Many people will incur a scar at some point in their lifetime. Damage to the skin from injury, surgery, and certain skin conditions (e.g., acne) can cause skin trauma, leading to scar formation. When the skin is wounded or damaged, the body begins a healing process in which new collagen is produced to repair the damaged tissue. Scars are permanent, but most often, they fade over time.
Some people embrace their scars, but others find ways to minimize their marks. There is not shortage of treatments on the market and coconut oil is one of the more widely promoted. But does coconut oil help scars? Here's what we know about using coconut oil for scars.
Different Types of Scars
Scars can vary in appearance and texture. Some are bumpy and might be darker or lighter than a person's normal skin tone. But others become more flat and sunken. Several factors can affect the way a scar appears, including:
- How the wound was treated
- The affected body part
- What caused the scar
- Wound size and how deeply it penetrated the skin
There are several types of scars, including:
- Atrophic scars: Depressed (sunken) scars occur when the skin loses collagen. Acne, chickenpox, and eczema are common causes of atrophic scars.
- Contracture scars: Occur as a result of burns and can cause the skin to tighten and restrict movement.
- Hypertrophic scars: Red and raised scars can result from an injury or surgery. Burns, acne, or chickenpox can also cause them.
- Keloid scars: Raised scars similar to hypertrophic scars, but they are larger and can extend beyond the boundaries of the original injury. Injuries or surgeries often cause them, and keloid scars are more common in people with darker skin tones.
Using Coconut Oil for Scars
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts. With moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, coconut oil is a popular ingredient in many skincare and personal care products.
Some people may use coconut oil on their scars because they believe it can help reduce the appearance of scars. Coconut oil contains several fatty acids, such as lauric acid, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may help reduce redness and swelling on the skin and promote skin healing. But evidence supporting its use for scar healing is sparse.
What the Research Says
Limited research studies have explored the use of coconut oil on scars. Animal studies suggest that coconut oil promotes wound healing, but there is little evidence to suggest it helps reduce the appearance of scars on humans or animals.
One study involving 74 participants with traumatic facial scars was published in the Nigerian Journal of Plastic Surgery. Researchers compared the usefulness of a standard scar treatment (topical silicone gel) to coconut oil and to a combined treatment (both silicone gel and coconut oil) on their facial scars. Researchers found that the topical silicone gel is a better treatment for managing facial scars compared to coconut oil.
More studies are needed before we know if coconut oil has any significant effect on scar healing or the appearance of scars.
Consuming and using coconut oil topically is generally considered safe. Though no evidence suggests coconut oil can help heal scars or help them fade, it does have moisturizing properties that may benefit the skin.
Though rare, it is possible to experience an allergic reaction when applying coconut oil to the skin. If you have sensitive skin or a history of food allergies, patch test the oil on a small area of skin before using it on your scars. Do not use coconut oil on your scar if you experience contact dermatitis. Symptoms include itchiness, redness, or skin blisters.
If you want to use coconut oil on your scar, you can simply rub it onto your scar like any other moisturizer. You can apply coconut oil to the skin once or twice a day, depending on your skin type and skincare routine. To apply the oil, you can use your fingers to rub a small amount of oil into the scar until it is absorbed. Avoid getting the oil in your eyes to prevent eye irritation.
Standard Treatments for Scars
If you are concerned about a scar, it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider or a dermatologist. They can advise you on how to manage your scar and recommend treatment options if necessary. Different scars require different treatments.
Common treatments for scars include:
- Chemical peels. Chemical peels use a solution to remove the top layers of skin, which can help to improve the appearance of scars. They are often used to treat acne scars. Multiple treatments may be required to achieve desired results.
- Corticosteroid injections. Corticosteroid injections are used to help reduce the size and redness of raised scars. Corticosteroids decrease inflammation and collagen production, which can help soften and flatten the scar. However, the effectiveness of corticosteroid injections can vary, and they may need to be repeated several times for maximum benefit.
- Dermal fillers. Dermal fillers are injectable substances that fill in depressed scars and improve the skin's contour. Dermal fillers ar temporary treatments that may need to be repeated to maintain results.
- Laser therapy. Laser therapy uses concentrated light energy to improve the appearance of scars. Several types of lasers are available to treat most types of scars. Laser therapy can be effective at reducing the size and redness of scars, but it can be expensive and may require multiple treatments.
- Pressure treatment. Pressure treatment involves using special garments or bandages to apply constant, gentle pressure to the scar. This may flatten and soften the scar tissue. It may be necessary to wear the garments or bandages for several months to see results.
- Silicone sheets or gels. Silicone gels and sheets applied to the skin can help soften and flatten scars. They work by creating a moist environment around the scar, which can help to improve the healing process and reduce the appearance of the scar. Silicone is a safe and effective treatment for both new and old scars.
- Surgery. Several surgical procedures are available, including scar revision surgery, skin grafting, and excision. Surgical procedures can improve the appearance of scars, but they can be expensive and may cause additional scarring.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Scars?
Though there is little research to suggest that using coconut oil can help reduce the appearance of scars, it doesn't hurt to try. For most, people, the oil can moisturize and soften the skin. Be sure to do a patch test on a small area of skin before applying coconut oil to your scar or larger areas of skin. It's always best to consult your doctor or a dermatologist before using coconut oil or other at-home remedies on a scar. They may have advice or recommend more standard treatments to help your scar fade.