Does Mederma Cream Make Scars Less Noticeable?

If the scar is negatively affecting your level of self-confidence, you may be wondering whether you should try using the over-the-counter topical cream Mederma. This product lists its active ingredient as Allium cepa, or onion extract.

African American woman applying lotion to hand
JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Uses

If you have a scar on some part of your skin—such as an acne scar, a surgery scar, a burn scar, or a scar from a cut—you might feel embarrassed by it. This may be especially true if it's on an area of skin that tends to be exposed. Perhaps you think it looks unsightly or maybe you're simply tired of explaining what it is when people ask you about it.

Mederma is based on using onion extract. Onion extract has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and improve the collagen organization in a rabbit ear model. However, there are no human studies that show onion extract improves the appearance of scars more than petroleum-based ointments.

Mederma is safe for those ages 6 months or older. It's not meant for open wounds—it should be used only when a wound is closed and either the scab falls off or the stitches are removed.

But is it worth the money? Will Mederma scar cream help your scar become less noticeable? Despite what all the commercials say, the research doesn't support it being better than the usual treatment.

Pros
  • Safe for ages 6 months and up

  • It won't make the scar worse.

Cons
  • It's expensive compared with petroleum jelly.

  • It's promoted by an extensive marketing campaign that's not backed by science.

  • It's time intensive. The manufacturer recommends applying the cream three times a day for eight weeks on new scars and for three to six months on old scars.

A Mederma cream that contains a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 for protection against damaging ultraviolet rays is also available. Other products in the Mederma scar care line include Mederma Quick Dry Oil, Mederma Advanced Scar Gel, Mederma PM Intensive Overnight Cream, and Mederma for Kids.

Research Findings

According to a small study with 44 participants published in 2012, Mederma gel appeared to improve the overall appearance, softness, and texture of scars if applied via gentle massage three times a day for eight weeks on new scars and three to six months on old scars.

While this study was blinded, it compared scars treated with Mederma gel with scars on the same individuals where no treatment was given.

Scars form on the skin through a three-stage process and this process can last up to two years after an injury. Many scientists are studying this wound-healing process in an attempt to find something that will make scars less visible. It is widely recognized that moist wounds heal 50% faster than wounds that dry out and develop a scab.

Although the previously mentioned study found some benefit, other studies have not replicated those findings when onion extracts were compared with petroleum jelly, including a study published in 2006 and a study published in 2018.

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  1. Draelos ZD, Baumann L, Fleischer AB Jr, Plaum S, Avakian EV, Hardas B. A new proprietary onion extract gel improves the appearance of new scars: a randomized, controlled, blinded-investigator study. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(6):18-24.

  2. Karppinen SM, Heljasvaara R, Gullberg D, Tasanen K, Pihlajaniemi T. Toward understanding scarless skin wound healing and pathological scarring. F1000Res. 2019;8. doi:10.12688/f1000research.18293.1

  3. Junker JPE, Kamel RA, Caterson EJ, Eriksson E. Clinical Impact Upon Wound Healing and Inflammation in Moist, Wet, and Dry Environments. Adv Wound Care. 2013;2(7):348-356. doi:10.1089/wound.2012.0412

  4. Owji N, Khademi B, Khalili MR. Effectiveness of topical onion extract gel in the cosmetic appearance of blepharoplasty scarJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(10):31–35.

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