Because it’s so contagious, almost all adults in the United States over a certain age have had the chickenpox. After the vaccine became available, rates of infection dropped more than 90 percent. Today, chickenpox is rare among children. Many adults, however, still have reminders of their chickenpox, such as scarring.
Excessive scratching of chickenpox blisters can cause damage. When your skin is damaged by a deep wound, your body produces a tissue that is thicker than skin to repair it. This is known as scar tissue.
Inflammation of the skin, which is common with chickenpox, can lead to scars with a sunken appearance. Many people want to fade or remove these scars, especially when they’re on the face.
Read on to learn some of the treatment options you have for chickenpox scars.
Vitamin E has long been considered a valid tool in the treatment of scars. Unfortunately, these claims may be overstated. Most studies show that it has no significant effect. The American Academy of Dermatology actually advises people not to use vitamin E on scars, as it could potentially worsen the appearance.
Aloe vera has been extensively tested in the treatment of burns. While it does have a proven ability to reduce skin temperature (helpful in burn healing), it shows no effect on scars.
Cocoa butter is a cream-colored vegetable fat derived from the cocoa bean. Its smooth, velvety texture and its ability to melt when applied to the skin make it a common ingredient in moisturizers. Although it contains antioxidants and can effectively moisturize skin, it’s unlikely to reduce the appearance of scars.
A large clinical trial found that cocoa butter was no better than a placebo cream at reducing stretchmarks in pregnant women.
The essential oils from rosehips have a lot of therapeutic value because of their antioxidant effects and phytochemical composition. These phytochemicals include ascorbic acid and fatty acids.
Research suggests that applying rosehip oil to a recent scar twice a day for 12 weeks may improve the final appearance.
Retinol, which is a powerful derivative of vitamin A, is clinically proven to boost collagen production. In a study looking at the combined effects of retinol and glycolic acid on acne scars, researchers noted that more than 90 percent of participants saw improvements.
Apply a retinol cream to your scar nightly at bedtime to stimulate collagen in an area that is severely lacking. If you find it too irritating, you can start on an every-other-day schedule. This wrinkle cream from Roc includes both retinol and glycolic acid.
Exfoliation removes old skin cells, making room for younger and better-looking skin. Exfoliating a scar may help remove some of the pigmented or rough skin. There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical.
Mechanical exfoliants include body and face scrubs, brushes, and other tools. Use these directly on your scar, in a circular motion, every three days.
Chemical exfoliants are lotions that produce a mild chemical reaction to remove the top layer of skin. Apply these directly to your scar as often as directed by the instructions.
Scar removal creams
Over-the-counter (OTC) scar removal creams contain varying combinations of ingredients thought to help prevent scars or reduce their appearance. Although there is little clinical evidence, many people find them helpful.
The product you choose will be based on how new the scar is. Check out this one from Mederma, which is designed to treat both old and new scars.
Excision and punch excision
Scar excisions are an option when all other scar removal techniques have failed. While you’re under anesthesia, your doctor uses a scalpel or a punch tool to surgically remove the scar tissue. They’ll then stich up the area. This treatment is best suited for deep, pitted, sunken scars. You will also be trading a crater-like pock mark for a new, possibly cosmetically improved linear scar. However, this scar will also be permanent.
Soft tissue fillers can be used to add shape back into depressed or sunken scars. Soft tissue fillers, such as hyaluronic acid, as well as fat, can be injected directly into the scar to reduce its appearance. These treatments are temporary, lasting about six months.
Microneedling is a relatively new procedure that uses a rolling-pin-type tool covered in very small needles. After an anesthetic is applied to your face, your doctor rolls the tool back and forth with considerable pressure. There will be some minimal bleeding.
Microneedling stimulates collagen production and leads to smoother-looking skin. The procedure may need to be repeated several times. It will be a few months before the results begin to appear.
Microdermabrasion is a process that uses a rapidly rotating brush to sand away the top layer of skin. It’s more superficial than dermabrasion, which penetrates more deeply into the tissue, allowing for skin restructuring. Both treatments are very effective against scars. Dermabrasion can completely remove surface scars and significantly improve the look of deep scars.
Chemical peels are another technique to resurface the outer layer of skin. High potency acid is spread over the skin, removing the outer layer and improving the look of deep scars.
A light peel can be done quickly in the doctor’s office with no down time. A medium peel can also be done in the doctor’s office, but may require several weeks to heal. Deep chemical peels are more serious procedures, often requiring anesthesia and months of down time.
To see improvements in your scars, you may require one light peel per week for several weeks in a row. Medium peels should be spread further apart.
You may also opt to do a chemical peel at home, though it won’t have the same results as a professional peel. Check out our guide to doing chemical peels at home.
A skin graft is a procedure typically reserved for severe and extensive scars, such as those from burns, surgeries, or other traumas. But skin grafts can also be used to improve the appearance of extensive facial scaring. A skin graft involves removing donor skin from another part of your body and transplanting it to the site of the scar.
Laser therapy is one of the most commonly used professional scar treatments. It can reduce the appearance of old scars, improve sunken chickenpox scars, and lessen the color of scars. There are several types of laser resurfacing including ablative and nonablative, with the former being slightly more invasive than the latter.
Laser treatments can be done on an outpatient basis and usually don’t require sedation. Your doctor will apply a topical local anesthetic before administering the light therapy. The procedure can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours.
If you or your child currently has chickenpox, there are several things you can do to prevent scarring, including the following:
- Avoid scratching as much as possible.
- Wear oven mitts or mittens to prevent damage to the skin from scratching.
- Dab or pat a soothing lotion onto the blisters. A lotion with cocoa butter and aloe vera is ideal.
- Dab or pat an anti-itch cream, like calamine lotion, directly onto the blisters.
- Take a cool oatmeal bath.
- Try an antihistamine like Benadryl.
Of course, the best way to prevent chickenpox scars is to avoid chickenpox infection. Vaccinate children from chickenpox and older adults from shingles, which is caused by the same virus.
You may find yourself wanting to eliminate the appearance of chickenpox scars, especially when they’re located on your face. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available. You can begin with OTC treatments, or go directly to a dermatologist. Dermatologists are very experienced with scars and can advise you on the best option for your situation.
However, remember that your scars are likely to be most noticeable to you, and others may not even see them.
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