Mederma Skin Care for Scars

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My Derma, Your Derma, Mederma

Oct 17, 2001 (Updated Mar 21, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:It may help scars look better.

Cons:It may be a waste of money; you may have a reaction.

The Bottom Line: I am recommending this because unless you have a reaction it can't hurt and it is better than other products on the market.

Another update: 3/21/03 - I am still using Mederma although this will be my last tube. My scar looks good. It is impossible to know if the Mederma helped unless I had only used it on 1/2 the scar! I still recommend your trying it. A small tube isn't very expensive. I have gotten a lot of e-mails regarding this products and my rating still stands. jo

Over 2 months ago I had a couple of bumps removed from my face. My doctor gave me a sample of Mederma and told me that if nothing happened I should give it a try for the scar. When I asked him what might happen he said that some patients get irritated from it or their skin gets very itchy. He also said, “Or try Vitamin E which is probably just as good and not as expensive.”

Please note: There is quite a bit of research in this review. If you want to skip it, I have the headlines in bold so it will be easy to do so.

•My face didn’t react negatively to the Mederma which I could only start using a few days after he took out the stitches because it cannot be used on open wounds. I bought a .70-ounce tube for $17.74 at CVS. Although it is over-the-counter, it is behind the prescription counter so you have to ask for it. They do not keep it out on the shelves.

What is Mederma:

•Mederma is made with Cepalin™ “a proprietary botanical extract derived from onions, specifically formulated to help with the appearance of scars.”

•It is for scars related to surgery, accidents, injuries, burns, acne & stretch marks.

•It claims to be the #1 physician recommended product for scars and I do believe that claim. There are few products out there that are easy to use or that might “fix scars.”

I was really skeptical because I have other scars for which I used silicone sheets. For those of you who don’t know what they are they are strips with silicone in them that are supposed to adhere to your skin and are reusable. I found them to help in the short term, but the appearance of the scar returned as soon as I stopped using the sheets.

This was my face, though, and I was willing to try Mederma. I didn’t think it could make the scar worse.

“ MEDERMAŽ SKIN CARE FOR SCARS can help scars that are the result of surgery, accidents/injuries, burns, acne, stretch marks and existing scars (new or old) appear softer and smoother.” This is from the website. It is so important to realize the phrasing of this. The key word is appear. It doesn’t say that the scar will be softer or smoother, just that it will appear softer and smoother. It also doesn’t say how long that appearance will last.

The box, however, does give me a guarantee. They want me to use it 3-4 times a day for the recommended usage period and if after this time I don’t see an improvement in one or more of the following: scar color, texture, appearance, or flexibility – simply return the unused product and proof of purchase for a refund. There is also a 1-800 number you can call.

This product is made in Germany by Merz.

What is in it:

I told you that Cepalin was in it. It also contains water, PEG-4, onion extract, xantham gum, allantoin, fragrance, methylparaben and sorbic acid.


Without doing a doctoral dissertation I was very interested in the research on this product. After all can I really say it works unless I have a clone with a scar using nothing or Vitamin E? Has there been a valid scientific study done with a placebo group? Well this is what I found.

First about Vitamin E:

"Mederma’s only competition is vitamin E, which for years has been a folklore remedy for enhancing the cosmetic appearance of scars. However, in 1999, University of Miami investigators studied 15 patients who had undergone skin cancer removal surgery. They discovered that there is no cosmetic benefit in applying vitamin E after skin surgery, and that use of vitamin E may actually make the scar look worse. In 90% of cases, topical vitamin E either had no effect on or actually worsened the cosmetic appearance of scars, and 33% of patients developed contact dermatitis" (Dermatol Surg 1999;25:311-315).
"Pharmacists pride themselves on being a credible resource of information for their customers and need to be aware of this study," the spokesperson points out. "We have talked with many dermatologists around the country, and they advise patients not to use vitamin E for scars”

Please note: this is based on 15 patients. No scientists would say that is a valid survey and please note also that this blurb is from a spokesperson from Merz.

I was very interested in this:

Surgery-Free Scar Treatment Uses Onion Extract, Claims Effective Results
SAN DIEGO, Updated 7:19 p.m. EST December 19, 2000 -- Doctors often tell their patients to "give it time" when it comes to scarring, but makers of Mederma Skin Care for scars claim they can helps scars appear smoother without the invasiveness of plastic surgery.
Mederma's active ingredient is Cepalin, a proprietary botanical extract from onions, geared for use on scars from surgery, injury, burns, acne and stretch marks.

