Topical scar treatments offer a cost-effective alternative to surgical remedies and laser treatments. The majority of topical scar treatments are available over-the-counter, but consumers should pay careful attention to the list of ingredients in order to avoid adverse skin reactions and maximize the positive outcome.
A variety of creams and gels purport to be effective at reducing scar tissue and improving the cosmetic appearance of scars, but not all of them fulfill their claims. Check the list of ingredients carefully to make sure you select a non-irritating cream with real potential to improve your scars. Some common active ingredients in scar creams include:
• Vitamin E: Vitamin E can help prevent sun damage, but recent research shows that it has little to no effect on improving the appearance of scars. In fact, it could even irritate your skin. A recent study shows that topical vitamin E causes contact dermatitis in up to one-third of users. Dermatologists are now recommending that patients avoid vitamin E-containing ointments.
• Vitamin C: Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis, which is a vital part of scar healing. Topical vitamin C may improve collagen formation, and furthermore, it reduces inflammation and can lighten dark scars. In order to reap these benefits, make sure you select a cream with a stabilized version of vitamin C. Many creams contain unstabilized vitamin C, which oxidizes and turns brown upon exposure to air. While oxidized vitamin C is harmless, it won’t do anything to help your scar.
• Steroids: Steroids are classical anti-inflammatories, but numerous studies have shown that topical steroids have little to no effect in reducing the thickness of scars or improving their appearance.
• Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance often used as an injectable filler. Hyaluronic acid is able to hold nearly 1,000 times its weight in water, so and it can be used to plump and moisturize the skin. While topical hyaluronic acid has proven to be an excellent moisturizer, the ability of the compound to penetrate the skin is limited.
• Onion extract: Though a popular ingredient in topical scar treatments, onion extract has not been shown to be effective at improving the appearance of scars. In a double-blind study, petroleum jelly out-performed onion extract as a scar treatment.
• Silicone: Silicone scar treatment gels work in the same way as silicone sheets. They are effective at softening and flattening scars. Some people find gels easier to apply, while others prefer sheets because they are non-greasy.
In addition to considering the ingredients, be sure to look for a scar cream or gel that can be used with sunscreen. Scars, especially those less than two years old, should be protected from the sun in order to avoid sun damage leading to permanent redness. Some scar creams include sun block, so check the label.
In addition to manufactured creams and gels, a number of natural treatments have been shown to improve the appearance of scars. These include:
• Lemon juice: Lemon juice consists of citric acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid. Citric acid is a natural exfoliant and helps remove the damaged upper layers of skin.
• Aloe vera: This commonly used sunburn remedy also works on scars. Aloe vera accelerates wound healing, decreases inflammation, and helps stimulate new skin growth.
• Safflower seed and sunflower seed oils: These oils can help lighten hyperpigmented scars and improve scar elasticity. They also help control the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that serve a variety of functions. Regulation of prostaglandin production helps wound healing.
• Manuka honey: Manuka honey is a special type of honey used for medicinal purposes. It has been shown to reduce scarring due to wounds and burns. Due to its high vitamin C content, manuka honey may also help stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of existing scars. Note that if you wish to try this remedy you should only use sterilized honey intended for medical purposes; store-bought honey cannot be substituted.
Last updated: 02-Aug-10