Herpes is a type of infection that’s caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Two types of HSV exist: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both types of HSV can cause sores or ulcers around the mouth or genitals, depending on the virus.
Not everyone with HSV develops sores. For those who do, the sores may turn into blisters or scabs and eventually lead to scarring. But in most cases, the sores disappear without leaving a lasting scar.
Read on to learn how herpes scars can happen and what you can do to treat them.
How scarring happens
Herpes sores typically only leave scars if they break open. Rubbing against clothing, scratching, or aggressively washing herpes sores can cause sores to burst and develop scabs.
In addition, some herpes sores may break open on their own, leaving behind blisters or scabs.
Usually, these blisters and scabs heal within a week or two without leaving a scar. However, if you pick at or scratch the affected area often during the healing process, you may have some scarring.
Some people also experience changes to the skin surrounding past herpes sores. These changes may include:
- reddening or changes in skin color around the sore
- unusual lines
- skin that feels thicker or thinner than it previously did
How to prevent herpes scars
Most herpes sores don’t cause any scarring.
Still, it’s good to practice these tips to reduce your risk and ensure your skin heals without any problems:
- Keep your skin clean. Gently wash your face, genitals, or anal area with a mild soap and warm water. Do this at least twice per day, but be careful to not scrub any sores.
- Moisturize. Dry skin is more prone to scarring. But cosmetic lotions, especially those with fragrances or dyes, may irritate the sensitive skin around the sores. Stick with a petroleum jelly-based moisturizer, like Aquaphor, while the area heals.
- Cover the area. If the blister or cluster of sores is in an area that’s easily irritated, such as your underwear line, apply a large bandage. This will prevent friction, reducing the chances that the sore will break open.
- Don’t pick. If the open sores develop a scab, resist the urge to scratch or pick at it. If the sores are especially itchy, considering using an anti- itch cortisone cream.
- Use OTC medicine. Some over-the-counter cold sore remedies may speed up healing, which can reduce your risk of scarring. You can purchase a range of cold sore treatments online.
How to treat herpes scars
If you do end up with scarring from herpes sores, you may be able to reduce their appearance with home treatments. Keep in mind that many scars fade gradually on their own, even without treatment.
Be aware that evidence for the effectiveness of these treatments is mostly anecdotal. There’s little clinical evidence to support these claims.
Home treatments for herpes scars include:
- Vitamin E. You can purchase vitamin E in gel caps in the vitamin section of your drug store or online. Pierce the capsule with a needle and squeeze out the liquid. Rub the liquid on the scar, massaging gently for three to five minutes. Repeat this daily as long as you see results.
- Coconut oil. Some claim that coconut oil can help to reduce scarring over time, though research is mixed. To use coconut oil on your herpes scar, heat the oil in the microwave, making sure it’s not too hot. Gently massage the oil into the scar and the area directly around it. Repeat one to two times per day until you’re satisfied with the change.
- Aloe vera. This cooling product may be commonly associated with burns, but it may also help ease scarring. Apply the gel directly to the scars. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then rinse with warm water and soap.
These home remedies for scarring usually won’t get rid of a scar completely.
If the herpes scar is very noticeable and causes discomfort, you can talk with a dermatologist about scar-reducing procedures, such as dermabrasion or laser therapy, to reduce the signs of scarring.
The bottom line
Herpes is a fairly common issue. Some people will develop sores, and some will not. Those who develop sores can have scarring, but it’s rare.
If you have scarring from herpes, speak with a doctor or dermatologist about your treatment options, including home remedies.
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