Most of us have a scar or two, some more serious than others, and while some of those we might have acquired with pride, there are others that we’d rather forget. Sometimes due to emotional or traumatic reasons but most of the time it comes down to what we perceive as beauty.
It is common knowledge and almost common sense nowadays that in order to keep your skin healthy, you must keep it well hydrated. But is there any scientific evidence that hydrating the skin can also offer other benefits such as for example, reducing the appearance of scars?
Moisturisers can have many effects on our skin beyond the expected moisturisation. They can smooth, soften, plump the skin but also increase the production of certain “good molecules” like cytokines, growth factors, collagen etc and can even affect signalling processes simply through changes in the physical form of our skin (stretched, dry, plumped etc change our skin’s mechanical properties).  As a result, it is entirely possible that some of these processes can be buffed or promoted by moisturisers, to an extent, that might also contribute to the improvement of scar appearance.
Scars by definition are a form of malfunctional statum corneum,  meaning simply that the outer most layer of the skin in not working properly. So unfortunately, scars can be a lot more than just “visual” damage. However, there is good news! Several research studies reported a positive influence of moisturisers on scar appearance while using some of the usual molecule suspects when it comes to skin health, hyaluronic acid, vitamin A and other antioxidants. [1-6] In fact, skin hydration is the main mode of action for approximately 90% of scar management products and treatments. 
Skin occlusion combined with moisturisation has been proven to be a very efficient method for scar reduction. Skin occlusion essentially means covering the skin like for example, with a band aid or a dressing. Silicon gels or gel sheet and glycerine gels and sheets have been shown to be a lot more effective when applied with occlusion than on their own.  To put this to perspective, a silicone oil-containing cream that is as strong as 20% was found to be four times less effective alone than when applied with occlusive dressing.  And if you are thinking that this could be because of physical effects like for example pressure or temperature from dressing the scar, think again as research studies have shown that the main effect of occlusion is due to scar softening as a direct effect or wrapping the scar. Massaging in an ingredient such as silicon or glycerine has also been shown to be beneficial. 
Stretch marks are expected to behave in a similar way. A study using Centella Asiatica (extract from a herb/vegetable) and hyaluronic acid combined with occlusion, showed improvements in the appearance of stretchmarks, when compared to no treatment, over a period of 12 weeks. [1, 6] All 100% participants reported improvements in stretch mark appearance, colour and texture and 58% reported improvement in skin softness. [1, 6] However, it is important to note that the reported effects are cosmetic improvements in the appearance of stretch marks and not actual results in elimination or reduction of them.
There have also been a few research studies on the reduction of stretch marks and scars using vitamin A palmitate and antioxidant containing moisturisers. All studies showed statistically positive results with an improvement in the appearance by approximately 35% with all 100% of participants reporting positive changes. [1, 7, 8] However, bear in mind that as previously mentioned, this did not eliminate scars or stretch marks but rather improved their appearance. Interestingly however, improvement in the scar appearances was observed independent of the age of the scar, meaning that if you had a scar for a while it is still possible to improve it’s appearance with moisturisation and occlusion. However, if the scar is too old the overall effect might be slightly smaller with 2 years scars showing a reduction in improvement to up to 27% (as opposed to 35%).  This might be affected by other factors too though, not just the age of the scar but also the history of the scar, how severe it is, your biological build, the condition of your skin etc. So do not despair and give it a go!
Additionally, the location of the scar did not seem to have an effect or the ethnic background of the person.  On the other hand, the location of stretch marks appeared to be somewhat influential but all showed significant improvements nevertheless. 
To conclude, it appears that moisturisation combined with occlusion are very important factors in scar improvement. Moisturise the area and perhaps wrap it up for a while and let the ingredients do their magic. Look for scar improvement creams or ones that contain silicon, glycerin, vitamin A, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid. If you are concerned or your scar is too serious consult with a medical doctor first. Keep your skin healthy and hydrated and the scar’s appearance should soon improve. Don’t expect overnight results, it takes time so be persistent!
- Image by FreeImages.com/Orzan Uzel
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