By Rachel Lankester
What I know about treating scars on the face
Sometimes it’s not possible to completely get rid of scars on the face or anywhere else on the body for that matter. But there are ways to reduce their appearance and sometimes they may go completely. A lot depends on the depth of scar, how it happened and also your age. Our skin doesn’t recover as well when we’re older as it did when we were younger.
A while ago I cracked my face open and had 14 stitches! It had a massive impact on me and I genuinely thought I’d be scarred for life. Technically I am but you have to look pretty hard to see either of my scars and one is pretty much invisible even to me in a magnifying mirror!
It was a traumatic experience and it took me a long time to write about it. Clearly there was some blockage in my thinking. But here I am at last sharing all about it and what I now know about how to get rid of scars on the face. There are several things that I’m convinced helped to reduce my two scars, speed up the healing and make them pretty insignificant now.
I was inspired to finally write this blog because I saw a post on Facebook by a woman who had a cut across her eyebrow that looked almost identical to mine though not so deep. It made me realize I have a lot of knowledge about minimizing facial scars and I want to share this to help anyone else who may have also cracked their face open!
How my accident happened
I was on a fabulous holiday with my husband in Turkey when my accident happened. We’d got a cheap as chips last minute deal to the Hilton Dalaman, a gorgeous hotel with full board, something we’d only ever very rarely done before and we’d had a glorious four days of luxurious indulgence.
We’d both been frenetic in the run-up to the trip and were looking forward to doing very little at all, again something very new to us both. I think that may have had a lot to do with what happened. You know how easy it is to get sick when you go on holiday and stop for a change?
We’d settled into a routine of skipping breakfast after a big evening meal, and lots of exercise in the morning before a relatively early lunch. Lots of exercise on this particular morning meant running and rowing a kilometer each in the gym, a spot of beginners squash (I’d never played before), 25 lengths of the pool and in and out of the sauna and steam room.
I felt great. Really great. No dizziness, nothing. I was working up a good appetite for lunch. But I hadn’t eaten anything. And as I turned to go into the shower in the changing rooms, something happened. The next thing I knew I was picking myself up from the floor, my lip was very painful, I thought my teeth might fall out and blood was dripping from somewhere.
But the scariest thing was the way the woman who’d just come into the changing room looked at me! Complete horror on her face. I managed to get to a mirror and saw blood streaming from a huge gash through my eyebrow which had literally been spliced in two – it was on two levels! You can see a picture of it which my dear husband took when we arrived at the hospital. I didn’t want to upload it here as it is really rather gruesome! So be warned!! But if you’d like to see what I first looked like after my fall click here.
At first I thought I’d tripped on the wet marble changing room floor (hitting the marble corner of a wall on the way down). But after a lot of reflection, I realized I had no recollection of going down nor hitting the corner. So I eventually concluded I’d fainted and I’m pretty sure it was me not eating anything before doing lots of exercise that made my blood sugar level plummet, making me faint.
The hotel staff got me into a wheelchair and took me to the first aid center in the hotel – thank goodness there was one of those. Fortunately when I fell I was still wearing my swimming costume. Otherwise it might have been even more embarrassing than it already was. My husband went off to get some dry clothes and the lovely young woman looking after me and who I later discovered was the hotel manager, helped me change out of my wet costume and into the dry clothes before the ambulance arrived to take me to hospital. It was all a bit dramatic!
The Turkish hospital
There is probably little more discombobulating than being in an operating theater where no one speaks your language and you don’t speak theirs either. When I was first admitted at the hospital, there was a lady who spoke excellent English who worked for the international department of the hospital.
She processed my admission and made the arrangements with our travel insurance company – thank goodness for American Express! They responded incredibly quickly and as a result I was able to have the surgery I needed quickly, which I think helped minimize the scarring.
I was also able to have private treatment so I didn’t have to wait and I’m very grateful to whoever the surgeon was that stitched me up. I asked him to try and do his very best before we went into theater! He promised me he would!
When I came out of theater, I looked a very pretty picture. The bruising was starting to come out and would continue to do so over several days. Here’s a little video I did from my hospital bed. I quickly decided this was something I needed to document. We had two more days left of our holiday and we didn’t do very much. It was enough getting used to the pitying looks of everyone who saw me!
This was the beginning of my recovery that took quite a while. It wasn’t just the physical side of me that needed to recover. It was also the psychological. I remember at first feeling ashamed that I had, as I thought then, slipped in the changing room. I felt old and unstable on my feet. There’s something about falling over that can make you feel incredibly vulnerable. It was quite some time before those feelings went away.
There was one woman who was instrumental in speeding up my recovery and minimizing my scarring. Her name is Cristina Betto and she is an acupuncturist with a specialization in facial acupuncture.
Many of you reading this will know I’m the host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast. If you don’t know, then please go and listen cause it’s really great. On the podcast, shortly after my accident, I interviewed Elizabeth Temperley-Shell who I’d known in a previous life when we both worked in corporate, she in design and me in communications. She subsequently retrained as an acupuncturist and advised me to get facial acupuncture to help ease the scarring.
