skin, as this could cause redness and irritation.
Over-the-counter (OTC) exfoliating products may also reduce the appearance of scars. One study reports products that contain chemical exfoliators, such as glycolic acid, may reduce acne scars.
Some essential oils may reduce infection and inflammation, and encourage the wound to heal. These oils are less likely to heal older or existing scars, although some people may find them helpful.
Popular essential oils for wounds include:
Aloe vera gel
There is little evidence to support the use of aloe vera to improve the appearance of scars. However, it is likely safe for most people to use, and may hydrate the skin to reduce scar tightness.
OTC cream, gel, or sheeting
OTC medicated creams and gels are available to improve wound healing and reduce scar appearance. An antihistamine cream, for example, may help with scar sensitivity.
Silicone sheeting or gel can also improve scar appearance, according to some research, and relieve itching and discomfort. People should apply silicone sheets or gel to the scar for 12 hours every day, for a minimum of 3 months, to see results.
People should discuss OTC scar treatment options with their doctor or pharmacist.
Daily use of sunscreen is unlikely to get rid of leg scars, but it can help them fade faster and reduce skin discoloration. Sunscreen is especially important if people use scar-fading products, such as glycolic acid.
The AAD recommend daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. People should reapply this frequently throughout the day.
While home treatments may work for small areas of scarring, older or more visible scars will often only respond to medical or cosmetic procedures. Professional treatments for scars on the legs are:
Different types of injections can reduce the appearance of scars. Examples include:
- Dermal fillers: Collagen or fat fillers can temporarily treat acne scars. These fillers plump up areas of skin indentation to make them less noticeable.
- Botox: Botox injections may temporarily smooth out the skin, and reduce scar visibility, if the scar is on a muscle or group of muscles.
- Corticosteroid shots: These injections can reduce scar size and flatten out raised scars. Alternatively, skin tape that contains steroids can flatten scars.
Raised scars may respond well to cryotherapy, where a doctor uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the scars. Cryotherapy can flatten these scars and reduce their growth.
Chemical peels remove the top layers of skin, and may reduce moderate to severe scars. The new skin that appears may become red, swollen, or sore for several days or more.
Microneedling involves a small roller or pen with hundreds of tiny needles. A medical professional will use this to poke small holes in the top layer of the skin, where there is scarring. This encourages the body to produce collagen to reduce scar appearance.
Several treatments are typically necessary to see results, and the results vary considerably.
Laser therapy uses a focused beam of light to treat severe scars. The treatment targets blood vessels within the scar tissue.
Repeat treatments are typically necessary, but results are usually effective. Temporary side effects include swelling and redness.
Surgery for scar reduction is typically a last resort. It can help people who have a tight scar that restricts the movement of a nearby joint. Like all surgeries, there is a risk of infection and bleeding. It could also make the scar worse.
People should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of surgery, and their other treatment options, before choosing this method to reduce leg scars.
Different types of scars require different types of treatment. People should speak to their doctor about their options based on the kind of scar, and its cause.
For example, burn scars need a different approach from other scars. Those with skin burns often need antibiotic treatment or a compression garment to aid healing and reduce the risk of scarring. In the case of third-degree burns, a skin graft may be necessary.
The most effective way to treat and prevent scars is to practice proper wound care, and encourage the skin to heal.
For older, existing scars, home remedies may somewhat improve their appearance, but they are unlikely to remove them fully.
Medical and cosmetic treatments may be more effective for older scars, but results vary considerably, and depend on several factors.
Individuals should speak to their doctor if they have concerns about leg scars, or wish to know more about available treatments.