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The 16 Very Best Products to Get Rid of and Prevent Scars

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

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As the early stages of scar treatment are so critical, when I asked 21 skin-care experts about the scarring products they recommend, a lot of them focused on in-office preventative methods, such as laser treatment and microneedling. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to help heal scars at home. “The goal is to treat wounds early and well to prevent the formation of a hypertrophic scar, which is a raised scar that stays within the confines of the wound,” explains dermatologist Anita Cela, who specializes in cosmetic dermatology. “There isn’t a quick fix for treating scars, but early treatment like preventing a scab and avoiding sun exposure to the area are the best ways to minimize the risk of scarring,” says skin-care educator and CEO of Barefaced Jordan Harper.

Below, I’ve included 16 items that our skin-care experts have recommended for treating and preventing scars, as well as some tips on how to use them. Because there is no all-in-one, holy-grail scar treatment, I’ve instead organized their recommendations into an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to treating scars.

What we’re looking for


Scar care is multistep, so we’ve noted whether a product is best for scar prevention, protection, or healing.

Active ingredients

As I’ve mentioned, the best solution for getting rid of scars is in-office treatment, but topical ingredients can help with everything from keeping a wound from getting infected to fading the scar altogether. Antioxidants like vitamin C, for example, help to improve hyperpigmentation and help to address the underlying inflammation that causes it in the first place. Another ingredient, silicone, helps skin to heal properly and avoid raised scarring.

Best antibacterial ointment to prevent scarring

Function: Prevention | Active ingredients: Bacitracin, neomycin, pramoxine HCl, polymyxin B

It’s critical to clean a wound when it first happens, and any foreign materials — think bits of gravel or dirt — can cause even worse scarring and long-term discoloration, according to Dr. Melissa Doft of Doft Plastic Surgery. Once a wound is clean, Doft suggests maintaining a moist (but not wet) environment around it. She’s a fan of Neosporin for its antibiotic qualities. This particular formula is designed to minimize the look of scars along with providing itch relief. But dermatologist Dr. Kseniya Kobets warns that it isn’t suitable for everyone. “Neosporin has two highly allergenic antibiotics neomycin and polymyxin, which can cause a skin reaction,” she says. “It’s probably especially bad to put on broken skin, as it will sensitize the body for next time it’s going to be used on the skin.” Instead, she recommends a bacitracin-only ointment.

Best ointment to prevent scarring

Function: Prevention | Active ingredients: Petrolatum

After initially cleaning the wound, it’s important to carry on keeping it clean, moist, and covered in the following weeks — before you even start using a scar treatment. “Don’t let the wound get infected,” cautions Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology. After you’ve treated the wound with a topical antibiotic like Neosporin, Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, who practices with Union Square Laser Dermatology, says that “you want to keep the wound hydrated with something like Aquaphor, as this promotes faster healing.” It’s a myth that you want to air out the wound and let it dry, because that will form a scab, which can cause more scarring and take longer to heal says Dr. Adrienne O’Connell, president and medical director of Laguna Beach Aesthetics. “Aquaphor will keep the wound hydrated and thus promote healing.” Aquaphor is also a favorite of Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, for its infection prevention and protection that stimulates the healing of wounds.

Best barrier ointment to prevent scarring

Treatment: Prevention | Active ingredient: Petroleum jelly

“I recommend Vaseline as an alternative to Aquaphor,” says Dr. Nazanin Saedi, a Philadelphia-based board-certified dermatologist. Aquaphor contains lanolin, which some people are allergic to, “and it can add a contact dermatitis on top of the inflammation from the wound.” Vaseline is pure petroleum jelly, so she says “it will add a layer of protection and act as a barrier to protect the wound while also promoting wound healing.” Fellow dermatologist and founder of Roswell Skin Dr. Brandon Cometti also recommends Vaseline, but as an alternative to Neosporin. “If you experience irritation or redness when applying an antibiotic ointment, then you should stop and switch to a plain emollient,” he says.

Best hydrating ointment to prevent scarring

Function: Prevention | Active ingredients: Honey

“Honey has been used for centuries for wound healing because of its antibacterial and hydrating properties, especially in burn wounds,” says dermatologist Adeline Kikam, founder of @brownskinderm, a platform dedicated to skin care and dermatology information in skin of color. While there haven’t been many studies on how honey heals wounds, Kikam says that new research suggests it can help with scar reduction, so she says it’s worth trying on mild wounds and burns. Cybele Fishman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital seconded this sentiment, saying that honey features antimicrobial compounds and an acidic pH, which helps with wound-healing.

