Aloe vera is a plant whose extract is well known for its ability to cool and soothe irritated skin. It is the only topical treatment — a treatment applied directly to the skin — known to reduce the appearance of scars. Repeated application of aloe vera is effective at treating scars in some circumstances, especially in the case of acne marks, due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Although aloe vera is regarded as a very safe treatment, a patient who experiences unusual side effects while using it should stop treatment and consult a medical professional.
Scars are caused when the dermis — the layer of skin underneath the surface — is damaged. The body produces a fibrous tissue called collagen to close up the wound and aid in healing. Collagen can be left behind once the damage to the dermis has been repaired, resulting in a scar.
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The size, color, and texture of a scar may continue changing for one to two years after an injury as the dermis continues to re-form under the scar tissue. Using aloe vera to treat a scar is most effective during this time, as it may reduce the inflammation associated with ongoing healing. In addition to potentially improving the appearance of skin, aloe vera may reduce the itching associated with scar formation. Patients should not use this treatment on open wounds or until two weeks after the injury, however.
Though it comes in a variety of creams and lotions, the most effective form of aloe vera for scars is a pure gel with no additives. Frequent application is not known to have any adverse effects, and the more frequent the application, the more likely it is to be effective. Aloe vera is not a miracle cure, as it sometimes reduces the appearance of scars only minimally even after several months of treatment. The older the scar, the less likely it is to be effected by treatment.
While more rigorous treatments, such as laser therapy or even surgery, are available for severe cases, using aloe vera on scars from acne or everyday injuries is a far less expensive option. Other topical treatments, such as vitamin E or shea butter cream, have been proved to have no long-term effect on the appearance of scars, which makes aloe vera one of the only over-the-counter products available for scar treatment.