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What Is Silicone Gel?

By M. Walker
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Silicone gel is a synthetic material that is frequently used for medical purposes such as scar treatment, scar reduction, cosmetic implants, and artificial joints. It is also used during reconstructive surgery to make valves for the vascular system, and is also an ingredient in many prosthetic structures. Because it is a synthetic material, silicone gel can be easily manipulated into different densities and shapes for various uses.

Scientific studies have shown that the application of silicone gel to scars can improve scar elasticity, decrease redness, decrease swelling, and guard against bacteria and other infections. Silicone is most effective for reducing scars that are raised and red in color, know as hypertrophic scars. These scars are commonly caused by surgical incisions and burns. The gel should not be applied to an open wound, but it can be applied to older scars to help diminish redness and inflammation.

Silicone gel used for scar treatment is usually in the form of paint-on gel ointments or self-adhesive sheets. Generally, silicone sheets are placed and sealed over the scar and should be worn for about 12 hours per day. The sheets require daily removal, washing, and reapplication. Newer gel ointments can be painted or rubbed into a scar and do not require removal, washing, or avoidance of other skin care products. Both have been equally effective at scar treatment and reduction.

Since 2006, silicone gel has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in breast implants as well as other cosmetic implants. The gel, which is thicker than the saline solution commonly found in other implants, is less likely to leak if the implant is damaged. Silicone implants are also firmer than saline implants, and cannot be compressed to the same degree. This impacts the process of cosmetic surgery, and surgeons must make a larger incision to allow for the less flexible implant. There has been concern about whether or not silicone gel implants increased the occurrence of cancer, but a lengthy study has found no link between implants and an increased risk of cancer in patients.

Silicone gel is commonly found in many other areas of medicine due to its favorable properties. It is resistant to water, resistant to other chemicals and bodily fluids, able to withstand both high and low temperatures, elastic, and non-toxic. Its durability and flexibility, coupled with the fact that it can be fashioned into liquids, oils, and solids, make it a common find in prosthetic devices throughout the body.

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Discussion Comments
By KoiwiGal — On Dec 21, 2012

They've actually been using silicone implants in breasts from the beginning, it's just that they've been changing the skin of the balloon and the composition of the gel.

For a while they had some that were really easy to rupture and that's why silicone has such a bad rap when it comes to breast implants, even though it's quite a stable substance.

Silicone gel breast implants are relatively safe now, but it's still not something I'd want to do myself. Surgery is so risky anyway, and the idea of having something foreign in my body kind of freaks me out.

By clintflint — On Dec 20, 2012
@browncoat - Unfortunately, some people are more predisposed to hypertrophic scarring than others, but since it usually happens after surgery (which you can't really prevent) there's not much you can do. Unfortunately, I've never heard that silicone gel is a miracle cure although it might help.

I think it's probably more important for your mother to see her scar as a badge of honor rather than something to be ashamed of. It's not her fault she had cancer and anyone who judges someone on a scar isn't worth knowing anyway.

By browncoat — On Dec 19, 2012

I hadn't heard of that treatment for hypertropic scars before. My mother had a melanoma removed from her arm a few years ago and she's incredibly embarrassed by the scar. Unfortunately it got really large and red, although the surgeon had originally done what I thought was a very good job of make the site neat and tidy.

I'm always trying to find ways for her to feel more comfortable with it because, as it is, she refuses to go swimming or wear anything sleeveless.

I'm definitely going to hunt down some silicone gel sheets for scars and see if I can help her with them.

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