Chickenpox is a highly contagious virus. Most people will experience it once during their lifetime, usually as a child. This single episode may cause lasting effects, including chickenpox scars.
Chickenpox scars are more likely to develop if a person picks or scratches at the rash. The scars may be bothersome for some people, especially if they are on visible parts of the body, such as the face.
Removing chickenpox scars takes some effort and patience, but there are many over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and medical procedures that may help reduce them.
A range of home remedies and medical treatments may help reduce the appearance of chickenpox scars.
Some people recommend natural skin products for chickenpox scar removal. While many of these products may be beneficial for skin health overall, it is common for manufacturers to make bold claims regarding their effectiveness.
It is best to speak to a doctor before using a natural product for scar removal.
Natural products that people may try using to remove chickenpox scars include:
- aloe vera
- cocoa butter
- argan oil
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- jojoba oil
- shea butter
- lemon juice
- baking soda
These ingredients may be helpful for keeping the skin healthy or supporting scar treatment, but there is little research to confirm that they are effective.
However, researchers have tested the ability of the following ingredients to remove scars:
A 2016 review of studies on vitamin E as a treatment for scars noted their mixed results. While some studies have shown that vitamin E leads to a significant improvement in the appearance of scars, others have not reported any benefits.
Some studies also found that vitamin E causes additional adverse effects, such as a rash and itching.
People who wish to try using a vitamin E cream should speak to a dermatologist first. Vitamin E creams are available in pharmacies and online.
Research from 2015 found that the daily application of a particular brand of rosehip oil to scars for 12 weeks improved their appearance, reducing redness and discoloration.
The study was small, however, so further research is necessary to determine whether it is an effective treatment.
People should dilute any essential oils in a carrier oil before applying them to the skin to avoid causing an adverse reaction.
Rosehip oil is available in some health stores and online.
Exfoliation is the process of removing old and dead skin cells. Exfoliating a scar may help remove some of the rough or discolored tissue and reveal the younger tissue beneath.
Exfoliants can be either mechanical or chemical.
Mechanical exfoliants include face scrubs, pumice stones, and loofahs, which all have a rough texture that can scrape away dead skin cells.
Chemical exfoliants include some lotions, ointments, and body washes containing chemicals that pull away the old skin cells to reveal younger skin.
Some OTC scar-removal creams and ointments may help remove chickenpox scars.
People should look for specific ingredients, such as retinol and glycolic acid, which are common in products for acne scars.
These ingredients may also be helpful for chickenpox scars, which are similar to acne scars in appearance.
OTC chemical peels
Some OTC chemical peels are also available. These peels tend to be less effective than medical peel treatments and may only provide subtle results.
Some people may find that visiting a doctor for a professional peel and then using at-home peels for upkeep helps them achieve lasting results.
Silicone sheets are sheets that a person applies to their scars daily for a fixed period, generally over 6 months.
The sheets may help hydrate the scarred tissue and cause scars to fade.
People can purchase silicone sheets at some pharmacies and online.
Some people prefer to have medical treatments to remove chickenpox scars. Professional treatment may be the best option for heavy scarring.
These treatments include:
Fillers, also called soft-tissue fillers, can add shape to the affected skin. Fillers may be more effective in the treatment of pockmarks and sunken scars. Doctors inject a safe material, such as fat or hyaluronic acid, into the scar to fill the indentation.
As fillers break down over time, a repeat treatment will be necessary about once every 6 months.
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are similar techniques, both of which can be effective for improving the appearance of scar tissue.
Microdermabrasion involves a dermatologist using a device that blows zinc oxide or sodium bicarbonate particles onto the skin to loosen and remove the scar tissue. Alternatively, they may brush the scarred area using a device that has a covering of diamond particles. The skin care specialist will then use a vacuum to remove the residue remaining on the skin.
Dermabrasion uses a stiff, rapidly rotating brush to scrape away the top layers and deeper areas of the scar.
Like dermabrasion, chemical peels also resurface the skin, but they use chemicals instead to break down the skin's top layers.
Doctors use a strong acid, which breaks down the older layers of skin. The layers of skin underneath look more youthful so the scar tissue may not be as noticeable.
It is important to note that the skin will also be tender and prone to damage for several days after a chemical peel.
Microneedling may also help remove scars. To perform microneedling, doctors first apply an anesthetic to the area near the scar. They then roll a small tool with a covering of tiny needles over the area to puncture the skin repeatedly.
The needles stimulate the skin cells to make collagen, which may result in the skin looking smoother.
Many people require multiple sessions of microneedling before they see any results. The procedure also causes some bleeding.
Excision removes the chickenpox scar by cutting it away. Doctors can cut out the scarred section of skin and stitch the wound back up. However, these stitches tend to leave new scars.
People with deeply pocked or pitted scars may be happy to trade them for a thin linear scar from the stitches.
Several types of laser therapy may help with chickenpox scars. Laser therapy is now one of the most common ways to treat scars and chickenpox marks.
Laser therapy uses high-energy light to reduce the appearance of scars.
People can take some preventative action to reduce their risk of highly visible chickenpox scars. This may involve:
- Avoiding scratching: Scratching at chickenpox sores or scabs may lead to scar tissue. For most people, the temporary relief they feel from scratching the sore is not worth the long-term scarring.
- Wearing sunscreen at all times: Wearing sunscreen may help prevent a scar from getting darker. Darker scars tend to be more noticeable, so wearing a strong sunscreen of at least SPF 30 may help reduce their visibility.
- Moisturizing the skin: Keeping the skin hydrated may be beneficial during a chickenpox outbreak.
- Trying antihistamines: Some people may find that taking OTC antihistamines helps reduce the itchiness of chickenpox. It is also possible to purchase versions of common antihistamines that are safe for children.
Many treatments are available to help remove chickenpox scars. Home remedies may help people with mild scars, while medical treatments are available for more severe cases.
Anyone who has chickenpox should ask a doctor or dermatologist what their best option is for dealing with the open sores. It is vital to avoid scratching to help prevent scarring.