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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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Cigarette Burn Scar: Dermatologist Recommended Treatment Options

Cigarette burn scars, often resulting from accidental contact with lit cigarettes, can leave lasting marks on the skin. These scars vary in severity, depending on the depth and size of the burn.


A burning cigarette

Understanding Cigarette Burn Scars


Cigarette burn scars occur due to the heat generated by a burning cigarette touching the skin. They can cause damage to the skin layers, resulting in varying degrees of scars.


First-degree burns penetrate the topmost layer of the skin, called the epidermis, causing mild redness and discomfort.


On the other hand, second-degree burns damage the top two layers of the skin, epidermis and dermis, leading to blistering apart from severe pain and redness. Most second-degree burns heal with dyspigmentation.


Severe cases, known as third-degree burns, penetrate deep into the skin, reaching up to the deeper layers of the skin like subcutis, causing extensive damage. The skin looks charred, whitened, or black in color, healing with scarring.


Types of Scars

  1. Hypertrophic Scars: These scars appear as raised, red marks and are more common in individuals with a genetic predisposition to scarring.

  2. Keloid Scars: Keloids result from an overproduction of collagen during the healing process, leading to raised, thick, and often itchy scars that extend beyond the initial burn area. Keloids also have a genetic predisposition and are more common in people with darker skin tones. They are more likely to develop over the chest, bony prominences, and earlobes.

  3. Atrophic Scars: These scars manifest as sunken areas, resulting from losing underlying skin tissue during the burn. The overlying skin looks shiny, translucent, and thin with a wrinkled appearance.


Treatment Options

I'd advise you to go to a dermatologist, as she/he can help you determine the best option to reduce the consequent scarring.


Following are some treatment options a dermatologist might recommend:

  • Topical Treatments: Over-the-counter and prescription-strength creams or gels containing silicone, vitamin E, onion extract, etc. can help reduce the appearance of scars. The most commonly used topical treatments include:

    • Silicone gel has been a standard scar treatment since around 1980. It's considered the first-choice therapy and has been effective in preventing and treating abnormal scars. Studies show that using silicone gel sheets can prevent scars in high-risk patients and improve scar thickness and color in those already affected.

    • Imiquimod is a prescription-strength skin cream that helps the immune system and is used for various skin issues. There's lots of research backing its use in managing scars.

    • Mitomycin C, another prescription-strength topical formulation, is an anti-cancer antibiotic that stops cell growth. It's used after removing keloid scars to prevent them from coming back. Studies have shown it reduces keloid and hypertrophic scars and improves their response after surgery.

    • Plant extracts like onion, turmeric and centella have been used in healing wounds. Onion extract, for instance, contains phenolic compounds that fight inflammation and antioxidants. Research suggests it can reduce scar tissue and help in wound healing.

    • Green tea has compounds that fight inflammation and act as antioxidants. Studies on its extract show potential benefits in reducing scar tissue in keloid fibroblasts and blocking pathways involved in scar formation.

    • Aloe vera has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Limited research suggests its potential in wound healing, although more evidence is needed for its effectiveness in scar reduction.

  • Vitamins E and vitamin D are used in skincare products for their antioxidant properties. However, evidence supporting their effectiveness in wound healing and scar reduction is mixed.

  • There's also a product called moist exposure burn ointment (MEBO®) usually used for burns. Studies suggest it might improve scar quality and wound healing, but more research is needed for conclusive evidence.

  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatments can minimize scar appearance by targeting scar tissue and promoting collagen production for smoother skin. CO2 laser, Er:YAG laser and long pulsed Nd:YAG laser are the three most commonly used lasers for post burn scar management.

  • Steroid Injections: In hypertrophic or keloid scars, intralesional steroid injections can help flatten and soften the scar tissue.

  • Surgical Removal: Surgical procedures such as excision or skin grafting may be necessary for severe, deeply rooted scars.

Preventive Measures

  1. Avoid Smoking: Preventing further burns is crucial. If you smoke, be cautious with lit cigarettes.

  2. Early Treatment: Immediate care for burns can minimize scarring. Rinse the burn with cool water and apply an antibiotic ointment.

  3. Sun Protection: Protect the scar from sun exposure to prevent hyperpigmentation or darkening of the affected area.

Conclusion


Cigarette burn scars can have both physical and emotional impacts. While prevention is ideal, timely and appropriate treatment can significantly improve the appearance of scars. Consulting with a dermatologist to determine the best course of action is crucial.


And, if you can, quit smoking. I think you already know how harmful it is to health. There, I said it!

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