Scars are a normal and important part of the skin’s healing process, but they can also be more noticeable than we would like sometimes, prompting us to search for products that can help them fade or diminish. Depending on the type of scar you’re trying to address, dermatologists say there are over-the-counter solutions that can treat new and existing scars and also prevent them.
As board-certified and New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose explained, scarring can cause color and textural changes of the skin, resulting in what she refers to as post-inflammatory hypo- or hyper-pigmentation.
Although most scars are flat with the skin on top developing a slightly wrinkled appearance, Murphy-Rose said that there can be different types of scars: hypertrophic, which adopt a raised appearance; atrophic, also called depressed scars, that heal with a sunken appearance; and keloid scars, which develop when extra and darker-looking tissues extend beyond the original injury area.
Dr. Brendan Camp, a board-certified dermatologist also based in New York City, said that blemishes or acne can often leave behind discoloration and hyperpigmentation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a scar.
“While not technically a scar, hyperpigmentation can last for a long time, which might make it seem like a scar,” he said.
Because the formation of scars can depend on a variety of factors —including everything from location to depth and severity of the wound to genetics —addressing their appearance might not always involve the same methods.
“Hypertrophic and keloid scars are more challenging to treat, and often
require in-office treatments. These include injections with corticosteroids and laser treatments to reduce their size and appearance,” Camp said.
Post-inflammamatory hyperpigmentation, on the other hand, can be treated with care, according to Murphy-Rose.
Both experts said that with the consistent use of collagen-boosting skin care actives like retinoids, the textural irregularities from more superficial scars can also be slightly improved, though Murphy-Rose said in-office laser treatments can be a more effective option.
You can explore some of the readily available non-laser skin care options in the list ahead, which includes ingredients and products suggested by these two dermatologists and helpful information from HuffPost’s most recent reporting on scars.
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A 1% retinol treatment
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose
, "Vitamin A derivatives, like retinol and prescription retinoids, boost collagen production in scars and may, over time, improve their appearance."
We selected this high-strength retinol treatment by trusted skin care brand Paula's Choice for its 1% concentration and the addition of peptides, which can help
support a healthy skin barrier and boost collagen production as well. This potent, lightweight and lotion-like serum also contains oat, willow bark and licorice root extracts, all of which can help address redness and skin sensitivity.
A prescription-strength retinoid treatment
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp
also said that long term use of retinoids can potentially increase collagen production, which may soften the appearance of superficial acne scars.
Camp previously recommended this prescription-strength retinoid treatment by La Roche-Posay, the French pharmacy staple behind several cult-favorite skin care products. "Marketed as an acne medication, this retinoid was previously available only with a prescription and can be used to treat discoloration," Camp said.
A six-pack of silicone scar patches
"Silicone is an ingredient found in scar gels and pads that may help prevent or treat existing scars
," Camp explained. Dr. Anthony Rossi,
a board-certified dermatologist and assistant attending dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told
HuffPost that silicone-infused dressings (like the ones we chose here) work by keeping a healing area flat while also allowing the healing cells to migrate — a necessary process
to connect wound edges and restore skin integrity.
These clear scar patches are made 100% medical grade silicone, are water-resistant and are effective for 24 hours.
A brightening niacinamide serum
When it comes to acne-related scarring, Camp said that "niacinamide is a generally well-tolerated skin care ingredient that can help brighten the appearance of skin."
We chose The Ordinary's niacinamide serum because it's one of the internet's most well-known formulations and a product that I have used and loved for several years. It's affordable and utilizes a high-strength niacinamide concentration to effectively brighten skin tone and reduce the appearance of blemishes.
A cult-favorite skin care oil
spoke to Camp about the versatile capabilities of Bio-Oil, a cult favorite product that he said can fade scars, stretch marks and even prevent premature skin aging.
"Bio-Oil contains a number of vitamins and botanical extracts to heal and treat the skin on the face and body,” Camp explained, adding that mineral oil, the main ingredient in Bio-Oil’s formulation, can provide an intense level of hydration for parched or damaged skin as well as help to repair and maintain the skin’s barrier function.
A tinted broad spectrum sunscreen
"Excellent photoprotection is very important – to protect against hyperpigmentation and to prevent it from worsening or help it to fade," Murphy-Rose said. "Choose a mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to create a physical shield between your skin [and the sun]."
suggested this popular tinted and lightweight sunscreen formula by Elta MD that features SPF 46, contains high-purity niacinamide and meets all of Rose's specifications. The silky and fast-absorbing texture layers well underneath makeup and is suitable even for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin.
A multi-tasking clinical night cream
"Skinbetter Science AlphaRet overnight cream contains a smart combination of hydroxy acids and a uniquely formulated form of vitamin A (like retinol) without causing excess irritation. It is a dermatologist favorite to boost collagen production, combat fine lines and improve tone and texture, and of course reverse hyperpigmentation, " Murphy-Rose said about this nightly treatment that would be most useful in addressing atrophic or post-inflammatory hyper-pigmented scars.
An anti-discoloration serum
"Kojic acid, tranexamic acid, vitamin C and glycolic acid are some of my favorite skin care ingredients to treat and prevent hyperpigmentation. They work by interfering with melanin synthesis in the skin," Murphy-Rose said.
She suggested this clinically formulated serum that also contains a synthetically derived acid called HEPES that helps to exfoliate skin. Its hydrating glycerin and anti-inflammatory allantoin can keep skin feeling soothed rather than irritated.
A trusted cocoa butter body cream
According to Camp, moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and cocoa butter can soften
and nourish skin affected by atrophic scars such as stretch marks.
This cocoa butter daily lotion is by Palmer's, a brand often associated with reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scarring. The hydrating and skin-softening formula is also bolstered by the addition of vitamin E, a well-loved antioxidant that can help support the skin's natural skin barrier