Scar Treatments Reviewed
If you've been following me on Instagram for the past year, you'll know that I've been trying everything under the sun to get my skin under control. I deal with acne, keratosis pilaris, atrophic scars from EDS, hyperpigmentation, mild localized psoriasis, and specific cystic acne scars on my shoulders, arms, and back. I developed cystic acne on my face, shoulders, arms, chest, and back when I developed a thyroid tumor. The scars this acne left behind prompted me to wear shirts with long sleeves (baggy t-shirts or cardigans) for two years. I was so insecure that I'd go out in a light beachy kimono/cardigan in the summer (and aggravate my symptoms caused by heat intolerance) to avoid revealing my arms.
In September one of my best friend's got engaged and I decided to become more proactive in treating my scars because I knew that I would be a bridesmaid in her wedding. As I'm writing this, the wedding is just a couple days away and I am happy to say that as a result of these treatments, I'm not scared to wear my low-back, sleeveless dress.
I have tried almost every remedy under the sun. I have exhausted every recipe I've found on Pinterest (lemon and baking soda? Check! Clay treatments? Check! Raw honey? Check! Coconut oil? Check! Vitamin E oil? Check! Every essential oil blend? Check!), cut out dairy and gluten and processed foods/sugars, have taken Primrose oil, Collagen supplements (controversial for EDS patients and definitely not a treatment for EDS), Arnica (for wound healing) supplements, specific skincare supplements, and have received professional treatment.
Today I am sharing the treatments that have helped the most with reducing the appearance of my cystic acne scars on my arms, shoulder, and back, stretch marks, and other atrophic EDS scarring. My scars are still there, and I've accepted that they may always be there, but they're no longer the first thing you see when you look at me, thanks to the following:
*Just because these have worked for me, doesn't mean they'll work for you. I've read stories of people using products that completely minimized the appearance of scars, just to try that product and have it do nothing for me. Also, please do your own research before purchasing any products as you may be sensitive to ingredients that I am not sensitive to.*
1. Microneedling. I first tried microneedling with a cheap tool I bought on Amazon (that I will share in next week’s blog post on acne remedies) and found that it didn’t work at all on my scars. I never thought I’d try microneedling again! However, once I was watching a YouTube video on acne scars (a topic I’ve watched far too many YouTube videos on) where the woman swore by microneedling. She shared the brand she used and insisted that it was necessary to get a high quality brand with a specific length of needles per issue to address. I realized that I originally only had a 0.5mm tool.
The brand the YouTuber recommend, Gin Amber Beauty, has a 1.0mm tool for acne scars (they have many different tools for different issues, including one for stretch marks that I do not own). It made sense to me that maybe microneedling didn’t previously help me because the needles weren’t going deep enough to actually penetrate the scars and address the issue. So I bought a 1.0mm Gin Amber Beauty microneedling tool for $30US and it has helped SO much!!! I was hesitant to try it because I thought that poking a ton of needles into my EDS skin (that doesn’t heal wounds well) would be risky. However, I’ve had a very positive experience (I’m not sure everyone will so please only try at your own risk). I use it max once a week (usually every 2 weeks, the youtuber recommended 1x a month but my skin has been handling it well) and ALWAYS disinfect it with alcohol between uses. Once I didn’t with my old 0.5mm tool and it created a ton of tiny, unappealing, red bumps.
How I usually use microneedling: I have a shower and exfoliate. I skip the lotion when I microneedle and instead use a toner. I disinfect my microneedling tool with alcohol and then start using it 5-10 ways in each direction (horizontally, vertically, and diagonally), with the same mild to moderate amount of pressure. Start lightly and only do it 5 ways in each direction to see how your skin handles it. I then apply the Melamix product a dermatologist reccomended to me (I talk about it below), and once that’s absorbed I apply the Brightenex product discussed below. My arms and shoulders (where I do the microneedling) will be red and hot to the touch that day, that is normal. Some bleeding is expected but I surprisingly do not bleed a lot when using it. A couple hours after microneedling, I use my ice roller (that I discuss below), after disinfecting it, to reduce redness and inflammation. I’ve noticed that doing this helps speed up the healing process a little bit for me. 2 days later, my skin usually doesn’t look red or inflamed any more.
2. Dry brushing. Dry brushing is often advertised as a way of detoxing the body. However, I found it has been an amazing skin treatment. I've tried a long back brush, a small brush with a long handle, and this brush from The Body Shop with just a nub and I've found this one to be most comfortable. I personally find dry brushing exhausting. You're consistently putting a good amount of pressure to press the dry brush into your skin while moving it around in circular motions. I have found this brush from The Body Shop to be the most helpful in minimizing hand pain in the process. Dry brushing and Microneedling have both increased the effectiveness of every scar treatment I've ever tried. I didn't believe dry brushing would be this helpful until I tried it. I use it dry (like implied, so with no water or product) and then apply scar remedy treatments.