While the makers say that nothing can make scars totally disappear the company claims Mederma can help scars appear softer and smoother (before treatment).
Adult volunteers with scars 3 weeks to 8 years old were enrolled in a study to determine the effectiveness of Mederma.

Subjects were randomly assigned to the placebo group or the Mederma group. Following informed consent, histories and physical examinations were performed on the subjects and standardized photographs were taken of the scar including length, width and height.

The subjects were instructed to apply a thin coat of the gel and massage it into their skin. Follow-up visits were performed at one week, one month, and two months of treatment.

At each follow-up visit, repeat photographs and measurements were taken and subjects were asked to complete a questionnaire regarding their compliance with the application of the gel, any adverse reactions to the gel and their impression as to improvement in color, contour, texture and overall appearance of the scar (after treatment).

Each subject's photographs were blindly evaluated by a board-certified plastic surgeon to determine visual improvement of the scar.

The results were that scars treated with Mederma were significantly softer in appearance. Mederma is a non-prescription product. A small number of participants complained of mild itching, or a rash. The number of these complaints was virtually identical in both the treated as well as the placebo group. One black person stated that although the color of her scar had faded the area of skin surrounding the scar had become mildly hypopigmented or discolored.

Please note with the above…we have the words scars can appear smoother and also note that we have no idea how many people were in this study.

The problem with something like a scar is there is no way of knowing that if left alone after 2 or 3 months would the scar have healed in the same manner without the Mederma? Based on the above, I can’t say that it has been proven to enhance the appearance of scars. But back to me and Mederma itself.

How to use it:

It should be generously applied and gently rubbed into the scar 3-4 times a day for 8 weeks on new scars and 3-4 times a day for 3-6 months on existing scars. I do have 2 scars that are 2 years old. I might just try Mederma on them.*
That would be a better test in my opinion than a brand new scar.

How does it smell and feel?

It is very a very pleasant smelling. It doesn’t feel greasy; it just rubs right into the skin. One thing I do notice is that my skin peels slightly after it has been on for about 1 hour. I do wonder if perhaps it is taking of the top layer of the scar, which would make it flatter, but that is a totally non-scientific guess.

Who should use it?

•It can be used on the face but not near the eyes. My scar is by my mouth.

•It is said to be safe for children, even young children just make sure the wound is perfectly closed before using it.

•The company itself says, “Nothing can make scars disappear." so don’t expect a miracle!

In conclusion:

We may be throwing our money away. We really don’t know, but when it comes to faces, my feeling is that $17 or even 2 or 3 times that if I continue using it, is worth it. As I said, I may even try it on old scars. I am convinced it can’t hurt. I did buy Vitamin E and it is interesting because the woman at the health food store was very convincing that Vitamin E would work, but reading the above I realized that wasn’t the first time I had heard not to use Vitamin E on scars. So I will ask my doctor again, but I have a feeling the jury is really out on that one.

As far as Mederma, sure I will recommend it. My scar does appear better than it did. Should I expect it to be better though? Isn’t the healing process one that makes scars get better? Actually, in my experience no. I had a benign (Thank G-d) lump removed from my breast 2 years ago and that scar got worse over time. I will use Mederma on those (2 actually). Unfortunately for scars like that this will get expensive. My scar on my face is small so a couple of tubes will last me quite awhile. In fact the website estimates that, “A 50 gram tube of MEDERMAŽ retails for approximately $29 and lasts about three months on an 8-10 inch scar. A 20-gram tube of MEDERMAŽ retails for approximately $15 which last approximately 3 months on a scar up to 3" in length."

*Please note: I had this in draft form for 2 months thus the update date. Since I first wrote this I purchased another tube - the 50 gram size (1.76 ounces). At CVS I paid $29.99 for it. It is interesting because it has a slightly stronger smell to it than the smaller tube - perhaps because there is more of it! Also because it has a flip top if you don't close it tightly it will dry around the edges just like toothpaste will do. I have been using it on the larger scars I noted above and it does seem to be making the scars appear lighter and flatter.

If I can be of any help or answer any questions, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.

Recommend this product? Yes

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