Can Cigarette Burns Leave Scars?
Cigarette burns are caused by coming in contact with the lighted end of a cigarette. Most of the time, the lit end of the cigarette comes in contact with the skin accidentally, but in some cases, it can be used as a form of abuse as well as many abusers are known to burn their victims with cigarette stubs. Most of the time, cigarette burns happen when you accidentally brush up against a lighted cigarette in crowded areas. Children may end up burning themselves if the lighted cigarette is left unattended ad they pick it up. The same holds true for getting cigar burns as well.(1, 2, 3, 4)
Cigarette burns can leave a scar, but it depends on how deep the burn is. Usually, burns from cigarettes are mostly first-degree burns that only affect the first and topmost layer of the skin. This means that the burn heals completely and does not leave a permanent scar. However, if the wounds are deeper and go beyond the top layer of your skin, they might leave a permanent scar. Of course, the best way to manage cigarette burns and ensure they don’t leave scars is by preventing them, to begin with. If you do end up getting burnt by a cigarette, it is important that you treat the wound properly to reduce the chances of developing a scar. And if you do end up developing a scar from a cigarette burn, you can try to fade it with the use of some home remedies.
You should also keep in mind that the best way to ensure you don’t get a cigarette burn is to quit smoking. It can be an incredibly difficult process, but smoking cigarettes is associated with many health risks, and it can also adversely affect many aspects of your health, including:(5, 6)
- Slow down wound healing
- Increase the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increase the risk of lung cancer and other types of cancer
- Weakening of the immune system
Most people notice a significant improvement in their overall health after quitting smoking. A doctor can help you design a plan to help you quit smoking in the safest way possible.(7)
Ways to Prevent a Cigarette Burn
To prevent others or yourself from getting cigarette burns, you can take the following steps:
- Avoid or minimize smoking.
- Avoid smoking in crowded places or maintain your distance from other people while holding a cigarette.
- Avoid smoking while driving.
- Avoid smoking when you are drowsy, in bed, or in a place where you can fall asleep, letting the cigarette fall and burn you.
- Keep cigarettes away from the reach of children.
Treating a Cigarette Burn to Minimize or Prevent Scarring
The best way to reduce the chances of developing a scar is to attend to your wound at the earliest possible. The proper treatment for a cigarette burn depends on the extent or depth of your wound.
In Cases Of First Degree Burns:(8)
First degree cigarette burns are painful to touch and red. You may notice mild swelling on your skin, and these burns usually tend to heal without leaving any scars behind in a few days. If you have a first degree cigarette burn, the ideal treatment would include the following:
- Apply a cold, wet compress to your injury or soak the sight in clean, cool water until the pain goes down.
- Keep the wound covered with a sterile, non-adhesive bandage or a clean cloth.
- Avoid using any ointments without consulting your doctor.
- If you are in pain, consider taking some over-the-counter painkillers.
If you don’t know whether you have got a second degree cigarette burn, here are some ways to identify it:
- The burn may leak fluid
- The burn may blister over
- It may have a glossy appearance
A second degree cigarette burn may take two to three weeks to heal completely, but after that, it may form a scar.(3)
Treatment for second degree burns is as follows:
- Apply a cold compress to the wound for 10 to 15 minutes or soak the wound in clean, cold water for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Dry the wound with a clean cloth and cover it with sterile gauze.
- Avoid scratching or breaking the blisters.
- Avoid using ointment on it.
Seek medical attention at the earliest if you notice any signs of infection.
If you have second degree burns, even ones that are caused by cigarettes, it is a good idea to have them checked out by a doctor.
In cases of third degree burns, many people assume that cigarettes cannot cause third degree burns. However, the reality is that smokers may cause third degree burns, usually accidentally, on themselves when they are drowsy or in a state of reduced consciousness if they are intoxicated.(3)
Third degree burns tend to penetrate the skin completely, causing permanent damage and scarring. Healing from third degree burns takes over six weeks, and these burns need immediate medical assistance. In case of third degree burns, it is essential that you do the following before heading off to the closest emergency room:(11)
- Cover the wound with a fresh cloth or sterile gauze. It should be something that won’t leave lint on the wound.
- Avoid using ointments on the wound.
How to Treat Scars from Cigarette Burns?