Best spray to prevent scarring

Function: Prevention | Active ingredients: Hypochlorus acid

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anna Karp agrees that your top priority should be keeping the area around a scar clean, and she prefers hypochlorous-acid sprays to prevent bacterial growth, explaining that this antibacterial and anti-inflammatory acid is actually naturally found in our bodies (thanks to our white blood cells) and that most people aren’t sensitive to it, either. 

Best sunscreen to protect scars

Function: Protection | Active ingrediens: Zinc oxide

Protecting the wound from the sun is also key. That’s especially true of newer wounds, since “some protection is essential for the first six months while the scar is remodeling and healing,” Doft explains.“The sun is your enemy and will impede good wound healing and worsen the scar,” says Fishman. Evan Rieder, a board-certified dermatologist and faculty member in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone (he’s also board-certified in psychiatry), agrees: “Any sort of exposure will make the scar darker.” Rieder recommends sunscreen with physical blockers, or those that contain active mineral ingredients, like zinc and titanium. Howe says that “a fresh wound or scar is more prone to sunburn than normal skin,” and that “a titanium- or zinc-containing sunscreen that’s at least an SPF 30 should be applied daily.” He and dermatologist Anita Cela, who specializes in cosmetic dermatology, recommend sunscreens from EltaMD, which happens to be a Strategist favorite.

Best silicone sheets for scars

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Silicone

The ideal time to start treating the scar is a week or two after an injury or a surgical incision. All our experts recommend using silicone-based patches (called sheeting) or gels (more on those to come) to treat scars in the early stages of formation. “Silicone sheets are very effective in treating scars, providing an optimal dressing for helping scars heal,” says Karp. These are more effective than popular onion-extract-based products like Mederma. According to Howe, silicone-based topicals are “the simplest OTC treatment for raised, or hypertrophic, scars.” He says that they work “by exerting a small amount of compressive pressure on the scar, making it flatten and/or soften.” Although there aren’t definitive medical studies that prove that silicone works best, the dermatologists we spoke to said there are studies and other evidence that show that applying silicone products on a daily basis helps scars maturate appropriately and minimizes cosmetic damage. Dermatologist Caroline Robinson, founder of Tone Dermatology, says the theory behind silicone is that it “mimics our skin barrier and it really helps to lock and trap moisture.” Chwalek, Karp, Cela, and Fishman all recommend ScarAway, which comes in sheets (as well as a gel). The sheets are self-adhesive, making them a convenient overnight treatment (no gel-covered skin touching your sheets), and reusable. Consistency — and patience — is key when using silicone sheets. Kikam says you must be able to commit to wearing them anywhere from 8–24 hours each day (changing out the sheet daily) for several months to see results. Experts add that ScarAway sheets may also help minimize the appearance of old scars too.

Best silicone sheets for thicker scarring

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Silicone

Howe agrees that silicone-based sheets are an effective treatment. He particularly likes these ones, which he says are easy to use: “The sheets are self-adhesive, so no cumbersome dressing or bandages are required. Just trim the sheet to a size slightly larger than the scar to be treated, and apply overnight.” Like ScarAway’s sheets, he says, “the silicone in these exerts a gentle pressure that flattens raised-up scars.” Elliot Weiss, a dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, also recommends CICA-Care silicone sheets, adding that they’re especially “useful to prevent hypertrophic or thickened scars.”

Best silicone gel for healing scars

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Silicone

For smaller or irregularly shaped wounds, you might prefer using a silicone-based gel over a sheet. When it comes to gels, Howe and Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil of Mudgil Dermatology both recommend Strataderm. “It consists of a blend of silicones in a topical gel that you put on once daily without any sticky mess,” says Howe. The transparent gel both hydrates and protects scars, while the pressure from the silicone helps raised scars that “contain a good deal more collagen than normal skin” become “flatter and less hard,” according to Howe. Strataderm can also help reduce redness. Mudgil agrees that “topical gels containing silicone can improve the appearance of scars by reducing thickness and redness.” He likes Strataderm because it’s “quick drying” and “does not contain any ingredients that can cause allergy or irritation,” but notes, “tropical treatments really only provide benefit in the very early stages of scar formation.” During this time, Mudgil advises applying any gel to a scar daily.

