After having an injury or surgery, you may be wondering how long it will take for your scar to heal completely. Well, a scar can heal within 12 to 18 weeks in most cases. However, how long your specific scar will take to heal depends on various factors, including size, depth, type of scar, and proper wound care. While scars aren't visually appealing, they're a natural part of the healing process and require patience.
In this guide, we'll go over the scar recovery process and provide tips to ensure a healthy scar recovery so you can enjoy blemish-free skin. Continue reading from start to finish for a comprehensive look at scar healing or use the links below.
What Is A Scar?
The first step in learning how long a scar takes to heal is knowing what scars are. Scars are your body's natural way of repairing broken, lost, cut, or damaged skin caused by accidents, infections, burns, surgery, acne, and tissue inflammation.
Scars can form in several shapes and sizes, depending on the severity of the wound, and anywhere around your body. This can cause the scars to vary in pain as well. Typically, the skin will repair itself in three phases:
- Inflammatory phase
- Proliferative phase
- Remodeling phase
During these stages, which we'll discuss more in-depth later on, the skin will grow new tissue and fill the wound to close it, leading to the formation of a scar. The new tissue is made up of fibrous tissue known as collagen. It can take 12 to 18 weeks for this process to complete. As your scar heals, its appearance will change over time and eventually fade partially, and in some cases, completely.
Types Of Scars
Understanding scars and knowing what causes the common scars mentioned above can help you find the appropriate treatment in order to accelerate the recovery process. There are many types of scars that can arise due to injuries and surgery that you should watch out for, including:
- Contracture — These scars primarily develop after a burn, causing the skin to tighten. This effect can impact muscles, joints, and tendons, thus limiting movement. A skin graft can help the skin restore to its normal appearance.
- Depressed (atrophic) — Atrophic scars appear as small indentations on the skin when your body can't regenerate the tissue. If you're prone to acne or have had chickenpox, you've most likely seen what an atrophic scar looks like. Chemical peels, fillers, skin needling, and over-the-counter ointments are common treatment options.
- Flat — Flat scars will typically start off looking raised with a pink or red hue. They'll typically flatten over time and go away on their own but can leave a scar that's lighter or darker than your skin tone. To minimize their appearance, surgery, silicone injections, and silicone sheets can be used.
- Keloids — Thick, raised, and irregular scars that expand beyond the wound or healing incision occur whenever the skin is broken. These can form anywhere on the body and be dark in color. Steroid injections, cryotherapy, pressure therapy, radiation, and surgery can effectively make the scars less noticeable.
- Raised (hypertrophic) — While hypertrophic scars are similar to keloids, the main difference is that raised scars don't expand past the incision site. Treatments include surgery, laser therapy, direct application, steroids, and injections.
- Stretch marks — Stretch marks often happen when the skin expands or shrinks too quickly, such as during pregnancy, weight gain, or puberty. These scars will fade over time, but you can speed up the process with chemical peels, laser therapy, over-the-counter ointments, and prescription medicine.