Mederma, Vitamin E , silicone gel dresssings-all promise to reduce scars. Do they really work? Several recent studies in peer reviewed dermatology journals have cast doubt on the benefits of all three. Here is a rundown of what works and what is a placebo.
Although it is often recommended by physicians, this scar gel, which contains an onion extract, has no solid scientific evidence to support its use.
Although it is commonly used in anti-scarring products, clinical studies are disappointing. There is little research to support the use of Vitamin E and some studies have shown side effects such as localized allergic reactions.
Silicone Dressings or gels:
These inexpensive products, found at most pharmacies, are often recommended by plastic surgeons. Originally used for burn patients, silicone dressings are thought to soften scars by improving water content and oxygen in the wound. There is little scientific evidence that shows benefit but this treatment continues to be popular due low cost and safety.
Cortisone cream or injections:
Corticosteroids injected directly into raised or keloid scars are effective in flattening the scars in 50% of cases or more (depending on the study). There is a small risk of thinning the skin or lightening of skin color which is dose related and may be reversible. Cortisone creams, on the other hand have shown no benefit as a scar treatment.
Several lasers have been used for preventing and treating scars. The pulsed dye laser reduces redness and elevation and improves texture of keloids or thickened scars. There is a risk of recurrence of keloids after treatment.
Fractional laser therapy ( aka Fraxel laser) has been recently used for improving the appearance of surgical scars. There is not a lot of data but results are promising. Healing after this laser treatment is very quick, which has increased interest in this option. There are some recently published, small studies using fractional laser pre-surgery to minimize scar formation. This is an interesting area for future study.
New agents that target molecules active in the healing process are currently being studied. Several agents that can be injected into surgical scars; avotermin, human recombinant interleukin -10 and insulin have shown promising results.
It may soon be possible to say “Scar be gone”