Best silicone gel with SPF for healing scars

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Silicone, SPF

Another gel product Cela and Chwalek recommend is Biocorneum. It has the added benefit of being SPF 30, so it protects both old and new scars from discoloration and redness caused by the sun. It’s also a gel that Levine recommends to patients since “silicone plus SPF is an ideal combination for scar management.” 

Best silicone stick for healing scars

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Silicone

Rounding out our list of expert-recommended silicone products is Pro-Sil, which Cela likes because it comes in a glide-on stick for easy application on the go.

Best rich scar cream

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Oat oil, glycerin

As your skin heals, and you feel the urge to itch, Dr. Idriss recommends slathering on something with anti-irritation properties. This French hand cream, she says, does a “stellar job” in healing wounds quickly. With soothing oat oil, and the hydrating powerhouse glycerin, the cream should calm the feeling of inflamed skin, and make you less likely to scratch an itch.

Best moisturizing scar cream

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Zinc, shea butter

Dr. Idriss also likes this cream from La Roche-Posay. Infused with zinc, it both soothes inflammation and heals “nicks and scrapes.” It also contains centella asiatica and shea butter, two ingredients known for their nourishing and hydrating properties.

Best exfoliating scar cream

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: Allantoin

Both dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades and Dr. Cometti recommended this ointment from Mederma, to use on old and new scars. “Scar creams like Mederma (with the ingredient allantoin) have been shown to help minimize scars, so applying one of those regularly for the first few weeks can help,” says Dr. Cometti. Allantoin is a milky, anti-inflammatory exfoliating ingredient that you’d normally find in scar gels.

Best serums for post-scar hyperpigmentation

Function: Treatment | Active ingredients: THD Ascorbate, vitamin E

Even after wounds have healed, you may still be dealing with hyperpigmentation. According to Robinson, these areas of discoloration — commonly seen with acne scars — are often caused by underlying inflammation. “There is often some component of inflammation under the surface of the skin that’s allowing that hyperpigmentation to be persistent,” she says. To treat these red and brown spots, she looks for products rich in antioxidants that improve both hyperpigmentation and the skin’s overall health. She likes the Revision C+ Correcting Complex serum because “it addresses both brown and red spots, and it addresses skin quality through the antioxidant function.”

Best less-expensive serum for post-scar hyperpigmentation

Function Treatment | Active ingredients Resorcinol, tranexamic acid, glycolic acid, hydroquinone

Along with brightening antioxidant products, dermatologist Charlotte Birnbaum of Spring Street Dermatology, recommends hydroquinone — a lightening agent that decreases pigment production — for dark scars and hyperpigmentation. There are more potent prescription medications with hydroquinone, but for an effective over-the-counter option, she likes this Murad serum.

Our experts

• Dr. Macrene Alexiades, board-certified dermatologist
• Dr. Charlotte Birnbaum, dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology
• Dr. Anita Cela, dermatologist
• Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology
Dr. Brandon Cometti, dermatologist and founder of Roswell Skin
• Dr. Melissa Doft, dermatologist and founder of Doft Plastic Surgery
• Dr. Cybele Fishman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital
• Jordan Harper, skin-care educator and CEO of Barefaced
Dr. Kenneth Howe, dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology
Dr. Shereene Idriss, board-certified dermatologist
• Dr. Anna Karp, dermatologist
• Dr. Adeline Kikam, dermatologist and founder of @brownskinderm
Dr. Kseniya Kobets, board-certified dermatologist
• Dr. Jody A. Levine, the director of dermatology at Plastic Surgery & Dermatology of NYC
Dr. Adrienne O’Connell, president and medical director of Laguna Beach Aesthetics
• Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, dermatologist and founder of Mudgil Dermatology
• Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group
• Dr. Evan Rieder, dermatologist and faculty member in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone
• Dr. Caroline Robinson, dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology
Dr. Nazanin Saedi, board-certified dermatologist
• Dr. Elliot Weiss, dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York

Additional reporting by Tembe Denton-Hurst.

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The 16 Very Best Products to Get Rid of and Prevent Scars