9 Best Scar Creams and Gels of 2023
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Whether it’s a new one or a mark that's been there for years, these treatments can help.
Whoever said “nothing lasts forever” apparently never had to deal with a stubborn scar. Scars are the body’s way of healing certain wounds (from surgery, accidents, stretch marks, acne, etc.) so they are necessary — at first. “You can injure the epidermis [the outer layer of skin], without a scar, but as soon as you get into the dermis [the layer of skin underneath], a scar will form,” explains Heather D. Rogers, M.D., of Modern Dermatology in Seattle.
These are the best scar creams, gels and sheets that can be helpful at diminishing, fading and flattening those reminders of old wounds.
There are several factors that determine how long a scar will last, and how prominent it will be: “The biggest player in how someone heals is genetics — some people just heal better than others,” says Dr. Rogers. The severity of the initial injury can also have an effect on how long the scar lasts. But Dr. Rogers adds that you can help that mark fade away faster with proper scar care.
While there are a host of ingredients that can be effective one component is clearly a superstar: silicone. “Active ingredients, such as onion extract and vitamin E, are popular over-the-counter formulations,” says Adele Haimovic, M.D., a New York and New Jersey-based surgical and cosmetic dermatologist. “However, silicone-based creams, gels and tapes have the most scientific evidence to back their effectiveness in softening, smoothing, and minimizing the appearance of scars.”
After our reviews of the best doctor-recommended options to make those scars fade away, you'll find the answers to some of your top questions about scars and scar care at the bottom of this guide.
This powerful gel contains silicone, which is considered the most effective topical treatment for scars. "Silicone gel improves the barrier function of the skin's outer layer,” says Alpana Mohta, MD, a dermatologist in Bikaner, India. “It creates a semi-occlusive environment over the scar, preventing excessive water loss and maintaining hydration.” Thousands of reviewers confirm that this helps make their scars flatter and less prominent. It doesn't happen overnight, though: To achieve results, you should use this treatment for three months, as recommended.
Fans of this popular product—which lists silicon as its main ingredient—love how easy it is to use the roller-ball function instead of having to apply it with their fingertips. But its shiny appearance makes it less ideal for using in prominent areas such as the face. A great option for less prominent parts of the body, or if you simply like the convenience of rolling on your scar treatment as easily as a lip gloss.
If you think getting a tan will help your scars blend in better, think again. “Prolonged sun exposure without proper sun protection can hinder the healing process and make scars more noticeable,” says Dr. Mitchell. “It's crucial to protect scars from harmful UV rays using sunscreen or physical barriers like clothing.” This Mederma Scar Cream contains an SPF 30 for protection against the sun (although it's not water-resistant—if you’re swimming or sweating, you’ll need to use a sunscreen that’s designed for getting wet). Be sure to always use sunscreen all over to protect the rest of your body, too!
There’s a reason Mederma has become a go-to brand for scar creams and gels. “This over-the-counter gel contains key ingredients like allium cepa [onion] extract and hyaluronic acid, which have been shown to improve the appearance of scars over time,” says dermatologist Mitchel Goldman, MD, founder of Cosmetic Laser Dermatology in San Diego. The gel’s ingredient list covers a lot of bases, including allantoin—which soothes irritated skin, a plus if your scar gets itchy or tender—as well as moisturizer and a provitamin to lock in that much-needed hydration. Use for at least two weeks, as recommended.
Adhesive sheets are another way to apply effective ingredients to scars. Dr. Mohta recommends Cica-Care Silicone Gel Adhesive Sheets as a way to reduce the enlargement, or overgrowth of scars (also called hypertrophy). “Silicone gel sheets applied to immature hypertrophic scars have significantly reduced scar stiffness, erythema and overall severity,” she says. Reviewers say they are a good buy compared with other scar sheets.
There are a few products that, while not officially marketed as scar creams, have proven to be effective treatments. Bio-Oil Skincare Oil has become a dermatologist favorite and is “known for its effectiveness in reducing the appearance of scars,” says Dr. Mitchell, adding, “It contains a blend of natural oils and vitamins that can enhance skin hydration and promote scar healing.” Dr. Mohta warns, however, that its efficacy “is still debated among researchers [and] some studies suggest that vitamin E may not be effective and can even cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.”
If you’ve ever had a keloid scar—a raised or bumpy scar that keeps growing—you know that they can be resistant to healing. "Keloids are more challenging to treat,” says Dr. Mohta. But customers rave about this gel, which focuses on flattening keloid scars. Although it can take time to work, its self-drying formula means that makeup can be applied over the scar to minimize its appearance while the gel (hopefully) works its magic.