3. Platelet-rich plasma therapy treatments (PRP). PRP is a treatment option a dermatologist recommended that I've had done 2 times now (I have 1 more appointment). PRP treatments include drawing blood, separating the blood, and applying the end result on your skin after microneedling, or injecting it in the area of concern. I was hesitant to try this because it uses your own blood (of course), and my own blood is the blood of someone with EDS (that causes poor wound healing). I have a feeling this treatment would be more effective if done on someone without a connective tissue disorder, but so far I've had very promising results (the clinic has taken extensive before and after pictures after each treatment. If I ever get access to them I will make a post about it). I have been getting PRP done on my arms and shoulders (where I have my cystic acne scars). This form of treatment should only be done by a trained professional so please talk to your doctor before considering PRP. One of my favourite dermatologists on YouTube (because he specializes in scars and is brutally honest about all treatments), Dr. David Lim, made this video to share the pros and cons of PRP treatment. A numbing cream was applied before each treatment and I personally did not experience any pain with it. However, most people usually get it done on their face which is a much more sensitive area.
4. Mederma PM Intensive Overnight Cream for Scars. I used this daily for a while (immediately after dry brushing or microneedling to allow my skin to soak up the product) and it has been the most effective over-the-counter remedy I've tried.
5. ScarAway Long Silicone Scar Sheets. These have helped with evening out my scars. A lot of my EDS scars are elevated but using these helps. What I like about these is that you just leave them on throughout the day which requires very little effort. They're also reusable (for a couple times) and you can cut them to fit the length of your scars.
6. 2 products recommended by a dermatologist specifically for my hyperpigmentation (as a result of scarring) on my arms: the brand is "Zo Medical by Zein OBAGI MD." One bottle says "Melamix Skin Lightener & Blending Creme" which I put on first (every 2nd day) and the other bottle says "Brightenex Skin Brightener & Correcting Creme." When the dermatologist wanted me to try these 2 products (that weren't covered), I had little hope for them. I had yet to try a product recommended by a doctor for my scars that actually worked. However, the next day I already noticed the difference. This, as well as my PRP treatments, have worked the most. At home I will first dry brush or use my microneedling tool and then apply these products to allow my skin to soak up more of the product.
7. "Retinol Correcting Serum. Vitamin A 850,000 IU. Intensive Night Treatment." This serum is thicker and doesn't last very long (I am using it on a large surface area though) but it's been an effective product so far. As well as having 850,000 IU of Vitamin A, this product also contains Vitamins E, K, B, as well as hyaluronic acid and green tea.
8. This scar removal gel. I decided to try this because of how highly it was recommended, and because it was marketed specifically for acne scars. I found this to be more helpful for acne scars than the Retinol Serum (the Retinol Serum was more effective at treating other scars though) but neither were as effective as Mederma PM's cream. Unfortunately this gel did not last very long at all, but again, it could be because I was covering a large surface area.
9. Exfoliating with a pumice stone. I got my pumice stone from where I sometimes get my groceries: Spud. I use this in every single shower because exfoliating is a huge part of treating keratosis pilaris, and because my skin is too dry, and doesn't absorb products well without doing this. I exfoliate with my DIY body wash which is just this castile soap diluted down with distilled water. Don't exfoliate dry with this pumice stone! You'll want to use a product so you don't damage your skin and make things worse!
10. Frank Body "Original" coffee and coconut oil scrub ($16.99 Canadian) I love this product because it makes my skin feel so good, completely erased the stretch marks on my boobs (after thyroid weight gain), and helps with acne. However, it hasn't helped with deeper stretch marks, only the lighter pink ones I had. It's also very messy so I only use it around once a month because I can't be bothered to clean up every corner of my tub and crevasse of my body after using it. The ingredients are all natural and I've tried recreating it on my own with the exact same ingredients but it wasn't as effective. If you want to see some great before-and-after pictures for acne results, I'd recommend visiting Frank Body's Instagram page specifically created to show the results of this product.
11. Bio oil. This is a common first-defense line of treatment for scarring. I pour some of it into a roller bottle to avoid the mess and apply it after dry brushing or microneedling. It has helped fade the appearance of my elevated scars more than my now flat acne scars.
12. This ice roller. Ice rollers help reduce skin irritation, redness, and inflammation. On days I dry brush or microneedle, later on once the product has been absorbed, I will use this product to reduce the redness. It helps a lot! I make sure to clean it with alcohol frequently because if I'm using it on a day that I've done microneedling, I technically have open wounds and do not want to risk infection.
