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Red Scar Tissue After a Skin Infection

By Dr. Tanya Kormeili, MD, FAAD, Dermatologist ; Updated July 18, 2017

Scar tissue formation is part of the body’s way of helping a skin infection to heal. The redness is called erythema. Healing causes inflammation and the process of making new blood vessels, called neovascularization. Some of the inflammation and the new blood vessles do not heal with time or take too long to heal. Certain laser treatments can make scar tissue fade a lot faster and with better end results.

A group of lasers called pulsed dye lasers use 595 nanometers of light to find and treat the oxyhemoglobin portion of red blood cells inside the vessels. They selectively target the color red. With a few easy laser treatments, the abnormal color can be restored to a healthy flesh color. These very safe lasers were designed to address port-wine stains in children — reddish skin conditions that may persist into adulthood — and are now used on any unwanted red tissue. They are commonly used to remedy rosacea, broken blood vessels and even some spider veins.

The lasers restore the skin to normal color by getting rid of the tiniest blood vessels, which lend a reddish tone to the skin. The devices target the redness and put their light energy into the skin. Things that are red in color absorb this wavelength of light best and get "zapped" selectively. The material is then reabsorbed back into the body. Our body “eats up” unwanted cells and tissues and gets rid of them all the time. The laser’s energy makes those cells become “heated” and subject to the body’s natural disposal.

The lighter the skin, the easier it is to see redness. Rosacea, for example, which is a skin condition that increases redness on the skin, is more common among fair-skinned individuals. However, even dark skin appears red after a skin infection. This is because the redness is an effect of the inflammation that contributes to wound healing. Our bodies direct blood flow to the area of infection or trauma, and this causes the initial redness. The excessive redness that persists after the infection went away, though, is part of the scarring process, and it can be treated.

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