It’s pretty rare to reach adulthood without a scar, and many of us continue to collect battle scars over the years. Injuries, surgery and skin problems leave shiny lines, dents and lumps in our skin, while scars such as stretch marks and dark spots are an almost inevitable part of ageing. You may assume that all these scars are permanent, but the best scar creams and gels can fade and shrink them, including the scars you’ve had for years.
Scars can be beautiful, of course. A C-section scar gave life to a child, and wound scars show that you survived an injury. But scars can also really affect your confidence. So we’re very happy to discover that many scar creams really do work, with active ingredients such as medical-grade silicone gel, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and allantoin working in different ways to fade and heal different types of scar, and prevent scars from forming after injury or surgery.
Read on to find out more about choosing the best ingredient and product type for your scars. Or, if you know what you’re looking for, skip down the page for our recommended best scar creams.
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Best scar cream: At a glance
How to choose the best scar cream for you
What are scars?
Scars are a natural part of the healing process after injury. A loss or change in your collagen structure causes scarring, which is why you can get scars without even breaking the skin (stretch marks and injury bumps, for example). Most scars, though, form after the skin has suffered an open wound. Moisturisers and emollients can really help to prevent a wound from scarring, but you must of course let the wound heal first, and this can take several weeks after surgery or serious injury.
Flat scars and areas of discolouration from a superficial wound (such as a cut or a nasty spot) are usually temporary. Raised scars such as keloids and hypertrophic scars result from an overly aggressive healing process, and they’re often permanent. Larger ones can be removed by surgery or steroid injections, but smaller keloids and hypertrophic scars can be treated at home using products containing scar-shrinking ingredients such as silicone and allantoin.
What active ingredients should I look for in the best scar creams?
Different types of scar require different types of treatment. Here are some of the ingredients you’ll find in scar creams and gels.
Silicone gel is a medical-grade scar treatment that you can buy over-the-counter (OTC) at pharmacies or online without a prescription. It can be extremely effective in shrinking raised scars, including large keloid and hypertrophic scars; evening out deep scars, such as acne pits; and reducing pigmentation.
Allantoin softens keratin, the fibrous protein that gives your skin its waterproofing, toughness and elasticity. It’s not usually vegan, because it’s derived from the urine of mammals, but some products do use lab-made equivalents. Allantoin is the main active ingredient in Mederma Advanced Gel, one of the best-known treatments for reducing the appearance of scars.
Onion extract is a scar-fading wonder ingredient, believe it or not. Numerous scientific trials have found that it’s extremely effective at reducing the redness and discolouration of scars. It’s not so effective at shrinking their size, though; silicone gel is the most effective scar-shrinking ingredient.
BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) such as salicylic acid can really help to smooth out acne scars. They resurface and renew your skin, helping to minimise pits and lines and even out your skin tone.
Other scar-fading ingredients include turmeric, whose constituent curcumin fights inflammation and oxidation to lower your body’s response to surface wounds, helping them heal more quickly. Green tea contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds called catechins, along with epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to block collagen production in keloid scars. Marshmallow root and liquorice root have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and can help to reduce hyperpigmentation.
How can I stop my skin scarring after surgery or injury?
Moisturisers are extremely useful for limiting the size and appearance of new scars. There are several types, all helpful for keeping the skin hydrated and elastic once the initial wound has healed:
- Pantothenic acid and panthenol (aka vitamin B5) form hydrogen bonds with water, pulling moisture into the skin (or hair, hence their popularity in shampoos and conditioners). These ingredients make scar tissue more elastic, which is essential for healthy and scar-free healing, and help new tissue to grow normally.
- Emollients such as shea butter, coconut oil and candelilla wax dramatically soften the skin and help to restore its elasticity, and also help to protect it by creating a smooth barrier to seal in moisture. As a bonus, natural emollients like these are vegan and cruelty-free alternatives to lanolin, which is derived from sheep’s wool.
- Sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid trap water in the fluid between the cells of your skin. Your skin’s natural levels of this ingredient drop over time, which is why children’s skin heals much faster than adults’.
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The best scar creams you can buy in 2022
1. Azally Advanced Scar Gel: Best scar cream to fade new and old scars
Price: £14 for 30g | Buy now from Amazon
Medical-grade silicone gel is clinically proven to be an effective at-home treatment for various types of scar, including hypertrophic, keloid, acne and burn scars, as well as surgical scars. It can even shrink enlarged pores. This pure silicone gel has a Vaseline-like consistency but doesn’t smell nasty, and absorbs really easily into your skin to stimulate cell growth. Judging by the reports of scar sufferers, with scars new and old, this stuff really does work to reduce their size and fade discolouration.
Silicone gel delivers results faster than most other scar-reducing treatments, but you still need to put in some work (and patience). Massage a small amount into the scar with your fingers in a circular motion for about 10 minutes, two or three times a day, every day, for a few weeks or months to help clear the scar tissue.
Key details – Volume: 30g; Format: Gel; Active ingredients: Silicone oil (100%)
2. Mederma Advanced Gel: Best scar cream for the face
Price: £16 for 20ml | Buy now from Amazon