Many scar therapy products contain ingredients like silicone, vitamin E, hydroquinone, kojic acid, preservatives, and even fragrances. Several studies now question the safety of these chemicals.
VITAMIN E – Included in many topical skin care products because of its strong antioxidant properties. Unfortunately, studies also show that vitamin E does not improve scar healing in any way. Canadian pediatricians and American dermatologists actually advise avoiding using vitamin E as a scar therapy as it causes a contact allergy (contact dermatitis) in 1 in 3 users.
D4 & D5 SILICONES – These types of silicones are found in many cosmetic hair and skin care products including scar treatments. Recent studies suggest that up to 200 forms of silicone, including D4 and D5, may be unsafe. The compounds were recently placed on the Canadian government’s toxic chemicals list and many European nations will also register D4 and D5 as potentially harmful.
Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental group, says that D4 is linked to fertility problems and liver damage, while both D4 and D5 have been linked to cancer. The Canadian government is planning to propose D4 and D5 limits in products and stricter regulation for their release into the environment during manufacturing. “This is the first step toward regulating these harmful chemicals,” Aaron Freeman, policy director of Environmental Defence, said. “We urge the government to go the distance by getting these chemicals off the market.”
In contrast to these silicones, dimethicone silicone has been certified as safe.
HYDROQUINONE – an effective agent to lighten scars, it is not sold in some countries because of its potential long-term use dangers. Hydroquinone can lead to a condition called Ochronosis, even at its over-the-counter strength (2%). This causes permanent hyperpigmentation with sooty darkening of the skin. Ochronosis may also cause loss of skin elasticity and impaired wound healing. Other side effects include contact dermatitis (rash, redness, itching and flaking) and nail discoloration. Some researchers question whether hydroquinone and related compounds may cause cancer. As a result of these fears, hydroquinone is only available by prescription in Europe and it is highly regulated in Asia. The skin-lightening effects of hydroquinone decrease with prolonged use and with sun exposure.
KOJIC ACID – is also effective in fading pigmented skin lesions like dark scars and brown spots. However, repeated use can cause skin sensitization which in turn increases the risk of contact dermatitis. Just like hydroquinone, kojic acid only improves dark pigmentation and won’t improve other facets of scar healing.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and licorice are safer alternatives to hydroquinone and kojic acid. Vitamin C also improves healing by encouraging normal collagen production while licorice extract can prevent acne. Licorice also boosts the pigment-lightening effects of vitamin C. The two ingredients should therefore be used together whenever possible.
PRESERVATIVES & FRAGRANCES – There are about 50 approved preservatives to keep skin care products “bacteria-free”, but the market is dominated by just a handful like parabens, methylparabens, and formaldehyde. That is bad news, since these chemicals along with fragrances, are among the most irritating chemicals found in skin care products and can cause contact dermatitis.
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