Reviewers love this organic, climate-pledge friendly balm, which includes ingredients such a tamanu oil, sea buckthorn seed oil, and calendula and note that it’s particularly great for helping prevent stretch marks by adding extra moisture. It’s also more effective than using ointments like Vaseline or Aquaphor, says Dr. Rogers.
This gel comes with a high price tag but also packs a silicone-heavy punch; that prized ingredient makes up 95% of the formula with some other goodies—like fatty acids and allantoin for soothing irritated skin—added in for hydration as well as ensuring the gel’s smooth application.
Always choose a cream or gel from a trusted brand, and look for these ingredients:
There are several different types of scars, depending on how they were created, where they are on the body, and how much collagen is produced as the wound heals. These include:
There are many different types of scar treatment available, but the most important criteria is personal preference “Choose whatever you will use for at least 90 days after the scarring event,” advises Dr. Rogers. “I typically recommend sheets for the body and cream or gel for the face.” If it’s easier for you to apply gel with a roll-on applicator—and you know you’re more likely to stick with it—go with that option. “Skipping applications or discontinuing use prematurely may diminish their efficacy,” notes Dr. Goldman. Other factors to consider include the site of your scar: A sheet may not be convenient for a part of your body that’s constantly in motion, such as the knee, and if the scar is on your face, you may want to go with a treatment that doesn’t leave a visible residue. Talk to your dermatologist about the best type of treatment for your particular scar.
Allowing your wound to heal properly before attempting to address the scar tissue is important, as is protecting the scar itself, which can get itchy, red, or swollen. First, don’t scratch it! “If a scar becomes infected, it can delay the healing process and may require medical intervention,” warns Dr. Goldman. “It's essential to keep the scar clean and follow any post-wound care instructions provided by your healthcare professional.” And it’s important to protect your skin from the sun at all times, scars or no scars. You can use a treatment with a built-in SPF or apply sunscreen in addition to the cream or gel.
“Fresher scars tend to respond better to treatment compared to older scars, as they are still in the active phase of healing,” says Dr. Goldman. However, even with old scars, it’s still a good idea to practice sun safety and try regular application of a scar treatment. Dr. Mohta recommends silicone gel sheets for older scars: “It’s my most prescribed topical agent for any scar, whether fresh or old,” she says.
This article was reported by Luisa Colón, who interviewed numerous dermatologists about which scar creams they trust and recommend to their patients. She also read countless online reviews to see how consumers rate these products. The article was edited by Marisa Cohen, Deputy Editor of the Health Newsroom at Hearst, who has more than 20 years experience covering health topics, and it was reviewed by the Birnur K. Aral, PhD, Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab Executive Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Dr. Aral has degrees in chemical engineering and oversees the Institute's product testing and GH Seal applications, as well as leading several programs promoting sustainability.
Luisa Colón is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Family Circle, USA Today and many other print and online publications. Her first novel, Bad Moon Rising, will be released in August 2023.
Birnur (she/her) has led the Beauty, Health and Sustainability Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute since 2007. In addition to overseeing product testing and GH Seal applications, she conducts the brand's annual Beauty Awards selection process and is an active leader in GH’s green initiatives, including the Sustainable Innovation Awards and Raise the Green Bar Summit. In addition to earning M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering, she recently earned a professional certificate in sustainability management from Columbia University.
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7 Best Tongue Scrapers of 2023best scar creams, gels and sheetsThousands of reviewers confirm that this helps make their scars flatter and less prominent. Fans of this popular product—which lists silicon as its main ingredient—love how easy it is to use the roller-ball function instead of having to apply it with their fingertipsThis Mederma Scar Cream contains an SPF 30 for protection against the sun (although it's not water-resistant—if you’re swimming or sweating, you’ll need to use a sunscreen that’s designed for getting wet).he gel’s ingredient list covers a lot of bases, including allantoin—which soothes irritated skin, a plus if your scar gets itchy or tender—as well as moisturizer and a provitamin to lock in that much-needed hydration.Dr. Mohta recommends Cica-Care Silicone Gel Adhesive Sheets as a way to reduce the enlargement, or overgrowth of scars (also called hypertrophy).“It contains a blend of natural oils and vitamins that can enhance skin hydration and promote scar healing.” Although it can take time to work, its self-drying formula means that makeup can be applied over the scar to minimize its appearance while the gel (hopefully) works its magic.Reviewers love this organic, climate-pledge friendly balm, which includes ingredients such a tamanu oil, sea buckthorn seed oil, and calendulaThis gel comes with a high price tag but also packs a silicone-heavy punch; that prized ingredient makes up 95% of the formula with some other goodiesSilicone:Green tea extract:Onion extract: Fine-line scars:Keloids:Hypertrophic scars:Pitted scars: