Do Scar Reduction Creams Actually Work?


doctor approvedThe marketplace is awash with products claiming to reduce scars from wounds and incisions. Scars left to themselves don’t always heal in a very sightly manner, and they can get stiff, itchy and painful during, and after the process.

The scar reduction creams on the market bellow their claims of “Doctor Approved,” and “Clinically Proven,” but are they legitimate in their claims?

One thing that holds true in the healing of scars is that if a wound is kept moist and covered, scarring will be minimized. Most of the scar products on the market do that, but there is not much in the way of evidence that shows that the commercial products do it any better than the inexpensive petroleum jelly.

There just aren’t that many meaningful studies that show much of a difference. Everyone heals differently, so that is one problem. However to test the difference, or similarity of healing with scars, you have to test on the same person, one half of the scar with one product and the other half on the other product. Even with that close of a measured test, the healing could be different due to lots of different circumstances.

It would be impossible to have a real control part of the test and a comparative study, because the person can’t be kept in a laboratory for 6 months to rule out any outside influences such as showers, softball practice, bumps and such. Scars take a long time to heal too, and if a scar gets better after months of applying a cream or a remedy, how do you know if the remedy or treatment made the different, or did the time do it naturally?

physiciansThe issue that is really being discussed is that patients and physicians really want a scar that looks better after all the healing is said and done, and one that is not so binding once the area is healed.

While there are numerous clinical studies that prove that many commercial products actually do work to heal scars well, they don’t address whether they work better than the inexpensive standby – petroleum jelly.

Vitamin E oil did not come out of the studies with any different conclusions either, because it could not be concluded whether it was the vitamin E that worked, or just the oil that did the job. The one application of a scar treatment that seems to work more effectively than anything else is silicone gel sheeting.

There are several studies that have been publicized over the past 30 years that show this process can speed the healing of the scar, and support a softer and thinner, a less reddened and painful scar healing process. Even though it is not readily apparent just what the silicone does, it did come out that the sheeting does a better job of keeping a covering over the scar and water is kept from evaporating from the skin area.

One dermatologist pointed out that the moisture is the key to the whole healing process, because it allows the skin to grow back evenly. The doctor gave an example of a person who sliced their finger while slicing onions, so now the person has two edges of the wound. The new skin will come on and start to grow across the gap. If the wound dries out, a scab is formed between the two edges of the wound.

scarSo now the skin has to start growing down and across, because the scab is like a boulder, blocking the way. The end result is probably going to be a depressed scar because of this.

Scars can also be raised above the skin because the fibers of collagen, which are the building blocks of skin, will grow back in mismanaged, tangled clumps, instead of growing parallel to the surface of the skin as it is normally supposed to do.

The growth can then be too enthusiastic and will be organized poorly, resulting in a raise scar that will extend out beyond the wound’s boundary. By keeping the wound moist, as with the silicone gel sheeting, helps to form a more perfect healing process, because it reduces the production of collagen in excessive amounts.

The silicone gel sheeting concept was originally developed for burn victims, and studies have verified that they really reduce the risk of scar reduction, and the scars are often much more elastic and softer.

scar creamBut the conclusion that commercial, over the counter or prescribed scar creams do a better job  than the inexpensive petroleum jelly, has just not been justified.

The scar reduction creams will work just fine, but so will petroleum jelly work just as well if the wound is kept covered and moist.

From a cost standpoint, an individual would be just as well off with the petroleum jelly, particularly if the would is the kind that is going to take months to heal.


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