Can I Use Lotion on Scar Tissue?

Achilles' tendon scar after surgery.
Scar tissue can limit your overall mobility after surgery. Don Bayley/Getty Images

If you have been injured or have had surgery, you may benefit from physical therapy to help you return to optimal functional mobility.  Your physical therapist will work with you to help improve your range of motion (ROM) and overall strength to help you get back to your normal activities.

After surgery or injury, scar tissue may be present over the area that was injured.  Scar tissue is a normal part of the healing process.

 It is made up of collagen cells that need to be remodeled to restore your tissues to their normal state of mobility and flexibility.  Scar tissue that has not been remodeled properly will not allow the skin, muscles, and underlying tissue to move normally.  This may limit your ROM and prevent you from moving properly.

Your physical therapist can teach you scar tissue massage and mobilization techniques to help improve your scar mobility.  By ensuring that your scar is mobile, you can be sure you restore normal mobility to your tissues.

Many people who engage in scar massage wonder if lotion can be used. Is it safe to use something to allow comfortable gliding and sliding over your surgical incision?  The simple answer: yes.

Scar Massage Basics

The simplest way to perform self scar massage is to simply rub over your scar tissue in a perpendicular direction, called cross friction massage.  Cross friction requires a small amount of friction between your fingers and scar.

 By performing this perpendicular mobilization to your scar, it is thought that you help remodel the collagen fibers that make up the tissue.  This remodeling helps the scar glide and slide normally over the underlying tissue.

If you have ever tried to massage your skin (or someone else's skin) with no lotion, then you understand how the friction between your fingers and the scar can be uncomfortable.

  Therefore, a small amount of lotion or lubricant should be used.  Remember, a small amount of friction is needed to remodel your scar, so using too much lubricant is not recommended.  You should use just enough so your fingers and hand glide comfortable over your scar while still providing gentle pulls and tugs to your scar.

A Word of Caution with Lotion for Scar Tissue Massage

If you are going to use lotion or lubricant during your scar tissue massage, there are a couple things that you should watch out for.  

First, make sure your scar is fully healed before applying any foreign substance.  An open wound or scar is a portal for foreign substances to enter your body, and applying lotion or lubricant to your open scar may be a recipe for infection.  Before using a lotion for scar tissue massage, be sure it is fully healed.  It is a good idea to check in with your doctor before performing any scar mobilization or massage to your surgical incision.

Many lubricants or lotions contain chemicals or ingredients that may cause irritation to your delicate healing skin.

 Be sure to check the ingredients of all products that you use for scar massage.  Avoid lotions with ingredients that may have caused allergic reactions to your skin in the past, and avoid those lotions with harsh chemicals.

What Type of Lotion is Best?

Each person is different, and there is not one massage lotion for every person.  Some types of lubricants or lotions for scar massage include:

Remember to check the ingredients of any lotion you choose to use, and be sure your doctor has checked to ensure your scar is fully closed before starting scar massage.

Scar tissue massage and mobilization can be a helpful way to ensure that your surgical scar is moving properly.  Your scar massage may be made more comfortable by using massage lotions or lubricants, but you must ensure you are using the lotion safely and properly for your specific condition.

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