Mosquito bite scars are a great case-in-point that even the most minor skin injuries can leave scars. When a mosquito bites you, it penetrates the skin’s surface using its needle-like proboscis. On a hunt for blood, the proboscis tip needs to penetrate the skin’s dermis because that’s where blood vessels are located. Any penetrating injury that reaches the skin’s dermis can lead to scarring, especially in predisposed individuals.
What Causes Mosquito Bite Scars?
Any time the skin’s dermis is damaged, even by something as minimal as a mosquito bite, a complex cascade of biological events is triggered. A hallmark of the skin’s healing process is the deposition of collagen at the site of the wound. Collagen acts to “mend” the damaged areas of skin. Because a mosquito bite is such a pinpoint, and minor injury, the amount of collagen deposited to heal the injury is usually so minimal that it’s undetectable. But even a mosquito bite can cause visible scarring for several reasons:
Some People Are Just Predisposed To Scarring
Some people are predisposed to scar even after the most minor injuries. These individuals can form extreme scars after negligible wounds such as those caused by acne pimples, piercings, tattoos, and even mosquito bites. People that make keloids tend to have darker skin tones, be of certain ethnicities and often have a family history of these major scars. Many people who make keloids even develop these scars from totally unrecognized injuries.
Risk factors for developing keloid scars include:
- darker skin tones
- ethnicity: African Americans, Africans, Asians, Hispanics
- family history of keloids
- have scarred with keloids already
- age: younger keloid more than older people
- body area: high risk are chest, shoulders, back, and cheeks
Mosquito Bite Marks And Scars From Scratching
While scratching mosquito bites seems harmless on its face, excessive scratching could increase your likelihood of scarring. Persistent scratching can denude the skin’s upper layer (epidermis) and expose the dermis. This can lead to infection and even scarring, especially in predisposed individuals.
Mosquito Bite Marks And Scars From Allergy
Some people are allergic to mosquito bites. When a mosquito inserts its tiny, sharp proboscis into the skin, it both sucks out blood and “injects” the area with its saliva. Mosquito saliva contains over 100 proteins and other chemical agents including blood thinners. The blood thinners prevent blood from clotting so the mosquito can “drink” it more easily through its narrow proboscis. Some people are allergic to the proteins in a mosquito’s saliva. This can make the skin reaction far more severe, with dramatic swelling and itching being the consequence, both of which can predispose to scarring.
How To Get Rid Of Mosquito Bite Scars:
Avoid Bites Altogether
As with nearly all medical conditions, prevention is the best medicine. If you know you’re predisposed to easy scarring, are allergic to mosquito bites, or can’t help but scratch your bites, the best bet is to avoid mosquito bites altogether.
|Prevention Strategy||How And Why It Works|
|Wear lighter-colored clothing||Darker colors may attract bugs|
|Get rid of standing water (like in flower pots)||Mosquitos breed in stagnant water|
|Keep mosquitos out of your house using window screens||Fewer mosquitos to bite you!|
|Use mosquito repellants||Products containing DEET, picaridin, PMD, or IR353 are considered safe and effective. Natural repellants generally contain oil of lemon eucalyptus (Repel, Bug Shield and Cutter)|
|Watch out at sunrise and sunset times||“Prime-time” for mosquitos to be on the prowl|
If you didn’t manage to avoid mosquito bites using the strategies listed above, your next best bet is to minimize itchiness and avoid scratching. Here are some strategies to do just that:
|Strategy||How And Why It Works|
|hot or cold compresses||heat increases circulation so it draws mosquito venom out of the area; cold decreases inflammation|
|baking soda||make a paste with about a tablespoon of baking soda and water; apply for 10 minutes. After-Bite, a popular mosquito bite itch reliever has baking soda as its main ingredient|
|oat meal||make either a paste and apply to the bite for 10 minutes or a bath using an oatmeal-based product such as Aveeno|
|honey||apply directly to the bite for 10 minutes|
|lemon or lime juice||rub slices on the bites|
|hydrocortisone||strong anti-inflammatory; 1% in a gel or ointment product|
|menthol||products like Vicks Vapo-Rub reduce inflammation, itch and shrink the bite|
|pramoxine||itch-reducer; Eucerin Itch Relief is a popular brand|
|oral antihistamines||like Benadryl, block the body’s reaction to mosquito venom that cause itching and swelling|
When To See A Doctor:
If you feel like your mosquito bite is getting worse, you may need medical attention. Severe and increasing swelling and itching may mean you are experiencing a serious allergic reaction that needs medical attention. Symptoms that seem to be spreading to other areas such as generalized rashing, itching and especially any feeling that breathing is becoming labored are medical emergencies.
If your bite is becoming hot and increasingly painful or draining pus, you likely have an infection that requires medical attention.
Mosquito Bite Marks Vs. Mosquito Bite Scars
It’s easy to mistake hyperpigmentation for scars, whether from mosquito bites or other causes like acne or injuries. Hyperpigmentation refers to blemishes that are darker than the surrounding skin and is a result of increased melanin (skin pigment) production following anything that causes inflammation in the skin.
This post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is different than scars because it doesn’t involve collagen production so the area remains flat and of normal texture. Only the skin color is off with PIH. The problem is more common in people with darker skin tones. Using good quality sunscreens can help prevent PIH. If you feel you’ve developed significant PIH from mosquito bites that became inflamed, patience is often the best option. Most PIH will resolve on its own with time. For persistent PIH chemical peels and de-pigmenting lasers can be effective treatments.
Mosquito Bite Scars Treatment:
Because of the minor nature of a mosquito bite, anyone who forms true scarring from these pesky creatures is more than likely to be highly prone to exacerbated scarring. As outlined above, it’s important to distinguish between hyperpigmentation and genuine scarring. Mosquito bite scars will usually be of the hypertrophic scar or keloid type. These types of scars are similar but also quite different:
Hypertrophic scars are mildly raised and discolored scars. They can be itchy and are sometimes painful. Hypertrophic mosquito bite scars will generally fade and resolve on their own over months to a year so seeking treatment for them is usually unnecessary.
Keloids are the worst-case scenario when it comes to mosquito bite scars. These scars are characterized by extreme thickness and discoloration and will grow well outside of the area that the mosquito bite occurred. Keloids are often both very itchy and painful and do not resolve on their own. Treatment of keloids is outlined in detail in our article on the topic.
Mosquito bites are one of the few downsides of summertime, warm weather, and evenings by the water. Usually, mosquito bites are nothing more than a nuisance but in some cases, hyperpigmentation marks or even mosquito bite scars can result. Aggressive scratching, allergic reaction, and infection can cause a simple mosquito bite to scar. People who are prone to abnormal keloids can develop these very problematic mosquito bite scars even without scratching or other complicating factors.