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Although some people wear their scars like badges of honor, others want to lighten and reduce their appearance as easily as possible.

Not all scars respond well to at-home treatments, but for those that do, we combed the market to find the most effective scar creams and treatments available without a prescription.

Scarring is the body’s way of healing and replacing injured skin. There are many types of scars. Some common kinds are:

Fine-line scars

Minor, superficial wounds like cuts and abrasions cause fine-line scars. This type of scar fades significantly over time, becoming nearly invisible without treatment.

Scars are fibrous tissue that doesn’t contain melanin, so they can’t tan. For that reason, fine-line scars may become more obvious in people who don’t use sun protection.

At-home treatments like scar cream may hasten the reduction of the appearance of fine-line scars.

Atrophic scars

Atrophic scarring is sometimes referred to as pitted skin. This type of scar typically looks like an indented hole, or pit.

Atrophic scars are often caused by severe acne. They can also be caused by chicken pox blisters that are damaged by scratching.

Atrophic scars don’t respond well to at-home treatments. But medical treatments like chemical peels and soft tissue fillers can be highly effective for significantly reducing their appearance.

Keloid scars

Keloid scars are thick clusters of raised scar tissue that form around the edges of a wound. They may be red or dark in color. Keloid scars are typically round in shape with irregular borders.

Keloid scars are formed from excess collagen that is produced after an initial wound, such as a burn, deep cut, or infected ear piercing, has healed. In some instances, keloid scars may not appear for several months after the initial wound occurred.

Keloid scars are usually painless but may cause discomfort, including tenderness or itchiness.

Treatments for keloid scars include steroid injections and cryotherapy.

Hypertrophic scars

Hypertrophic scars are similar in appearance to keloid scars.

Unlike keloid scars, hypertrophic scars form only within the boundaries of the initial wound.

Hypertrophic scars may take several months to thicken and form completely. They may also fade to some extent over the course of several years without treatment.

Hypertrophic scars can be treated medically with corticosteroid injections or with at-home treatments, such as silicone sheets.

We looked at the active ingredients in popular products and consulted what the research had to say about each. We also culled reviews from people who have used scar ointments and creams to find out what works and what doesn’t.

These products come from trusted manufacturers and contain ingredients that may reduce the appearance of scars.

Our team has vetted each product for business and medical standards. Read more about our process.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$40
  • $$$ = over $40

PriceSizeKey ingredients
Mederma Advanced Scar Gel$$0.7 oz– allantoin
– onion bulb extract
SkinCeuticals Phyto +$$$1 oz– arbutin glycoside
– kojic acid
– thyme oil
– hyaluronate
Cica-Care Gel Sheet$$5 inches by 6 inchesmedical-grade silicone
Cimeosil Scar and Laser Gel$$0.18 ozmedical-grade silicone
ScarAway Silicone Scar Gel$0.35 ozmedical-grade silicone
Honeydew Blemish Cream$4 oz.vitamin E
Mederma for Kids$0.7 ozallantoin
Derma-E Scar Gel$$2 oz– allantoin
– allicin

  • Ask a doctor. It’s best to talk with a doctor, like a dermatologist, about the best type of treatment for your scar. This can save you time and money in the long run. They can also offer suggestions and tips and answer any questions or concerns.
  • Look for effective ingredients. Consider products with ingredients that have been shown to be effective at reducing the appearance of scars. These include:
  • Read the full ingredients list. Double-check the full list of ingredients, including inactive ingredients, to make sure the scar cream doesn’t contain anything you’re sensitive or allergic to.
  • Know the manufacturer. Look for information on the manufacturer. If it’s difficult to find information about the company or the product beyond third-party retail sites, this can be a red flag. Always buy from a trusted manufacturer. If a product’s claims seem too good to be true, they probably are.
  • Be price smart. There are effective scar creams across all price points, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that the most expensive is the best.

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  • Read the label. When using a scar cream, follow the package directions. Some scar creams are meant to be used once a day. If so, using them more often won’t make your scar heal any faster.
  • Start with a clean area. Wash and dry your skin where the cream or silicone sheet will be applied.
  • Use in combination. Talk with a doctor about supplementary treatments, which may make the use of scar cream more effective. These include skin massage and wearing compression garments.
  • Don’t use too soon. Remember that wounds don’t heal overnight. Scars, whether old or new, don’t change overnight. Trying to reduce a scar before your skin has fully healed can make it worse.
  • Have patience and be persistent. Use the product as directed for the amount of time indicated. It may take 2 to 6 months before you begin to see significant results.

Scarring is a common part of healing. Scarring can be caused by cuts, burns, surgery, acne, and a host of other issues that affect skin. When you have a wound, your skin attempts to close itself in an effort to shield your body from germs and bacteria. This closure becomes a scar.

For some people, scars, including surgery scars, reduce or fade on their own if left alone and without any special attention.

Scars need different kinds of attention

Scar tissue doesn’t contain sweat glands, but it may contain blood vessels. It may appear to be thicker than your regular skin but it is, in fact, weaker.

Scar tissue in a wound is formed quickly by parallel collagen fibers. If too much collagen is produced, the scar may become raised, forming a hypertrophic scar.

If a significant amount of excess collagen is produced, a keloid scar may form. This type of scar grows larger than the original wound and is best checked out by a doctor.

You can’t control every part of scarring

The susceptibility of skin to form certain types of scars, such as keloids, may have a genetic link. Your age may also affect the severity of the scars you get.

