Products like Mederma Scar Gel claim that they are "clinically proven to improve the softness, texture and overall appearance of scars." Mederma in particular promises to improve both old and new scars.

Wikipedia's entry on scars notes some treatment options:

Ointments and semiocclusive dressings including mineral oil, lotions, and petrolatum-based ointments are recommended under guidelines as they promote moist healing. One 1996 trial found healing was improved but physical characteristics were unchanged, while a 2000 trial of a triple-antibiotic ointment found reduced scarring.

Unfortunately, I cannot read the cited 2000 results without some sort of paid subscription. But the comments that these gels work by "promoting moist healing" implies that they are only effective when the scar is healing, and therefore wouldn't work on old scars.

I am doubtful that scar gels show appreciable improvement in the appearance of scars, especially old ones. Is there any conclusive evidence that would cause me to believe otherwise?

1 Answer 1


An important quote from the 2007 paper1 is

Controlled human studies of the above over-the-counter scar treatment products are limited and/or controversial.

specifically for Mederma, a topical onion extract they state

The newest available over-the-counter scar treatment, topical onion extract (Mederma, Merz Pharmaceuticals, Greensboro, N.C.), has not been shown to improve scar symptoms in humans when compared with petrolatum emollient (Aquaphor, Beiersdorf, Norwalk, Conn.) in published studies.

Hydration of scars seems to be established as a method as the authors state

Scar hydration strategies, on the other hand, are well supported by clinical trials as an effective and safe option to treat symptomatic scars.

Reading this review it appears that petrolatum-based emollient is the standard treatment and that the alternatives have not been proven superior.

[1] Shih R, Waltzman J, Evans GR, Review of over-the-counter topical scar treatment products. Plast Reconstr Surg. 119 (3), 1091-5 (2007)

  • "petrolatum-based emollient is the standard treatment" — but is that a temporary or permanent result? E.g. is it any different from the various wrinkle removers that hydrate the skin and smooth it out a little but only for a short while and then it returns to its previous state? Feb 17, 2023 at 1:47

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