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Does onion extract really fade scars and stretch marks

Reviewed by Marta August 13, 2013 16 Comments

An email from a reader prompted me to look into onion extract and whether it can really fade scars and stretch marks, as well as be generally therapeutic for the skin. He has been using a scar-fading gel called Mederma, which has onion extract and not much else. Amusingly he also mentioned that Ninon de L'Enclos, the seventeenth-century French courtesan and wit, was supposedly still breaking hearts at ninety, thanks to a balm of lard, beeswax and onion juice.  Let’s hope she wiped it off before getting up close and personal.

But aside from a personal anecdote and an appealing myth, is there any hard evidence that onion extract will fade scars and stretch marks? The short answer is no. And what's more, you'd be better off using petroleum jelly than Mederma.

In 2001, a study showed that onion extract used on rabbit ear scars improved collagen organization but didn't lead to a difference in scar appearance.  Other studies have shown that onion extract is no better at healing than petroleum jelly. And one study even used Mederma itself in a side-by-side, randomized, double-blinded, split-scar study. It concluded that “the onion extract gel did not improve scar cosmesis or symptomatology when compared with a petrolatum-based ointment.”

The best redemption of the onion that I could find was research that had success – albeit limited – with onion extract on hypertrophic and keloid scars (keloids are the result of an overgrowth of dense fibrous tissue that usually develops after healing of a skin injury). It helped fade the color, but not the height of the scar.

Now I can see why some scar treatment makers, such as Invicible, go out of their way to say they don’t use onion extract.

Ingredients in Mederma Gel

Water (Purified), PEG-4, Allium Cepa (Onion) Bulb Extract, Xanthan Gum, Allantoin, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Sorbic Acid

  • March 24, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Sirjana, take a look at our Five Best recommendations for dark spots and hyperpigmentation:

  • March 24, 2016

    by sirjana

    I have large pores on my face and recently I went under laser treatment but its still visible and now I am getting pigmentation so I am just confuse what and how should I get rid of this. Is it good to apply onion juice directly on affected areas? Is it safe? Can anyone suggest me-how to get rid of pores and pigmentation.

  • July 16, 2015

    by Violet

    I bought Dr. Sheffields Scar Gel and put it on pink scars on the back of my hands. They are all gone except one that has a hardened top on it. Looks like it is sloughing off. Had super small dry spots of broken skin on forehead that wouldn't heal for years. Put Dr. Sheffields Scar Gel on them. It made them burn, sting, and itch like crazy. They've almost disappeared in 3 days and I've had those spots for years !!!

  • September 14, 2014

    by Pete

    I need a fruit that can really clean scars cos ive got much scars on my face

  • September 1, 2014

    by Toni

    I had a huge scrape on my leg from a fall, I applied vitamin E oil to it every day every chance I got. NO SCAR whatsoever. That stuff works.

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