Vaseline versus expensive scar remedies

June 15, 2011

Keep your wound moist and covered with petroleum jelly.
Keep your wound moist and covered with petroleum jelly.

Diane Lane, Sandra Bullock and Harrison Ford are box office icons in spite of prominent facial scars. But, for the most part, we view scars as disfiguring and have no patience to sit by and watch them heal, which can take six months to two years. Instead, we slather on expensive products, including onion extract gels, vitamin oils and creams, silicone gels and antibiotic ointments. These elixirs run up a hefty bill when used for months.

Dr. Terence Davidson, professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine, reporting to the Los Angeles Times on April 17, 2011, says, “Save your money.” There are many old wives’ tales to buy into and a slew of products you can buy, but none have been scientifically proven to work.

If a scar gets better after months of applying a remedy, how do you know if the treatment or time made a difference? Scar remedies are a gray area because it’s hard to test them with well-designed studies. Since everyone heals differently a good study would compare treatments on two similar scars in the same person, or on two halves of the same scar.

Davidson is backed up by a dermatological surgeon. “The only thing really shown to help the healing process and minimize scarring is keeping a wound moist and covered.” Most scar products do that, but so does petroleum jelly. In fact, in two randomized comparison trials of Mederma and petroleum jelly, Mederma did not improve the appearance of scars any more than petroleum jelly, and Vitamin E doesn’t do any better.

The one exception is silicone gel sheeting, which has been shown to speed healing and lead to thinner, softer, less red and painful scars because these sheets do a better job of keeping the scar covered and moist.

If you have a scar that is troubling, contact a board-certified plastic surgeon. Surgical options include skin grafts, excision, microdermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing. If you've recently undergone plastic, cosmetic or other surgery, it is best to keep your scar moist and wait at least one year before pursuing scar treatment. Many scars fade and become less noticeable over time. 


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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