When I got back to the UK, I was still in shock and it took me a while to feel up to facing the world. I had to adapt to going out in public without any makeup on. This is something I don’t usually do.
I’ve always worn at least a little foundation because I’ve always been self conscious of acne scars. But since my accident I’m actually now able to go outside without any makeup on at all because for six weeks I didn’t have any choice.
This is something I don’t usually do. I’ve always worn at least a little foundation because I’ve always been self conscious of acne scars. But since my accident I’m actually now able to go outside without any makeup on at all because for six weeks I didn’t have any choice.
At first I couldn’t even wash my face or hair but eventually I managed to have a shower after I’d had the stitches out, with some surgical waterproof patches my lovely neighbor gave me. Very fetching indeed.
Here’s a video I made on day five when I was feeling both vulnerable and philosophical about what had happened, just before I thought I was going to get the stitches out. At this stage I still thought I’d slipped rather than fainted.
I had to make three journeys to the doctors/ hospital to get the flipping stitches out. When I first went to my doctor’s surgery, the nurse couldn’t do it because the cut hadn’t healed properly due to coverings over the actual stitches. I’d been worried about these falling off. If only I’d just pulled them off to let the cuts breath!
Then when I went back a second time, the nurse couldn’t find all the stitches and she referred me to the nearest emergency hospital department. Was it really that difficult I fretted. Yikes!
I headed off to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and was finally able to get the stitches removed without too much delay by an incredibly kind nurse. She admitted to me after she’d taken my stitches out very skillfully, that she hadn’t done that kind of work for the last five years. Thank goodness she didn’t tell me beforehand!
My worries about the stitches were that I’d been told and read that with facial scars, it’s important to get the stitches out quickly before they themselves scar on top of the cut.
I was also petrified of having them removed. My only experience to date of having stitches removed was my C-Section stitches which had been excruciating! This was remarkably painless and the nurse was my angel! Here’s a happy little video I made just after having the stitches removed.
Then I had to wait for the skin itself to heal over before I could start my acupuncture treatment. But once I started that, the speed of healing was really quite remarkable. There were three things I believe contributed to the speed and extent of my healing.
The first was KELO-COTE scar gel recommended to me by the lady in the chemist. Her face was so full of pity when she saw me and she said, “this is what you need” grabbing a blue tube from the shelf behind her. “My daughter uses this and it’s really good.” She also said I needed to ensure I always used sunscreen on the scar, not just now, but actually pretty much forever. So I started using the gel as soon as the skin had healed over. I later discovered a version that had sunscreen built in so I swapped to that instead.
Once my skin healed over, I started having weekly sessions with my lovely acupuncturist. She used an acupuncture treatment called surround the dragon where she placed needles all around the two scars, on my eyebrow and above my lip to accelerate healing in those areas.
She also used a special Red Light Therapy lamp which I lay under for the duration of the treatment. Here’s a similar lamp on Amazon. You can see the needles above and below I’m under the lamp. The lamp is usually used as a skin rejuvenation tool. I don’t know whether it had a direct impact on my healing, but it was certainly very pleasant and I believe it probably did.
I think I went for six sessions of acupuncture and it was amazing to see the speed at which my face was healing between each session. At the end of each treatment, Cristina also did a bit of Gua Sha massage over the scar and used a miniature Chinese cupping device to lift the skin and even out the indentation. Here’s a lovely little Gua Sha set I bought later on.
I am very, very grateful to Cristina Betto. It took me quite some time to find her in North London and close to home. Not all acupuncturists have experience of working with the face and Cristina certainly does. She’s also just the most reassuring and lovely person and comes very highly recommended. She really helped me get rid of the scars on my face.
This whole experience was life changing and taught me a lot about beauty, our obsession with youth and so-called perfection, and how actually it’s who we are as people that makes us beautiful, not how we look necessarily.
When it first happened, I was pretty devastated and worried that having struggled with acne scarring all my life, I would now have two highly visible scars on my face. But the one above my lip, you literally need a microscope to see and the one on my eyebrow is barely noticeable. I don’t cover it up and I’ve become quite fond of it. My step-children thought it very cool!
My scar is a reminder of that time and my need to slow down and be more mindful about how I go about my life. I still have times when I forget, when I’m rushing about. Just writing this post has reminded me that I need to slow things down.
I’m writing this especially for any of you who’ve had a similar accident and are worried you’ll be scarred for life. You may be, but it may not be a bad thing after all. And even when we’re older, our bodies, including our skin, have a remarkable capacity to heal. But definitely try out the scar gel and acupuncture.
When I was having the facial acupuncture, I also had treatment for general stress and re-balancing which was incredibly helpful too at that time. I knew acupuncture could be helpful for balancing the body during menopause, but its role as a facial scar treatment was completely new to me. It was just brilliant all round!
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Rachel Lankester is founder of the Magnificent Midlife Movement, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age.