Most people have a scar. However, you may not have to live with yours, as there are a host of products that claim to minimise them.
Scars are formed when the dermis — the deeper layer of skin — is damaged, and the body produces collagen to try to heal it.
In normal skin regeneration, collagen fibres are laid down in a neat, criss-cross pattern, but sometimes an injury can cause too much collagen to be produced. This leads to big bundles of the protein being laid down wrongly, causing scars.
To find out which products can help minimise scars, we spoke to two consultant dermatologists — Dr Ophelia Veraitch, from University College London Hospital and the Cranley Clinic on Harley Street, and Dr Alia Ahmed, from Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and London’s Eudelo clinic. They assessed a selection, which we then rated…
Most people have a scar. However, you may not have to live with yours, as there are a host of products that claim to minimise them [File photo]
Savlon Advanced Healing Gel, £4 for 50g, sainsburys.co.uk
Claim: This ‘promotes faster healing’ and ‘helps reduce the likelihood of scarring’, the maker says.
It contains a hydrocolloid, which can both absorb excess moisture from a wound and prevent it drying out too much. Apply it twice a day to superficial burns, or minor wounds such as cuts and grazes.
Expert verdict: ‘A moist environment encourages blood vessel formation and the breakdown of blood clots, which is good for healing,’ says Dr Ahmed.
‘The hydrocolloid in this gel should help create this ideal setting. If a wound heals faster there is less chance of infection, resulting in a neater scar.
‘But while this gel is useful for initial wound healing, it would not help with older scars.’
Savlon Advanced Healing Gel
Scar Gone scar treatment set, £36.99, stressnomore.co.uk
Claim: This palm-sized, battery-powered vibrating gadget with three detachable heads — a flat one to relax the scar tissue, a coned one to relieve tightness and pain, and a domed one to stimulate cell repair — is designed to improve a scar’s appearance.
It comes with a 50ml tub of honey and beeswax scar removal cream to massage into the skin.
Use both three times a day, massaging for about ten minutes at a time, for six weeks or so.
Expert verdict: ‘Patients are often advised to moisturise and massage scars post-operatively to improve healing,’ says Dr Ahmed.
‘Massage increases blood flow and the scar’s pliability, and this tool could be useful.
The massage doesn’t need to be vigorous, but this should be used under the direction of a scar specialist, who can tell you which of the heads is most suitable for you.
‘As for creams, as long as they moisturise, there is a lack of evidence for one ingredient being superior to another.’
Scar Gone scar treatment set
Kelo-Cote silicone scar gel
Kelo-Cote silicone scar gel, £21.99 for 15g, chemistconnect.com
Claim: This silicone gel hardens to form a waterproof layer, which the maker says ‘lasts for 12 hours and will soften and flatten scars’.
Kelo-Cote says it’s ideal for raised scars caused by trauma, surgery and burns, but it is not for open wounds. Apply twice a day for a minimum of 60 days.
Expert verdict: ‘I use silicone gels like this routinely on my patients,’ says Dr Veraitch.
‘There is good evidence they can aid in scar reduction, but the precise mechanism by which they do this is poorly understood.
‘It seems the barrier created reduces water loss from the top layer of the skin, which helps normalise collagen production in the healing process. This makes the scar flatter and more pliable, as well as less discoloured.
‘Using this early would be more effective than starting to use it many years after a scar formed.
‘I wouldn’t advise applying this to atrophic scars [indents such as those caused by acne or chicken pox] as these silicone gels are best at flattening a scar.’
Does stretch mark oil smooth scarring?
Bio-Oil, £9.99 for 60ml, boots.com
Claim: It is said to improve the appearance of scars, stretch marks and uneven skin tone.
A placebo-controlled trial in 2010 found 93 per cent of users saw their scars improve over eight weeks, while 100 per cent said the same of their stretch marks.
Expert verdict: ‘Stretch marks are caused by rapid growth or weight loss, which usually start darker in colour and fade over time,’ says Dr Veraitch.
‘It takes about 18 months for a scar to remodel — the collagen fibres line up more evenly, making the scar thinner, flatter and paler. A daily massage during this period will smooth down irregularities.
‘The product can make this massage easier to perform, but there’s little evidence that it’s more effective than Vaseline.’
Electric microneedling derma pen, £32.98, amazon.co.uk
Claim: This needle pen comes with spring-loaded tips, four of which have 12 needles, and one which has a cluster of 36.
It is intended to treat established scars such as stretch marks and those from surgery and acne.
The maker claims that microneedling six times over a three-week period, for four minutes each session, can stimulate collagen production to make the skin more supple.
Electric microneedling derma pen
Expert verdict: ‘Microneedling is used successfully in dermatology to treat mild to moderate acne scars, but not more severe types of scarring,’ says Dr Ahmed.
‘The theory is that the needling action triggers a release of growth factors and promotes collagen production, which regenerates the skin.
‘However, this is a specialised treatment and I would be concerned that a lay person could damage their skin. If you are interested in needling, which is not normally available on the NHS, see a dermatologist.’
Elastoplast Scar Reducer
Elastoplast Scar Reducer, £30 for 21 plasters, boots.com
Claim: The flexible, transparent patches can be cut to size to put over a scar after the wound has completely closed.
Once the patch is in place, it both exerts pressure and traps heat. According to the clinical studies the maker references, this increases blood flow to the scar to ‘support the restructuring of the connective tissue’ during healing.
The maker says you will see noticeable results within four weeks. You should wear the patch for a minimum of 12 hours a day and change it daily.
Expert verdict: ‘In five separate clinical studies, this type of product came out well,’ says Dr Ahmed.
‘I’m not surprised, as there is lots of well-documented evidence to suggest that a moist and warm environment — around the body temperature of 37c — has a positive effect on healing.
‘Keeping the wound moist prevents dehydration, which would slow down the healing process. It also enhances blood vessel formation and collagen production, along with improving the breakdown of dead tissue and clots, which results in a neater-looking scar.’
Science Of Skin Solution For Scars, £18.99 for 30ml, scienceofskin.com
Claim: This cream contains an active green tea extract that shrinks old and new abnormal scars, according to the maker.
A study by the University of Manchester, which was independently funded but involved the company’s two founders, showed the cream reduced the thickness of scars by 20 per cent within four to six weeks.
Science Of Skin Solution For Scars
The research, which was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology last year, also found that scar redness was reduced by 40 per cent.
Expert verdict: ‘The study had good methodology and used 62 volunteers who each had a biopsy taken from their upper arm. This left a tiny scar. Half had the solution with the extract in, while half did not,’ says Dr Ahmed.
‘But the existing studies need to include longer-term follow-ups to see if the effects are sustained.
‘Broadly speaking, this solution’s mechanism makes sense. The green tea extract inhibits mast cell activity — part of the inflammation response — so makes the scar less red.’
Vacuum cupping set, £20.89, amazon.co.uk
Claim: These five toughened glass cups are each a different size, for use on varying scars.
When a cup is put over the scar and its rubber handle is compressed, air is pushed out. This creates a vacuum, and the skin is gently squeezed.
The theory behind this treatment is that the suction increases blood flow under the skin, which breaks up the thickened scar tissue.
Expert verdict: ‘There is little evidence for this. I cannot see a situation where these cups might be useful,’ says Dr Veraitch.
‘As they are made of glass, it could be dangerous if they cracked or broke, and might even damage the skin. These are a waste of money.’
Vacuum cupping set