According to recommendations by the American Academy of Dermatology Association, you can apply sunscreen immediately after the wound heals to prevent browning or redness from developing in the area and also help the scar disappear faster.(12) It is best to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or above.
There are many home remedies that you can use to help fade the scars, though there is limited evidence to show how well these work. Some of these home remedies include:(13)
- Vitamin E
- Baking soda
- Aloe vera
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut oil
- Rosehip and Frankincense
- Lavender and olive oil
Minor cigarette burns usually never need any medical attention if you take care of them properly. However, if you have a second degree or third degree burn, you should immediately seek medical attention. You should also go to a doctor in you notice the following:(14)
- The burn is on your feet, groin area, or face.
- The burn is on a joint.
- Areas of whiteness develop in the burn.
- The pain is not bearable even after taking over-the-counter pain medications.
- There are visible signs of infection, such as yellowish or white stuff oozing from the wound site.
Some cigarette burn scars can be permanent, though they usually tend to fade away with time. The scar may take up to two years to fade away, though if it goes beyond this time period, it is unlikely that it is going to fade. In scars that fade, you will notice them fading within the first six months of the burn itself.
It is possible to get a cigarette burn if you are not careful. Scars from cigarette burns can leave a scar, especially if the burn is deep. Treating the burn site immediately after the injury can help reduce the chances of developing an infection as well as scarring. However, in some cases, it is essential to keep in mind that cigarette burns can be a common sign of abuse in both children and adults, regardless of gender. In intentional cigarette burns, the circular wound will have a very clear and defined shape of the cigarette head. This will also coincide with other signs of abuse. Make sure to report any potential cases of abuse to your nearest police station or call the associated abuse hotline in your area.
- Kemp, A.M., Maguire, S.A., Lumb, R.C., Harris, S.M. and Mann, M.K., 2014. Contact, cigarette and flame burns in physical abuse: a systematic review. Child abuse review, 23(1), pp.35-47.
- Ramirez, J.I., Ridgway, C.A., Lee, J.G., Potenza, B.M., Sen, S., Palmieri, T.L., Greenhalgh, D.G. and Maguina, P., 2017. The unrecognized epidemic of electronic cigarette burns. Journal of Burn Care & Research, 38(4), pp.220-224.
- Faller-Marquardt, M., Pollak, S. and Schmidt, U., 2008. Cigarette burns in forensic medicine. Forensic Science International, 176(2-3), pp.200-208.
- Hobbs, C.J., 1989. ABC of child abuse. Burns and scalds. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 298(6683), p.1302.
- Ambrose, B.K., Rostron, B.L., Johnson, S.E., Portnoy, D.B., Apelberg, B.J., Kaufman, A.R. and Choiniere, C.J., 2014. Perceptions of the relative harm of cigarettes and e-cigarettes among US youth. American journal of preventive medicine, 47(2), pp.S53-S60.
- Shimokata, H., Muller, D.C. and Andres, R., 1989. Studies in the distribution of body fat: III. Effects of cigarette smoking. Jama, 261(8), pp.1169-1173.
- Fiore, M.C., Novotny, T.E., Pierce, J.P., Giovino, G.A., Hatziandreu, E.J., Newcomb, P.A., Surawicz, T.S. and Davis, R.M., 1990. Methods used to quit smoking in the United States: Do cessation programs help?. Jama, 263(20), pp.2760-2765.
- Pencle, F.J., Mowery, M.L. and Zulfiqar, H., 2017. First degree burn.
- Ono, S., Imai, R., Ida, Y., Shibata, D., Komiya, T. and Matsumura, H., 2015. Increased wound pH as an indicator of local wound infection in second degree burns. Burns, 41(4), pp.820-824.
- Dingwall 3rd, J.A., 1943. A clinical test for differentiating second from third degree burns. Annals of surgery, 118(3), p.427.
- Second and third degree cigarette burns, healing over an 8 week period … (no date). Available at: https://researchgate.net/figure/Second-and-third-degree-cigarette-burns-healing-over-an-8-week-period_fig3_324210240 (Accessed: October 8, 2022).
- Proper wound care: How to minimize a scar (no date) American Academy of Dermatology. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/burns/wound-care-minimize-scars (Accessed: October 8, 2022).
- Stirling, L., 9 Home Remedies to Lighten Your Skin.
- (no date) NHS choices. NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/scars/ (Accessed: October 8, 2022).