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.
Silicone gel has been shown to improve the appearance and bulk of scars, especially in scars from burns in numerous studies. Silicone gel and silicone sheets both show similar benefits of improving thickened keloid type scars, Taylor reported.
Silicon dressings are believed to reduce scars by providing hydration and “increased static charge”. Silicon gels either as topical ointment or already as part of a sheet need to be in contact with the scar for 8 to 24 hours a day and may take several months to improve the scar.
Honey has been shown in some studies to help clear wound infections, protect from further infection, reduce swelling and minimize scarring. However, further double-blind controlled studies need to be performed. Applying honey to a healing (not fresh) wound or scar may help with scar appearance, Dr. Taylor indicated.
Aloe vera is a commonly suggested folk remedy applied to burns or other wounds to promote healing. According to NCCAM, “early studies show that topical aloe gel may help heal burns and abrasions.” Aloe vera is often found in skin lotions and skin blocks, and the clear gel can even be used directly from an opened plant leaf as an ointment.
Overall, there is no magic cream that quickly diminishes the appearance of scars. Costs for tubes or sheets of silicon range from $15 to $50 on Amazon.com. Mederma comes in various formulations with or without sunscreen for $15 to $25.
Other scar prevention treatments may or may not prove to be as successful but are worth a try if the price of silicon gel or sheets seems too high.
Alternative Treatment for Scars. VOLUME: 16 PUBLICATION DATE: Jun 15 2008
Issue Number: Volume 16 - Issue 6 - June 2008. author: Sarah L. Taylor, M.D., M.P.H. Web. April 17, 2012.
Mederma Scar Cream Review. Web. April 17, 2012.
Silicone Cream For Scars. Web. April 17, 2012.
Aloe Vera. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Web. April 17, 2012. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/aloevera
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles/
Edited by Jody Smith