There are a wide variety of scar therapy treatments on the market today, many of which are silicone-based gels. Are those silicone gel scar therapy treatments actually effective? Could one of them help you get rid of a hypertrophic scar or keloid that formed around one of your existing or retired piercings? A recent study indicates that yes, silicone gel scar therapy does work, and it could be the answer you're looking for to eliminate or at least minimize the visibility of your piercing scars.
What Research Says About Silicone Gel Scar Therapy
Medknow Publications released a research report titled The Efficacy of Silicone Gel for the Treatment of Hypertrophic Scars and Keloids that summarizes a study conducted in 2009 which indicates that silicone gel is an effective treatment option for minimizing the size, texture and coloring of both hypertrophic and keloid scars. The study monitored 30 patients of widely-varying ages, different sexes and different types and degrees of scarring for 6 months to see if silicone gel would have a positive impact on their scars.
The Sample Set
The study participants ranged in age between 5-years-old and 60+-years-old. Men outnumbered women 2 to 1. Roughly 76% of the patients had some degree of hypertrophic scar, while the remaining ~24% had keloid scars. Some of their scars were fresh, some were several weeks or months old, and some were more than 6 months old. A few of the participants' scars were from wounds that had only closed within 5-10 days of the start of the study, with results indicating that it's safe and effective to begin applying silicone scar therapy gel shortly after a wound closes.
The Study of Silicone Gel as an Effective Scar Treatment
At the onset of the study, all participants' scars were photographed and measured before the silicone gel treatments began. Their scars were also given a grade of 1-4 based on the criteria in the table below.
During the study, silicone gel was applied to the participants' scars as a thin film twice a day. The gel was rubbed into the scarred skin with fingertips for 2-3 minutes at each application. The twice-a-day treatments continued for 6 months, and the patients were re-evaluated at monthly intervals during that time. Each scar was assessed by a physician, who diagnosed the scar type and noted ongoing changes in size and scar color. The scars were classified as follows:
"We classified hypertrophic scar as a red or dark pink, raised (elevated) sometimes itchy scar confined within the border of the original surgical incision, with spontaneous regression after several months and a generally poor final appearance. A keloid is instead classified as a scar red to brown in colour, very elevated, larger than the wound margins very hard and sometimes painful or pruritic with no spontaneous regression."
At the end of the study, 60% of the participants' scars were rated as "normal" (Grade I) and 20% as "mildly hypertrophic" (Grade II), meaning that the majority of the participants' scars were satisfactorily diminished thanks to the silicone gel applied regularly over the course of the study. The other 20% of participants were split evenly between Grades III and IV, meaning there were minimal changes to their scars after 6 months of twice-daily treatments.
The research report concluded that "Topical silicon gel is [a] safe and effective treatment for hypertrophic and keloidal scars. It is easy to apply and cosmetically acceptable." However, considering that ~24% of participants had keloids at the onset of the study and 10% were still given a Grade IV/keloid rating at the end of the study, it would seem that silicone gel is most effective on hypertrophic scars and minor keloid scars.
Below are two before-and-after pictures showing how a study participant with a hypertrophic scar and another with a minor keloid scar responded to twice-daily silicone gel scar therapy treatments over a 6-month period.
Benefits of Silicone Gel Scar Therapy
Prior to the publication of the study referenced above, only two scar treatment options had been thoroughly studied and found to work for minimizing hypertrophic scars and keloids. One option involves applying silicone gel sheeting, and the other involves injecting corticosteroids into scars. The problem with corticosteroid injections is that they're uncomfortable, they can atrophy the skin, and they must be performed by a physician. Silicone gel sheeting also has its downfalls--namely, that it can be cumbersome to keep on a scar, because it needs to be bandaged to be effective. Patients don't always comply, removing their bandages prematurely either because they don't like the way they look or because the bandages irritate their skin. Topical silicone gel eliminates those issues. People can apply it themselves, it dries quickly, it's clear/barely noticeable, and it doesn't have to be kept bandaged to be effective because it forms a thin film that acts like a protective bandage in and of itself.
Based on the results of the study above, it seems that silicone gel is a very effective, relatively unimposing treatment method for minimizing the appearance of or eliminating hypertrophic and keloid scars. A piercing scar can be treated just as effectively with silicone gel as a scar from an operation or burn. You just need to wait until your piercing is fully healed or until the fistula has closed (if you remove your jewelry) before applying silicone gel to your piercing scar. Apply it at least twice a day, rubbing the gel into your skin well for at least 2 minutes at each application, and continue the twice-daily treatments until you've obtained satisfactory results. If you find that silicone gel scar therapy isn't helping your scar after a few months of use, then you may want to see a dermatologist about alternative treatments.
Important Note: Hypergranulation is not a scar and should not be treated with silicone gel. The notorious "red bump" that forms around some piercings is usually a sign of another problem, like jewelry being too tight or debris being trapped in the fistula (piercing hole). The first step to dealing with hypergranulation is to switch your jewelry to a longer barbell or captive ring that doesn't put pressure on your piercing. Clean your piercing thoroughly for 5 minutes at a time, twice a day, with sea salt solution or a saline wash like Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray. You can add tea tree oil to your solution when doing a full flush to take advantage of its natural moisturizing and antiseptic properties. Mist your piercing with Recovery aftercare spray several times a day in between full flushes, too, and you should start to see signs of improvement within the first week.
Where to Find Silicone Gel Scar Therapy & Alternatives
Painful Pleasures is proud to announce that we'll be adding silicone gel scar therapy treatment to our Recovery Aftercare product line in the coming year. If you're battling a hypertrophic or keloid scar now and are looking for an alternative treatment option, we highly recommend applying our Recovery Jojoba Oil to your scar regularly (but only after your piercing is either well-healed or closed, as the oil may clog a healing fistula). Jojoba oil has natural moisturizing properties and is known to reduce scar tissue with regular applications.