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Some people wear their scars like badges of honor, while others want to lighten and reduce their appearance, and do it 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 at-home scar creams and treatments that are available without a prescription.
We looked at the active ingredients in popular products and checked out what the research had to say on each. We also culled reviews from people who’ve used scar ointments and creams to find out what works and what doesn’t.
These products come from trusted manufacturers and contain ingredients known to reduce the appearance of scars.
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $20–$40
- $$$ = over $40
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- Onion bulb extract: Onion extract contains anti-inflammatory compounds and phenolic antioxidants.
- Allantoin: Allantoin reduces itching, irritation, and dryness.
Mederma Advanced Scar Gel works nicely on reducing the overall appearance of scars, eliminating redness, and improving skin texture. It doesn’t work on reducing the appearance of hypopigmentation, though.
Since sun exposure can worsen the appearance of scars, make sure to opt for Mederma +SPF 30 Scar Cream if you’ll be spending time out in the sun with your scars exposed.
This product has benefits for old scars and acne scars.
Silicone products have been
- Price: $
Cica-Care Silicone Gel Sheets contain medical-grade silicone.
These sheets are meant to be cut down to match the size of the scar area.
People have found them effective for softening and smoothing down scar tissue, as well as for improving scar color and texture. The sheets are comfortable to wear on most areas of the body, and can be washed and reused several times.
They may not stay in place as well on areas with lots of movement, such as the side of the knee. They may also need medical tape to help them stay in place.
- Price: $$
If you need the ability to apply gel more precisely or without needing a bandage, silicone gel is also available separately.
Cimeosil Scar and Laser Gel also contains medical-grade silicone and is designed for use on scars caused by burns, cuts, and scrapes.
Some users didn’t like applying this product due to its thickness, and some say it’s very sticky.
- Price: $
While not specifically marketed for acne scars, this product contains green tea leaf extract (Camellia sinensis). Green tea contains phenolic compounds called catechins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Green tea also contains an agent known as epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC), which was shown in one in vitro study to block collagen production in keloid scars.
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This gel is comprised of 100 percent silicone.
It’s highly effective for minor burn scars that don’t require a dermatologist’s care. It’s also effective for other types of scarring, including acne and surgical scars.
It’s best for actively healing scars, and not recommended for scars from injuries that are over 2 years old.
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These 100 percent silicone sheets can be used to treat both new and old scars. They’re designed to be reusable for up to 2 weeks.
No over-the-counter (OTC) product will completely eliminate old scars. However, these are effective for flattening, softening, and fading the color of both existing and new scars.
- Ask a doctor. It’s best to talk to a dermatologist about the best type of treatment for your scar. This can save you time and money in the long run. Healthcare providers can also offer suggestions, tips on use, and answer your questions.
- Look for effective ingredients. Consider products with ingredients that have been shown to be effective at reducing the appearance of scars. These include:
- onion extract
- aloe vera
- green tea
- 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 makes claims that 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.
- Find instructions. 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. To use scar creams, and especially silicone sheets, wash and dry your skin where they’ll be applied.
- Use in combination. Talk to your doctor about ancillary 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 and 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.
Scars vary in type and severity. Mild scars tend to lighten and fade on their own over time, becoming almost invisible.
Severe or deep scarring can require medical treatments to reduce them, such as cryosurgery, laser therapy, injections, or radiation.
For scars that fall somewhere in between mild and severe, at-home treatments, including scar creams, may have benefit.
The American Academy of Dermatologists recommends talking to your healthcare provider before using OTC scar cream. They can determine if it’ll be beneficial for the type of scar you have.
In some instances, your provider 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.
Scarring is a normal 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.
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.