13. This concoction I make (I found the recipe on Pinterest a long time ago) has been the best DIY concoction I've tried. However, I don't add Lavendar (and instead swap it for Geranium which can be helpful for scars) because some studies have shown that Lavendar can cause skin damage. This recipe is similar to the one below except it includes vitamin E oil and Geranium, the one below includes Helichrysum, and I put it in a big container instead of a roller bottle. Using a roller bottle is easier when applying to small, localized scars, but a big tub is easier when you're applying it to a large surface area (like my arms). You could also add all of this into a thing of shea butter and turn it into a hydrating cream as well as a scar/stretch mark treatment. Or you could just combine the recipe and ingredients with the roller blend below.
14. This roller blend from Pinterest (without the Lavendar oil). Studies have shown that Lavendar oil has the potential to cause skin damage so I excluded that oil from my blender recipe whenever I've made it. I put the 3 other oils in a roller bottle, as well as fractioned coconut oil, and apply accordingly. The creator of the picture above recommends 10 drops of each oil.
15. Heat treatment. Using a blow dryer or an electric heat pad can sometimes allow your skin to absorb the treatment more easily. I talk about this more in the next point.
16. Vicks VapoRub. I use my 1.0mm Gin Amber microneedling tool for my stretch marks, even though 1.5mm is more effective for stretch marks (I just didn't want to buy 2). Then, I apply VapoRub because of the many recommendations on Pinterest for using VapoRub for stretch marks. For the most effective results, I've saran wrapped my upper legs (where I have stretch marks) and then used a blow dryer or an electric heat pad to apply some heat and really let it sink in. This has helped but has not cured my stretch marks. In the future, I'm hoping to purchase a 1.5mm Gin Amber microneedling tool specifically designed for stretch marks. Since I notied such a huge difference in going from a 0.mm microneedling tool for general skincare to a 1.00mm for acne scars, I'm assuming I'd notice a huge difference in stretch marks when going from a 1.00mm tool for acne scars to a 1.5mm tool for stretch marks.
17. Baking soda. Baking soda is an ingredient used in many DIY skincare products from acne treatments to scar treatments. Baking soda can burn when used unfortunately, however it can also lighten the apperance of scars. I've had moderate success with this.
18. Vitamin C supplementation if you have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. "High dose Vitamin C supplementation (1-4 g/day)  is recommended in EDS patients against a normal dose of 35-100 mg/day. Ascorbic acid that is a co factor for cross-linking of collagen fibers promotes wound healing and improves bleeding time and muscle strength" (Tulika & Kiran, 2015). Vitamin C supplementation can help speed up wound healing, which can in theory help prevent scars.
19. Vitamin A supplements topically. I poke a hole (with a disinfected needle) in a liquid vitamin A supplements and put it on my scars after microneedling or dry brushing and it can be quite helpful.
20. With EDS, preventing scars is a lot easier than treating them. I have 2 products and 1 DIY product that help me prevent scars.
1. "Gold Bond Ultimate rough & bumpy skin daily therapy cream." Someone on Instagram actually recommended this to me and I'm so glad they did. I get a ton of bumps on my skin: whether it's razor burn, my keratosis pilaris (this has helped my keratosis pilaris SO much), ingrown hairs, or random bumps of unknown causes. Bumps become scars for me a lot of the time. I have many flat white dot scars on my legs from ingrown hairs. This product helps prevent that. I exfoliate in the shower, dry off, and apply this product to almost my entire body. I apply a thin layer because the product unfortunately dries up and flakes off any amount that wasn't absorbed into your skin.
2. Gold Bond's "anti-itch lotion." I get really itchy skin. Whether it's from a MCAD reaction, dry skin, or something else, I can't stand itchy skin. I scratch, and I get scars from scratching. This anti-itch cream has helped a lot with this. I also sometimes apply it before putting on my compression socks and tights. Sometimes I get bumpy skin behind my calves when wearing compression socks but this prevents that.
3. My brother's girlfriend made me a "mosquito bite relief" oil blend that helps do exactly that. In a roller blend she included witch hazel, tea tree oil, and vitamin E oil. This helps relieve bites, general itchiness, burns, and also helps with heat intolerance. I get very large mosquito bites and they almost always turn into small scars even if I don't scratch them. However, the scars are much worse when I do scratch them, so using this mosquito bite relief blend helps avoid that.
Things that personally didn't help me, but many people have recommended to me because of their own amazing experiences: Organic Rosehip oil, Vitamin E oil on its own, Coconut Oil on its own.
Tune in next week where I share what treatments have helped me treat my acne!