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What's In Your Skincare Products?

Dr. Hilary Baldwin

The market for scar and stretch mark therapies is a distinct segment in the skincare product industry, with different products and procedures to suit the needs of many skin types. I generally recommend to my patients that they consider a topical product — meaning a lotion or gel that is applied directly to the skin — to reduce the appearance of scars or stretch marks before they consider more aggressive, sometimes invasive and expensive treatments.

Navigating the drug store aisles can be tricky with so many products to choose from. How do you know what is right for you? Our first step is to understand the common — and the unique —ingredients in these products.

“Only Mederma® products — such as Mederma® Advanced Scar Gel and Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy — contains Cepalin®, a proprietary botanical extract derived from onions.”

One of the most well-known products that has been touted to prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks is cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is a type of vegetable fat derived from cocoa beans, the same beans that produce chocolate. It is also a natural moisturizer that melts at a temperature just below body temperature, making it a common ingredient in lotions and creams. Though many people believe cocoa butter can both prevent and reduce the appearance of existing stretch marks and scars, studies have shown that it makes no difference in the development of stretch marks. However, cocoa butter can provide relief from irritated skin caused by stretching during pregnancy or puberty.

A common ingredient for scar care products is silicone. Silicone products are frequently found in sheet form, and are intended for hypertrophic and keloid scars. Though the exact manner in which silicone helps scars is unknown, it is thought that silicone keeps moisture close to the skin. Some studies evaluating silicone products have been of poor quality. At best they seem to be of value in preventing the development of hypertrophic scars, but not keloids, and data suggest they are ineffective at treating existing hypertrophic or keloid scars.

A lesser-known ingredient in stretch mark therapy products is a moisturizing agent like hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body that is used in skincare products to ”plump up” wrinkled skin, such as the depressed skin seen in stretch marks. Some products will also use vitamin E to improve the cosmetic appearance of a scar, claiming that vitamin E is effective in breaking down collagen fibers in scar tissues.

Some products also contain unique ingredients that set them apart from others — and these ingredients may surprise you. For example, products containing onion extract can improve the discoloration common in new scars and improve the appearance of stretch marks. Only Mederma® products — such as Mederma® Advanced Scar Gel and Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy — contains Cepalin®, a proprietary botanical extract derived from onions.

Many people are also unaware of the effect that the sun can have on scars. In fact, not only can excessive sun exposure contribute to skin cancer and premature aging, but it also can cause a scar to appear darker and more pronounced. If you’ll be in the sun, you may want to pick up a tube of Mederma® Scar Cream Plus SPF 30 — it offers the same scar reduction benefits as other Mederma® products but also has sunscreen built in to help protect scars from sunburn.

The scar and stretch mark therapy market can be difficult to navigate, but understanding the function and purpose of common ingredients can help you make an informed decision. Remember, nothing can completely eliminate the appearance of scars or stretch marks, but with proper therapy you may see a noticeable difference in their appearance over time.

All information in the Mederma® Learning Center is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice. You should seek professional medical care if you have any concerns about your skin.