Does Monkeypox Leave Scars?

Key Takeaways:

  • Monkeypox lesions can potentially result in scarring and skin discoloration, though not all lesions will scar.
  • Scarring severity varies – some develop minor textural changes while others have more noticeable atrophic scars.
  • Picking monkeypox lesions increases chances of scarring; avoiding this can minimize scarring.
  • Sun protection after healing is important to prevent darkening of scars, especially for those with darker skin.
  • Most monkeypox scars, including keloids, can be successfully treated.


Monkeypox is a viral illness that is characterized by a distinct rash with raised lesions on the skin. As cases of monkeypox have risen globally in 2022, concerns have emerged regarding the potential for the lesions to leave behind scars and skin discoloration. While monkeypox is typically milder than smallpox, it can still result in scarring much like chickenpox. This article will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the likelihood, severity, appearance, prevention, and treatment of scars that may develop from monkeypox lesions.

Understanding the potential for scarring and how to minimize it can help those diagnosed with monkeypox reduce long-term visible effects on the skin. The content will analyze the different factors that influence scarring risk and outline best practices for scar prevention and treatment. In providing this detailed look at monkeypox scarring, the value for readers is the ability to make informed choices regarding their own monkeypox recovery and scar management.

By the end of this article, readers will have a thorough understanding of if and how monkeypox can lead to scarring and skin changes. The in-depth information will cover scar development, severity, appearance, prevention, treatment, and considerations for different skin tones. This comprehensive guide aims to address key questions and concerns around monkeypox scars in order to help readers protect their skin integrity and minimize lasting visible effects.

Can Monkeypox Result in Scarring and Skin Discoloration?

Yes, monkeypox lesions can potentially lead to some degree of scarring and/or skin discoloration after healing. However, experts emphasize that not all monkeypox lesions will necessarily scar.

According to a 2022 study published in Nature Reviews Disease Primers, approximately 95% of monkeypox patients develop skin lesions and crusts. While most lesions fully resolve without leaving a trace, a portion of lesions do scar to varying extents.

A multicenter observational study on complications of monkeypox infections found that out of 528 cases, 26 patients (5%) developed scarring due to monkeypox. This indicates that visible scarring is an uncommon but potential complication.

Overall, the research suggests that monkeypox scarring and skin changes may not occur for all patients, but remain a possibility following infection. Severity and longevity depend on multiple factors.

What Factors Influence the Severity of Scarring from Monkeypox?

The severity and appearance of scars left by monkeypox can vary significantly based on several factors:

  • Depth of Skin Lesions: Monkeypox lesions that extend deeper into the dermis layer of skin are more prone to scarring compared to superficial lesions.
  • Location: Lesions on thicker skin areas like palms and soles are less likely to scar compared to lesions on the face, neck and body.
  • Secondary Infection: Scratching or opening lesions increases chances of bacterial infection, which amplifies inflammation and scar potential.
  • Individual Healing: The skin’s innate ability to regenerate and heal varies person-to-person, impacting scar formation.
  • Age: Younger individuals tend to scar less than older individuals as skin recovery capabilities decline with age.
  • Skin Pigmentation: Those with darker skin tones may be more susceptible to skin discoloration and darkened scars.

Thoroughly understanding how these factors intersect can help gauge individualized risks and guide preventative measures.

What Does Scarring from Monkeypox Look Like?

Monkeypox typically follows a similar scar morphology pattern as seen with smallpox or chickenpox infection. Some examples of monkeypox scarring include:

  • Minor textural changes: Subtle irregularities in skin texture without depression or raised contours.
  • Hyperpigmentation: Darkening of the skin that fades over months to years. Potentially long-term in those with darker skin.
  • Hypopigmentation: Lightening of the skin color that may persist.
  • Atrophic scars: Depressed scars with sunken appearance, similar to severe acne scarring. Can be shallow or deep.
  • Keloids: Firm, raised scar tissue that grows excessively beyond the original lesion. More common in dark skin tones.

The range demonstrates that scarring can be barely noticeable or prominent depending on depth, size and number of lesions. With appropriate care, many lesions resolve without permanent textural changes.

How Can You Minimize Scarring from Monkeypox Lesions?

Avoid picking and scratching lesions

As tempting as it may be, picking and scratching monkeypox lesions can significantly increase chances of scarring. Picking the lesion open allows fluid leakage which risks secondary infections and increased inflammation.

Allowing lesions to crust over and naturally slough off minimizes the potential depth of any scarring. Covering lesions with gauze or bandages can prevent inadvertent scratching.

Gently cleanse lesions

Use mild, fragrance-free cleansers and lukewarm water to gently cleanse lesions and crusts to avoid scrubbing off scabs prematurely. Pat dry carefully without harsh friction over lesions.

Apply antibiotic ointment

Applying antibiotic ointment as lesions crust over provides a protective barrier while accelerating healing. Consult a dermatologist for recommended ointments if needed.

Use sun protection

Diligent sun protection is crucial after monkeypox lesions heal to prevent darkening or discoloration of scars, especially in those with darker skin tones. Broad spectrum SPF 30 (or higher) sunscreen should be applied daily.

Moisturize often

Keep scars hydrated with fragrance-free moisturizers containing skin-replenishing ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, shea butter and dimethicone. Moisturized scars tend to fade better over time.

Seek early scar treatment

Consulting a dermatologist at the first sign of problematic scarring can help initiate optimal treatments before scars set in and become harder to improve.

What Medical Treatments Are Available for Monkeypox Scars?

Most monkeypox scars, including keloids, can be successfully treated to improve their appearance. Some medical options include:

Topical silicone: Silicone gels and sheets help hydrate and flatten raised scars while softening textural irregularities.

Steroid injections: Directly injected into scars, steroids like triamcinolone or Kenalog reduce inflammation and flatten scars.

Laser skin resurfacing: Ablative or non-ablative lasers smooth scars by stimulating new collagen production in the skin.

Dermabrasion: Controlled surgical scraping to remove outer scarred skin layers. New skin regenerates smoother.

Surgical excision: Keloids may be surgically excised then followed up with other treatments like steroid injections or silicone sheeting.

Cryotherapy: Freezing scars with liquid nitrogen causes localized skin cell death, triggering renewed healing.

With professional guidance, those suffering from monkeypox scarring can explore suitable medical treatments for significantly improving scar appearance and texture.


In summary, while not all monkeypox lesions will leave permanent scars, scarring and skin discoloration remain possible even after the rash resolves. Those with deeper lesions, secondary infections, and darker skin tones may be most prone to visible scar formation. However, picking and scratching lesions can exacerbate scarring for any patient.

Being proactive with sun protection, gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and seeking early scar treatment when needed can help minimize lasting marks. And most types of scarring arising from monkeypox can be ameliorated with topical silicone products, steroid injections, laser resurfacing, cryotherapy, dermabrasion, or surgical excision.

Understanding the factors involved gives patients the power to reduce risks and make informed choices for optimal monkeypox scar healing and management. With proper care, most patients fully recover without permanent textural or pigmentation changes to the skin.


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