What are Ice Pick Scars? (with pictures)

John Lister
John Lister

Ice pick scars are a type of scarring caused by acne, most commonly on the cheeks. They get their name from its size and shape. The best treatment varies depending on the hardness of the scar itself.

Ice pick scars are caused by acne.
Ice pick scars are caused by acne.

The first type of acne scar, known as hypertophic or keloid, is where too much collagen is produced, stretching the skin. The second category is where there has been a loss of tissue, similar to the damage caused by chicken pox. Ice pick scars fall into this second category.

These scars are usually formed as a result of acne leading to a papule. This is a type of skin lesion which is particularly narrow on the surface. However, the resulting scar will usually run deep into the skin. Because of this shape, and the way the scar usually has a jagged edge, it can be best envisioned by imagining the damage left by being stabbed with an ice pick. It is one of the most visibly striking types of acne scar.

Over the counter ointments typically do little to prevent ice pick scarring.
Over the counter ointments typically do little to prevent ice pick scarring.

Because ice pick scars are so deep, they usually extend to the dermis or subcutaneous skin layers: the second and third layers from the surface respectively. This means the scars cannot be treated by some of the more common acne scar methods such as dermabrasion which aim to smooth out the top layer of skin. The scars are also usually too deep for punch grafts, in which skin from elsewhere in the body is implanted into the gaps created by the scar.

In some cases, the effects of ice pick scars can be lessened without having to remove the scar tissue. This can be done by stretching out the skin, which smoothes out the visible damage. However, this only works with softer scars.

Ice pick scars can be caused by chicken pox.
Ice pick scars can be caused by chicken pox.

One method of treating ice pick scars is laser treatment. This can involve using a laser to wound the affected area, which encourages the body to regenerate the skin, which softens and reshaped the scarred area. In other cases, the laser is actually used to remove the scarring completely.

Another method is punch excision treatment. This involves using a tool to remove a section of skin in the affected area under local anesthetic. The surrounding skin is them stretched across and stitched into place until it heals over. This method is not always as smooth or efficient as laser treatment, but is considerably cheaper.

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Discussion Comments

stolaf23

@FernValley, I agree with you to some extent. I feel that people find facial scars far more embarrassing than they used to; considering that so many people suffer from acne to some extent during puberty, and even some people during adulthood, it seems that minor facial scars would be more accepted as more commonplace. Sometimes I wonder if the widespread use and advertising of acne medication in recent years, though intended to help teenagers especially with acne, has just made us all that much more obsessed with our imperfections.

FernValley

It's become common for people to go to great lengths, it seems, to remove face scars. While I can understand why, it seems so painful and expensive to have scars removed. I wonder how many of these scars could be prevented.

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    • Ice pick scars are caused by acne.
      Ice pick scars are caused by acne.
    • Over the counter ointments typically do little to prevent ice pick scarring.
      Over the counter ointments typically do little to prevent ice pick scarring.
    • Ice pick scars can be caused by chicken pox.
      Ice pick scars can be caused by chicken pox.
    • Laser treatment may be helpful in treating ice pick scars.
      Laser treatment may be helpful in treating ice pick scars.
    • Laser treatment can be used to treat ice pick scars.
      Laser treatment can be used to treat ice pick scars.
    • Dermabrasion is often used to help fade the appearance of scars on the face, although some ice pick scars may be too deep for this treatment.
      Dermabrasion is often used to help fade the appearance of scars on the face, although some ice pick scars may be too deep for this treatment.
    • Acne is typically considered a normal part of puberty.
      Acne is typically considered a normal part of puberty.