Product Review: Mederma for Scars

The Truth About Whether or Not This Product Really Works

Scar on wrist, close up
Ebby May Getty Images

If you have a scar on some part of your skin—such as an acne scar, a surgery scar, a burn scar, or a scar from a cut—you might feel embarrassed by it. This may be especially true if it's on an area of skin that tends to be exposed. Perhaps you think it looks unsightly or maybe you're simply tired of explaining what it is when people ask you about it.

If the scar is negatively affecting your level of self-confidence, you may be wondering whether you should try using the over-the-counter topical cream Mederma, which claims to improve the overall appearance, softness, and texture of scars if applied via gentle massage three times a day for eight weeks on new scars and three to six months on old scars.

Mederma is safe for those ages six months or older. It's not meant for open wounds—it should be used only when a wound is closed and either the scab falls off or the stitches are removed. It also contains an SPF of 30 for protection against damaging ultraviolet rays. 

(Other products in the Mederma "scar care" line include Mederma Quick Dry Oil, Mederma Advanced Scar Gel, Mederma PM Intensive Overnight Cream, and Mederma for Kids.)

But is it worth the money? Will Mederma scar cream help your scar become less noticeable? Despite what all the commercials say, Mederma is not any better than petroleum jelly for improving the appearance of scars. 

Pros

  • It won't make the scar worse.

Cons

  • It's expensive compared with petroleum jelly.
  • It's promoted by an extensive marketing campaign that's not backed by science.
  • It's time intensive. The manufacturer recommends applying the cream three times a day for eight weeks on new scars and for three to six months on old scars.

    Description of the Cream

    • The active ingredient is Allium cepa or onion extract.
    • Onion extract has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and improve collagen organization in a rabbit ear model.
    • There are no human studies that show onion extract improves the appearance of scars more than petroleum jelly.

      Product Review: Mederma for Scars

      Scars form on the skin through a three-stage process and this process can last up to two years after an injury. Many scientists are studying this wound-healing process in an attempt to find something that will make scars less visible. It is widely recognized that wounds heal best under moist conditions -- the skin fills in faster and scars are less visible.

      In 2001, a study showed that onion extract used on rabbit ear scars improved collagen organization but didn't lead to a difference in scar appearance. So far, there have been three major controlled clinical studies in the United States evaluating the effect of onion extract on human wound healing. In all three, scars treated with onion extract did not show any improvement compared with scars treated with petroleum jelly. In fact, scars treated with petroleum jelly improved better than those treated with onion extract.

      Based on these results, I do not recommend Mederma as a treatment for scars. You're better off just using petroleum jelly.

      Sources:

      Shih, Richard, and Joshua Waltzman. "Review of Over-the-Counter Topical Scar Treatment Products." Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (2007): 1091-5.

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