While the skin does an efficient job of healing and closing its wounds, the new collagen and repaired skin are often noticeable in the form of a scar.
Scars are one of the most difficult cosmetic skin issues to treat. While it is possible to reduce some new scars, older ones are particularly hard to get rid of.
Though many natural remedies are claimed to reduce or get rid of scars, most of them lack any scientific evidence that they work.
A few home remedies may be worth trying, but the best way to reduce scars is to care for wounds as they heal, limiting their formation from the beginning.
Types of scar
Scars are commonly caused by injuries, surgery, or skin conditions. Some types of scars will heal quicker than others.
The type of scar that a person gets depends on many factors, such as:
- The kind of skin injury that occurred, such as acne, surgery, or a burn.
- A person's natural skin type. Some scar types can run in families, and the thickness, color, and texture of a person's skin may affect how they scar.
- The location of the injury. The skin may be thicker or tougher on some regions of the body, which can influence the appearance of a scar.
Knowing the type of scar is helpful when deciding how to treat it.
A keloid scar usually grows much larger than the wound itself. It is raised, dark in color, and can continue to grow after the wound has healed.
Keloids can have side effects such as interfering with movement, pain, and itching. They may be more common in people with darker skin tones and do not resolve or fade with time.
Like keloids, these scars are usually raised and red. But, they occur only at the site of the injury. They can be itchy or painful, but this often improves as the skin completely heals.
Hypertrophic scars often become less raised and noticeable with time, though this process can take years.
An atrophic scar appears as a pit or dent in the skin. It forms as a result of damage to the skin's collagen and commonly occurs with conditions such as chickenpox and acne.
These scars will cause the skin to become tight, or contract. They are often the result of burns and can be painful.
Contracture scars can affect muscles and nerves beneath the skin and can reduce movement of the affected body part.
Also known as stretched scars, these are common after surgery. They occur when a surgical incision scar stretches and becomes wider.
These scars are usually flat and pale, so they tend to be less noticeable than raised or indented scars.
Many lotions, creams, and other products claim to reduce a scar's appearance but lack evidence to back up their claims.
However, for those who wish to try a noninvasive treatment for scars at home, a few options may be able to help.
1. Silicone sheets and gel
Applying silicone sheets or gel to the skin may help to improve the appearance of a scar.
Of all the home remedies for scars, silicone may have the most evidence that it works.
A number of studies over the past 20 years have confirmed that applying silicone sheeting or gel can gradually improve a scar's appearance:
- Silicone sheeting has been shown to be a proven scar treatment over the years, according to one study.
- A review states that silicone sheeting improves the appearance of hypertrophic scars.
- Another study found that a silicone gel was as effective as silicone sheeting in diminishing hypertrophic and keloid scars.
- Topical silicone gel provided an improvement in keloid and hypertrophic scars, according to another review.
Silicone scar treatment products are available in many stores without a prescription. Doctors may also prescribe this treatment after surgery or to aid in scar formation after an injury.
Silicone has a low risk of side effects and is usually easy and painless to use.
2. Onion extract to remove scars
One of the most well-known natural remedies for scar treatment is onion extract. This extract is widely available in scar treatment products that are available at drug stores.
Some studies found that:
- A proprietary onion extract product improved and softened scars after 4 weeks.
- People who used an onion extract gel reported improvements in scar texture, softness, redness, and overall appearance after 4 weeks.
Despite these studies, evidence on onion extract is mixed. One study found that onion extract was no better than a petroleum-based ointment in treating scars.
3. Chemical exfoliators
Many over-the-counter creams and serums contain exfoliants. These substances are designed to help remove the outer layers of dead skin, revealing a smoother appearance.
While there are some claims that exfoliants can smooth fine lines, they may be beneficial for some types of scars and dark marks.
One study found that two types of chemical exfoliators helped to reduce the look of acne scars and dark marks caused by acne. The study looked at peels that contained glycolic acid and a salicylic-mandelic acid combination and found both types offered some improvement.
Another study found that glycolic acid peels can improve the look of atrophic acne scars. The authors stated that people who have stronger peels done in a doctor's office may get better results, but that lower-strength peels done at home can also offer benefits with fewer side effects.
4. Sun protection
While sun protection alone will not get rid of a scar, it can keep them from getting worse and help with the natural fading process.
People using glycolic acid or other scar-fading products are strongly advised to use sun protection.
Careful use of sunscreen and sun-protective clothing is necessary for both newly-formed and old scars alike. It will help prevent additional darkening, which makes a scar more noticeable.
Lack of evidence for other remedies
Many other home remedies have been promoted as scar removers, such as aloe vera, honey, and olive oil.
While these natural substances may help soften and smooth skin, and likely will not do any harm, no studies have yet found these substances to work in reducing or removing scars.
Keeping the area of the wound clean, and using moisturizer to prevent the skin from drying out, may help to prevent scarring.
Preventing a scar while a wound is healing is the best way to keep scars away. How the wound heals can affect how a scar may look.
Though some scars cannot be avoided, there are ways to help minimize their appearance. After an injury to the skin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommend that people do the following:
- Keep the area clean: Mild soap and water work for most minor cuts and scrapes. Clean it once a day.
- Do not let it dry out: Studies have shown that a moist environment helps keep tissue healthy as it heals and can help reduce scar tissue formation.
- Get stitches removed as advised: Waiting too long to remove stitches or taking them out early could interfere with healing.
- Use sun protective clothing and sunscreen: The sun's rays can darken or enhance the appearance of a scar. People should keep injured skin protected from the sun both during and after healing.
Most healthcare providers recommend applying plain petroleum jelly and covering it with a clean bandage once a day while it heals. This prevents the formation of a hard scab, which can make a scar more likely to appear.
Scars can take a toll on a person's physical and mental well-being, especially if they are on a noticeable area such as the face.
Home remedies will not be able to erase a scar completely. Due to the low risk of side effects, however, they may be an option to consider for mild to moderate improvement.
People who are struggling with the effects of a scar may wish to talk with a qualified dermatologist or plastic surgeon about more aggressive options. These include lasers, surgery, steroids, or other treatments.