What Causes Scars to Fade?

While no one wants lasting scars after an injury or surgery, the goods news it that most do tend to fade at least a little bit over time. In fact, most scars do fade and don’t result in long-term health problems, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Most scars don’t need professional treatment, but often benefit from at-home remedies such as silicone gel application. The way in which your scar changes will depend on its location, type and size. Some scars fade so much over the months or years that you can hardly see them anymore even though they never completely go away.

The other factor in what causes scars to fade is how severe the injury was. Some injuries are so deep, such as from an auto accident, or so chronic, such as from acne, that they don’t really fade too much. And lastly, the type of scar that forms after injury will determine the rate of fading as well.

Let’s take a look at a couple of the most common scars and how they fade.

Surgical Scars

This type of scar usually takes about two years to fade, but everyone heals at varying rates. Healing times will be impacted by how well you treat your scar. Your scar will go through four stages:

  • Hemostasis
  • Inflammation
  • Proliferation
  • Maturation (remodeling)

To recover the most quickly, you will have to keep the wound hydrated and protected so no bacteria gets in. The healing process will be interrupted if the wound is infected. 

Scar formation is the last stage, lasting up to a year or longer. Still in repair mode, your skin is working to cover the wound with more and more collagen which is not, unfortunately, a perfect process. Because scar tissue has an 80 percent tensile strength compared with normal tissue, and doesn’t feature pores, follicles or sweat glands, collagen production can get out of control with too much buildup. This results in raised and discolored scars known as keloids and hypertrophic scars.

Surgical scars run deeper than your typical cuts and scrapes. A standard surgical scar will fade within two to three years on its own, but if there was a lot of trauma to the area, this time may be extended.

Burn Scars

When you have been burned, a scar often develops. However, they form in a different way from a simple cut. Burns tend to form areas of thick and discolored skin, often looking smooth and shiny. While they may begin as red in color, they may eventually turn pink or white.

Burns can result from touching something too hot, from coming into contact with chemicals, or from too much time in the sun. There are three degrees of burns:

  • First-degree burns: Characterized by redness and pain, these damage the outer layer of the skin. Usually within a week, they are healed without scarring.
  • Second-degree burns: Characterized by blisters, redness and pain, these affect both the epidermis and dermis. Expect to heal within a few weeks with minimal scarring.  
  • Third-degree burns: These are the worst, damaging the top two skin layers, not to mention nerve endings, tendons, and bones. The area may look black or red initially, then fading to white later.

Fast treatment is the best way to reduce scar appearance. Because many scars fade over time, you can help the process along by applying silicone gel such as Scarfade and other home remedies.