Scars are an unfortunate reminder of injuries we have had to our skin. Numerous products advertise that they have special properties to prevent scars or improve the appearance of existing scars.
However, when put to the test, many do not really perform. Below are various scar treatments that have or have not shown evidence to improve the appearance of scars.
Vitamin E is one of the most popular topical scar treatments. The most common preparation is a cream or oil made up mostly of alpha-tocopherol. Early studies had shown that vitamin E penetrated deep into the dermis skin layer so it was thought it might contribute to wound healing. It was theorized that vitamin E, being an antioxidant, would help reduce the inflammatory phase after an injury.
Sarah Taylor M.D., a dermatology researcher, wrote an extensive article in Dermatologist.com which references numerous studies that have tested alternative treatments for scars.
Taylor reported, “Studies have shown that topically applied vitamin E provides no more effect than other emollient-type ointments, and hydration appears to be its only beneficial effect.”
She went on to write, “Interestingly, topical vitamin E may actually cause more harm than good, possibly worsening a scar’s appearance and causing contact dermatitis, contact urticaria (itching), and erythema (redness) multiform-like reactions in a large percentage of patients”.
Onion Extract (Mederma)
One of the newer over-the-counter products contains onion extract in a topical gel sold under the name of Mederma. The active ingredient in the specific type of onion used is quercetin, “a bioflavonoid with antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-histamine effects”. It is the antihistamine effect that is thought to be the greatest contributor to reducing the redness and thickness of a scar.
According to Taylor, the study results are mixed as to the effectiveness of Mederma. It is her opinion that using Mederma may or may not be any better than using a plain petroleum emollient such as Vaseline to improve the healing and appearance of scars.