Bio-Oil is one of those widely hyped products that, for some people, really seems to live up to the hype. This super-moisturizing and enriched oil has plenty of celebrity fans — the Kardashians have raved about it, as has Kristin Chenoweth and Pamela Anderson. Bio-Oil promises that it does a lot of things, from reducing the appearance of scars and stretch marks, to fighting the signs of aging and smoothing out uneven skin tone.

Another major appeal of Bio-Oil is that it claims to do all these things for under $20. Miraculous! But does it work? We asked one of our top dermatologists and plastic surgeons, Dr. Anthony Youn, to weigh in.


The lowdown on Bio-Oil

When it comes to moisturizing the skin, Bio-Oil is a good product. It smells quite lovely, feels light on the skin and is easily absorbed. When you use it, you can understand why it has been so enduringly popular since its release in 2002.

“It is known as a powerful moisturizer that is rich in vitamins E and A, both of which are great for the skin,” says Dr. Youn. “As a moisturizer, Bio-Oil is highly effective, and the antioxidants in it can be very soothing.”

Bio-Oil is widely discussed among RealSelf users (many have recommended using it after cosmetic procedures to help with scarring), and seems to have a mixed bag of reviews, both good and bad. How effective is it for this purpose?

Anecdotally, many RealSelf users suggest that it works for them, but Dr. Youn says that it isn’t as effective for actually changing your skin on a cellular level. For that, you need products proven to make those changes, such as retinol like Retin-A.  

“Bio-Oil may hydrate the skin, which makes it look and feel more supple and less wrinkly, but retinol creams are more effective to improve fine lines, stretch marks, and very mild scarring,” Dr. Youn says. “These creams are scientifically proven to potentially change the actual architecture of the skin.”


Looking for more effective products

If you’ve tried Bio-Oil and found that it didn’t really help with your particular issues, there are a range of products that may yield better results. For newer scars within a year old, Dr. Youn recommends using a silicone-based cream such as Silagen (this gel product works to block the collagen production that leads to excessive scarring), which is favored by some doctors in this Q&A

Other scar treatments that tend to work well include vitamin E, Biocorneum, silicone sheets like embrace — and even Botox is now being looked at for treating facial scars.

If you are looking for an over-the-counter product that’s going to diminish the appearance of stretch marks, Dr. Youn recommends using a retinol cream. “That would be the best to create a modest smoothing of stretch marks,” he says. However, he warns that no topical product will ever truly erase deeper marks. In my office we recommend laser treatments, such as a pulsed dye laser, or the fractional laser approved by the FDA for stretch marks, such as the Icon 1540,” he says.

So remember, when it comes to Bio-Oil, it can handle some light lifting, but if it’s a tougher scar or mark you wish to fade, you need to check with your  doctor to find the best treatment for you.