What is a Hypertrophic Scar?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A hypertrophic scar is a scar which becomes swollen, puffy, and reddened, causing it to stand out from the surrounding skin. These types of scars are sometimes confused with keloids, scars which look similar, but behave slightly differently. There's no particular reason why some injuries scar worse than others; hypertrophic scars form when something goes awry with the healing process, and this can happen in any number of circumstances.

Steroidal injections may be used to shrink a hypertrophic scar.
Steroidal injections may be used to shrink a hypertrophic scar.

Unlike a keloid, a hypertrophic scar will not grow and spread. Once the scar covers the wound, it will remain the same size, and in many cases, it will resolve over time. After several years, the scar can shrink considerably, and also lighten in color, making it less visible. For this reason, people who want to get rid of their scars are sometimes advised to wait and see if the scars dissolve on their own, rather than enduring medical procedures to address the issue.

Tea tree oil may be used to reduce the size of a hypertrophic scar.
Tea tree oil may be used to reduce the size of a hypertrophic scar.

The material inside the scar is collagen generated by the body as it attempts to heal the underlying injury. Hypertrophic scars usually feel firm to the touch, and they may be sensitive to changes in temperature or texture. People may want to get rid of them for a variety of reasons, ranging from a belief that the scar is unsightly to contractures which restrict movement, caused by scars along joints and in other inconvenient areas.

A hypertrophic scar.
A hypertrophic scar.

Conservative treatment approaches are usually used first to handle this type of scar. The doctor may start with steroid injections to shrink the scar, or recommendations for natural remedies like tea tree oil, salt soaks, or vitamin E oil applied topically to reduce the size of the scar. If these measures do not work, surgery can be used to remove the scar or to shrink it. Laser is one of the preferred methods, although there are other options.

Applying bandages correctly may play a role in preventing or minimizing hypertrophic scarring.
Applying bandages correctly may play a role in preventing or minimizing hypertrophic scarring.

Dermatologists and plastic surgeons can both provide treatment for hypertrophic scars and keloids. Plastic surgeons often have access to the latest technology and research, and they may offer a more pleasing outcome for people with major aesthetic concerns.

The probability of forming raised scars after an injury appears to be reduced by using pressure dressings on injuries. Application of pressure to the site can inhibit scar formation, making a hypertrophic scar or keloid less likely. Patients should be careful about how they use pressure, as they may inadvertently cause damage in their eagerness to avoid scarring. It's a good idea to address concerns about scars with a doctor and to follow his or her treatment recommendations. Pressure pads may be recommended if a scar is removed surgically to prevent a recurrence.

Asians and African Americans are susceptible to developing hypertrophic scars.
Asians and African Americans are susceptible to developing hypertrophic scars.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Can dermal needling use to remove facial scars like a hypertrophic scar?


@LaBordeK: I just had a few surgeries for my keloid over the years and it became so huge, like half the size of my hand, but it was covered by my underwear.

i recently had it removed (they injected the site before closing) and i got three radiotherapy treatments for three days. The first radiotherapy was on the same day as the surgery.

I got many radiotherapies because the keloid is very stubborn and big. i don't notice any sign of new keloids forming. i think getting many radiotherapies for keloids is good, probably with combination of injections because every second counts while waiting for radiotherapy.

Three years or so ago when i had a big keloid (it wasn't big as it was this year but it was still big) removed i noticed that it was coming back because of itching around the same week or next which is why i know that the surgery i just had is working.

Years ago i had one radiotherapy treatment, which proves that one radiotherapy isn't enough for keloids because it didn't work for my less stubborn keloid, a smaller keloid on my leg and it came back which is a bit bigger than the original wound.

I think that getting one radiotherapy treatment can work for others but i don't recommend that you take that risk so I'm using undiluted tea tree oil which is flattening it. maybe putting an ice pack on it should help with sensitive skin. i have used it on the big keloid sometimes.

@Anon28983: I'm not the person you're asking the question to but i know the answer. it is undiluted tea tree oil. Australian tea tree is the best. if the oil is too strong for you and you want it diluted than just mixed it with with lavender oil, 50\50.


I developed a hematoma immediately after my thyroid surgery. The surgeon had to go back in, re-open the incision, drain the blood and stop the bleeding. The sutures are the internal and dissovable type. My scar is not very red but it is quite raised and puffy and thick. What should I do to treat it? Is it a keloid or another kind of scar? Thanks. --Unhappy


I had my nose pierced and after two to three months was not healed. it had a lump and would weep. i changed the 'screw' to a 'ring' and this made the condition worse.

the piercer maintained it was a keloid scar caused by movement and i was almost convinced i would be stuck with this disfigurement forever. i came across a treatment which uses camomile tea and sea salt compress. the combination of this and pure tea tree oil applied with a cotton bud.

within two or three days it was gone.

I'm glad i didn't give up and remove the piercing as it is now perfect!


My scar is the result of multiple operations in the same spot. It is red, swollen and very sensitive to temperature and touch. I face the possibility of multiple more surgeries on the same spot, but i am looking at way to reduce the sensitivity of the scar tissue. Any ideas?

Thankfully, LaBordeK


When you say that you can use tea tree oil to resolve the scarring, is it pure tea tree oil, or diluted?

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