Some scars do well with scar creams

Scar creams aren’t right for everyone or for every scar. Many scars do, however, respond well to OTC products such as the ones mentioned in this article.

How to check for results from scarring creams

Scars that are healing become less red and noticeable over time. If you have a scar that bothers you, you may check it constantly for signs of healing. This can be frustrating since scars fade very slowly.

In addition to at-home or medical treatment, your scar will fade faster if you keep it protected from the sun.

Keep in mind that scars can take months or years to disappear significantly. Most scars do not vanish completely, even if they are no longer discernible to the eye.

As we mentioned earlier in this article, certain ingredients may be the most beneficial for scar healing or for reducing the appearance of scars.

Studies have found that some of them, like silicone and green tea, have benefits. Others, like onion skin and aloe vera, are unproven for treating scar tissue but may have value for soothing skin. When you shop for scar creams, consider ingredients like:

Silicone

Silicone sheets and gels can be helpful for reducing the appearance of minor scars.

A 2020 review of studies found that the use of topically-applied silicone was beneficial for preventing post-operative scar formation. Researchers also found that topically-applied silicone sheets or gel significantly reduced scar pigmentation and height.

Epigallocatechen-gallate (EGCG)

EGCG is an antioxidant found in green tea. Since it is water soluble, it can’t adhere to skin or scar tissue on its own.

As an ingredient in topical treatments, it has been found to reduce inflammation and to be beneficial at various stages of wound healing, including tissue remodeling. Tissue remodeling refers to the cleanup of inflammatory cells that occurs as a wound is healing and scar tissue forms.

EGCG also reduces the collagen buildup and fibrous connective tissue buildup that causes keloid and hypertrophic scars.

Scars vary in type and severity. Mild scars tend to lighten and fade on their own over time, becoming almost invisible.

However, severe or deep scars may only be faded with medical treatments such as:

For scars that fall somewhere in between mild and severe, at-home treatments, including scar creams, may have benefits.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends talking with a doctor before using over-the-counter (OTC) scar cream. They can determine if it’ll be beneficial for the type of scar you have.

In some instances, your doctor may recommend waiting up to 1 year for the scar to completely heal and mature before any treatment is attempted. In other instances, immediate treatment will be recommended.

Q&A with Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN

Can scar creams work?

Scar creams can definitely affect many types of scars. The type and age of your scar as well as your age will often determine how effective a scar cream will be.

What are the limitations of scar creams when it comes to scar reduction?

A limitation of scar cream is the fact that no treatment is universally successful for every type of scar. Scars may require a combination of treatments that will often include scar creams.

The severity of the scar will often determine the success of treatment or whether a scar cream alone will be helpful.

You should be aware that many types of treatments have a limited success rate. Keep in mind that when using scar creams, it may take several months before results are seen.

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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Silicone is the most commonly found ingredient in scar creams, and while some people may experience slight irritation, very few people are allergic to silicone.

Read the ingredients list before purchasing a scar cream to make sure you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients.

As always, consult a dermatologist if you have any concerns or want something more intense than an OTC cream or gel.

Scars can be bothersome, especially if they’re in visible areas such as the face. If you have scars that you want to have removed, talk with a dermatologist about scar removal treatment.

Certain types of skin cancer can sometimes resemble scars. If a scar appears on your skin without being preceded by a wound, see a dermatologist.

You should also see a healthcare professional for any wound or scar that may be infected. Signs of infection include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • oozing
  • pain, discomfort, or itching

How does scar cream work?

Generally speaking, scar creams work by:

  • moisturizing the upper layer of skin
  • trapping in moisture by providing a protective barrier
  • helping cells in the connective tissue below the scar regenerate

This may be achieved and supported by various ingredients, including medical-grade silicone. Some scar creams also contain ingredients that help brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of discoloration.

How long does it take for scar cream to work?

This depends on the type of scar, age of the scar, and age of the person.

Scar creams will have directions to follow that will also state the length of recommended use, which can range from a few weeks to several months.

What’s the best way to heal a scar?

It’s best to talk with a doctor about the best way to heal your particular scar. This is because there are so many factors at play, including the type of scar, whether it’s new or old, and your age.

Oftentimes, if medical treatment isn’t an option, OTC scar creams can be used with other remedies, such as compression garments, skin massages, and moisturizing the skin.

What else can I do for scars?

You can look into surgical removal if your scar is deep and isn’t responding well to scar creams after months of usage. You can also look into lasers or injectables to lighten or reduce the appearance.

How do I avoid scarring?

It’s important to clean a new wound as soon as possible. From there, you need to keep the area moist and covered to avoid any bacteria. Minimize movement of that area and make sure not to touch the scab.

What are the negative effects of scar cream?

Some users may experience burning, irritation, itchiness, and redness after application.

What is the best time to use scar cream?

You may get the best results if you start treating scars at home early in the healing process. However, you should never use scar cream on an unhealed or open wound. Once the wound has completely healed, you can start using scar cream.

What scar cream do plastic surgeons recommend?

No specific brand or type of scar cream is universally recommended by all plastic surgeons. Your doctor may recommend one for you to use that is based specifically on your needs and the type of wound you have. Many of these recommended products contain silicone as an active ingredient.

Scar creams can be an effective choice for certain types of scars.

The ingredients in OTC scar reduction products that have been clinically found to be the most effective include silicone and onion extract.