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Boils aren't just a pest while you have them, they may also leave you with a permanent "memento" in the form of a scar. What can you do to prevent boil scars, and what can you do to remove or reduce older scars left over from boils?

Boils, skin infections typically caused by Staphylococcus aureus, are a pain — literally and figuratively — while you're dealing with them. Their "big sibling", the carbuncle, encompasses multiple hair follicles and multiple angry pus heads, often making carbuncle treatment more complicated. [1]

Nonetheless, unless you're among the approximately 10 percent of boil patients who get hit by recurrent boils [2], you'd think that you can completely forget about that nasty boil once it's gone. Unfortunately, some people develop scarring, and in some cases extensive scarring, from boils and carbuncles. The lifespan of these boil scars extends far beyond that of the boils themselves, and the scars left over from boils can really mess with your self-confidence — especially if they're located in more visible places, such as the face, neck, or shoulder. 

What can you do to prevent scars from boils while your boil is still active and in the immediate aftermath? If you're still left with scars from boils long after you were last plagued by boils, what are your scar removal options?

Prevention Is Better Than Cure: How To Avoid Boil Scars

Are you dealing with an active boil? Proper boil care is an integral part of wound healing and plays a role in scar prevention as well.

Use warm, moist compresses made with clean washcloths on your boil for around 20 minutes twice a day. Keep the area of your boil clean by using an antiseptic soap on it and avoiding touching it the rest of the time. Once your boil begins to drain, whether spontaneously or after your doctor carries out an incision and drainage procedure, keep the wound clean by using a sterile dressing on the area. If you are dealing with recurrent or serious boils, ask your doctor about antibiotics for boilsAbove all, do not pop, squeeze, pierce, or otherwise attempt to open your boil yourself! This increases your risk of infection alongside your risk of scar formation. [2]

While all those steps simply constitute normal boil care, specific scar prevention measures can be separated into two categories:

  • Internal treatments
  • Topical treatments

Scar creams such as Mederma improve collagen production on your healing skin, and may reduce scar formation [3]. If you're interested in trying a scar cream, just make sure that you wait until your skin has healed enough that you no longer have an open wound. Using Mederma on an open wound may delay healing and place you at risk of infection. 

Corticosteroid injections are frequently used to minimize the appearance of existing scars. Do they also work for the prevention of scars? An analysis of the available scientific data on the topic concluded that corticosteroid injections do help prevent the recurrence of scars after a surgical excision of an existing scar, but there is no evidence that they make much of a difference in other settings. [4]

A more promising option for those who don't want a permanent reminder of their boils or carbuncles is the use of silicone sheets or gels, which can be used as soon as your boil is no longer an open wound and your skin begins to heal. These silicone products should be used at least 12 hours a day for a minimum of three months in order to have the effect of minimizing or even preventing scarring. [5]

If you're prone to keloid scars, you may even ask your doctor about 5-fluorouracil or bleomycin, both of which are chemotherapy drugs [6, 7]. 

Finally, using a vitamin E cream on your skin may help prevent scar formation after your boil has started to heal, and is no longer an open wound [8]. 

While treating the site of your boil externally may be most intuitive, don't underestimate the power of system-wide healing, either.

Research shows that adequate vitamin C intake promotes proper wound healing, while a vitamin C deficiency can have the opposite results [9]. Therefore, eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, grapefruits, guava, broccoli, and red peppers, or take a vitamin C supplement. Zinc likewise plays an essential role in collagen production and wound healing [10], so kidney beans, shrimp, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and oysters can also come to your rescue if you're hoping to prevent a scar. 

It's A Bit Too Late For That: I've Already Got Boil Scars!

Did you suffer from boils a while — or even years — back, and are you now left with an unsightly scar, or even several? You still have options. 
  • Laser scar removal or reduction is becoming increasingly popular. Laser resurfacing will remove the top layers of your skin and reduce the appearance of your scars, including by giving them a flatter appearance. 
  • Dermabrasion, a procedure in which the outermost layers of your skin are removed, can also be used to make your scars much less visible. 
  • Chemical peels can be used successfully to remove or reduce the appearance of more superficial scars. 
  • Corticosteroid injections are also used to make your scars less visible. 
  • Dermal fillers, such as hyaluronic acid fillers, are used to minimize wrinkles. They can also help you out with pitted scars left over from boils or carbuncles. 
  • Scar creams, including retinoid or silicone creams, are a good option for superficial boil scars. 
  • In more extreme cases, the surgical excision of your boil scars will be the most viable scar reduction option. [11]

The Bottom Line

Boils and carbuncles are a pest that may leave you with a permanent reminder. Whether your skin is still healing or your boils would be a distant memory if it wasn't for the scars you are left with, options are available to prevent, remove, or reduce scarring. You can use topical creams and vitamins to prevent scars that aren't too bad, while anyone left with more severe scarring from boils or carbuncles should visit a dermatologist if they're hoping to kiss their scars goodbye. 

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