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Do Holistic Scar Treatments Work?

Do Holistic Scar Treatments Work?

Prevention Is the Primary Treatment

The first step in treating a scar is to attempt to minimize, or possibly prevent, its appearance by properly caring for the wound before it heals.

Keep it clean. If a fresh wound has any debris, remove it with tweezers that have been sterilized in alcohol.  Wash it thoroughly with cool tap water.  As it heals, you should continue to gently clean it with a washcloth, mild soap, and cool water.

Keep it moist.  Wounds that are kept moist heal 50% faster than those allowed to dry out and scab.  For the first week, apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment to the wound.  After the first week, you can use plain old petroleum jelly. [1]

Keep it covered. Apply a plastic bandage to act as a barrier against bacteria and debris.  Keeping it covered will also help to keep the moisture in, which will help to lessen the appearance of a scar.  Don’t use gauze as the fibers can get in the wound. [2]

Never pick. A scab is the body’s healing mechanism to cover a wound.  By picking at a scab, you will reopen the wound leaving it vulnerable to bacteria and possibly creating a scar. [3]

Did you know that the hydrogen peroxide that many use to clean their wounds actually kills cells and delays healing?

 

Vitamin E

Topical vitamin E is likely one of the most popular holistic treatments recommended to reduce the appearance of scars, but does it actually work?  Many experts say, no.  Because vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant in the skin, it is often recommended for wound healing.   Several studies are refuting this claim.  One such study, conducted by researchers at the University of Miami’s Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery found that in 90% of the cases in which topical vitamin E was applied to a surgical scar to reduce scarring there was no affect.  In some cases, the researchers claim that the vitamin E actually worsened the cosmetic appearance of the scar.  To exacerbate matters, in 33% of the cases the vitamin E caused contact dermatitis.  These researchers discourage the use of vitamin E on surgical scars.  [4]

Lavender Oil

There is little scientific evidence to support the use of lavender for any health issue, with the exception of a small studies that indicated that lavender may help anxiety. [5]

Gotu Kola

A perennial plant, gotu kola is a member of the parsley family. The plant is recommended for wound healing and to prevent scars because it contains chemicals known as triterpenoids.  Research has indicated that these chemicals have the ability to strengthen skin and boost antioxidants in wounds. [6]

Vitamin C

There is not enough evidence to support the claim that vitamin C is a reliable scar treatment, though having sufficient levels in your body may help with wound healing.  Though it likely won’t reduce your scar, vitamin C has skin lightening properties that may help to reduce the redness of a scar to make it less noticeable and is available in some cosmetic creams as ascorbic acid. [7]

Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol is derived from the pine bark of the Pinus pinaster tree, peanut skin, grape seed, or witch hazel bark.  It may improve blood flow and boost the immune system. [8] Though the US Institutes of Health do not recognize it as a scar treatment, one study did find that it accelerated the wound process and reduced the diameter of the subsequent scar. [9]

Resources: 4/4/2013

[1][2] Yale School of Medicine-Dermatology
Time and (Care) Heals All Wounds
http://medicine.yale.edu/dermatology/Images/Chapter%2018%20Time%20and%20Care%20Heals%20All%20Wounds_tcm101-36907.pdf

[3] Mayo Clinic
Reducing Scars
http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/wound-care-10/reducing-scars

[4] Journal of Dermatologic Surgery, Baumann LS
The Effects of Topical Vitamin E on the Cosmetic Appearance of Scars
1999. Volume: 25. No: 4. Pages 311-315
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10417589

[5] National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Lavender
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/lavender/ataglance.htm

[6] University of Maryland Medical Center
Gotu Kola
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/gotu-kola-000253.htm

[7]Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
Vitamin C
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/skin/vitaminC/index.html

[8] Medline Plus
Pychnogel
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/1019.html

[9] Journal of Phytotherapy Research, Blazso, G
Pycnogenol Accelerates Wound Healing and Reduces Scar Formation
2004. Volume: 18. No: 7. Pages: 579-581
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15305320

 

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