Scars depend on the type of injury – a minor cut may only cause a line, where as a wound after surgery may leave a more visible mark.
They can’t be removed completely but they can often be made less visible.
The NHS says: “Your GP may refer you to a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon for treatment. Some treatments, such as laser therapy, aren’t widely available on the NHS, so you’ll need to pay for them privately.”
While it’s always best to see your GP if you have a health concern, some people looking for an at-home scar remedy have resorted to a bizarre online trend.
Apple cider vinegar, raw onions, toothpaste and urine are said to help treat marks left behind following acne, surgery, accidents and burns.
But Dr Adil Sheraz, a consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, says they can actually do more harm than good.
He explained apple cider vinegar, which has become a popular home remedy for various ailments including scar and mole removal, can actually cause acid burns.
“There have been cases of the vinegar resulting in acid burns and erosions. Therefore best to avoid on scars,” he explained.
“Toothpaste – not a good idea – it contains various allergens and abrasives such as calcium carbonate which can irritate and make the scar worse. Fragrances and mints with toothpastes can also cause allergies and cause inflammation at the site.”
Dr Sheraz says using urine on scars is new to him, but warned it could irritate skin. He explained: “Urine will often cause irritant dermatitis seen in people who are incontinent and in babies (nappy rash) – so again not a good idea.”
When it comes to onions, Dr Sheraz says gels containing essence of onion may help skin, but a raw onion will cause irritation.
He said: ”There are some studies to show onion gels have a good effect on scars – but this would have to be part of a tried formulation rather than just rubbing onion juice on the skin which will be an irritant.”
There are different kinds of scars, keloid, hypertrophic, and atrophic. A keloid is a tough heaped-up scar, often coloured pink or purple, that rises abruptly above the skin.
Hypertrophic scars cause a less raised mark and often forming around pimples, body piercings, cuts and burns.
Dr Sheraz advises: “Keloid scars and indented scars will often not respond to any over the counter treatment and will need to be seen by a dermatologist to decide the appropriate treatment. Massage the scar on a daily basis, it is often the massaging action rather than the actual topical treatment being applied that helps. The massaging will help soften and break down the fibrous (scar tissue) and soften the scar.”
He also advises using a silicone-based gel. “Silicone gels or sheets have been used since the 80s for scar reduction and work well,” Dr Sheraz said.
“The gels need to be applied as a thin layer on the scar two to four times a day for a few months. One of the mechanisms by which it is thought to work is by increasing hydration to the scar.”
Products on the market containing silicone include Nourisil MD, which has five silicones plus vitamin E.
Resting is also vital when it comes to scar healing, he adds. “Rest the area as much as possible – for example back and shoulder scars often tend to stretch out – this is due to the fact that patients are often unaware of the tension these areas can be put under
with even gentle movement. If you have sutures following a procedure then rest the area – avoid heavy lifting or anything that may stretch the scar.
“If the underlying cause is acne then this of course will need to be addressed – it is a complete waste of time trying to treat acne scars when you continue to develop new acne spots. Time – scars take months to heal therefore you will need to be patient.”
Peter Batty is general manager for Fagron UK – the firm who produce Nourisil MD, a silicone scar gel which contains five silicones and vitamin E and helps to flatten, soften and smooth scars, as well as reduce redness.
He said: “People concerned about scars should be looking for a medical device rather than an at-home remedy. A silicone gel such as Nourisil MD is safe, easy to use, dries quickly and isn’t sticky, unlike other products on the market.
“Trying to use products found in your kitchen cupboard is unlikely to give you any benefit and could even do more harm than good. While it can be tempting to try and save cash, many gels can be picked up for less than £30 and will last for a long time.”