Wondering how to get rid of old scars? We asked dermatologists to share the best scar removal products and treatments.
We're all for channeling Kylie Jenner, Princess Eugenie, and Instagram influencers like Callie Thorpe who choose to embrace their scars rather than cover them up. But we also understand when some people prefer to prevent scar tissue from forming or lighten the appearance of existing scars that bother them. So we went to the pros to learn the best strategies to get rid of scars, as well as the top scar removal creams on the market.
What causes scars?
Before you treat them, experts say it's important to understand how scars form in the first place.
"Scars are caused by tears in the dermis," says Dendy Engelman, MD, a New York City dermatologist. She tells Health that scars can be divided into two categories: dark or pink marks, which are usually the result of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation such as acne scars; and a change in skin texture, which could resemble depressed or raised marks.
The latter "happens when the body is mending damage in the deep layers of the skin," explains Dr. Engelman. "The new collagen created to replace the damage can have a different texture, such as with stretch marks, keloids, or 'ice pick' scars."
How to get rid of old scars
Scars can be difficult to heal, especially if they formed as the result of a serious gash, surgery, or childbirth.
"The more trauma to the skin, the longer it's going to take for the wound to heal and the greater the chance of having an obvious scar," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City dermatologist and author of Skin Rules. Some scars will fade naturally over time, she says; others can be more stubborn.
"Taking proper care of your trauma initially is crucial, because that will ultimately dictate how it heals."
For severe scars, book an appointment with your dermatologist. Dr. Jaliman often recommends in-office treatments like microneedling ("It promotes skin rejuvenation"), lasers to improve texture, and platelet-rich plasma or PRP to regenerate tissue.
Scar removal creams
Not all scars require a trip to the derm, though. You can prevent scars from forming by keeping skin moisturized and hydrated, especially during pregnancy. "Anything that creates a protective barrier on the skin's surface to lock in moisture will help protect skin while it heals and lessen the chances of a noticeable scar," says Dr. Jaliman.
Other ingredients, such as salicylic acid or retinol, can help fade existing scars by exfoliating dead skin cells and speeding up cell turnover. Below, some of the best scar removal creams, according to dermatologists.