We’ve all done it. We’ve all accidentally cut ourselves, perhaps slicing and dicing in the kitchen or maybe doing something more epic like rock climbing. Some of us have even had to undergo surgery. When we wind up with cuts, scrapes, and surgical incisions, they turn up red and bloody, but in time, they turn white.
How long does it take for scars to turn white though? The answer really depends on numerous factors which could make it turn white faster or take a longer process. It’s natural though to glance down at a recent injury or even for a surgical incision and wonder how long it will look like this. How long will it be before you have to stop what you’re doing at work and tell the story of your injury because everyone notices it?
There’s really no set in stone answer for how long it takes for your scar to heal though. Your age, health, lifestyle, the depth of your wound, where your injury is on your body, and other factors can all affect how long it will take. It may take as much as two years, or it could be much faster.
Basically, the process goes from sealing, something your body does on its own in 24 to 48 hours. Then, for the next six weeks, your wound begins to work on repairing and strengthening. By six weeks, the edges will be redder and your collagen formation is bringing more blood flow to the area.
After six months on up to two years, your skin’s final stage of collagen organization is taking place. This is when you’ll notice the reddish or purplish color of your scar fading off and turning white. If there are any raised portions of the scar they flatten and soften up, looking less noticeable.
You’ll find this happens with all kinds of scars. Whether you accidentally slipped with your hand on the cutting board while trying to carve up an avocado, had a c-section, or fell off a skateboard. The process your body goes through to make this happen is nothing short of fascinating as it undergoes this automatically while you live your life, sending cells to work hard for you.
Keep reading to learn about it as well as what you can do to make a scar heal faster and look less noticeable!
When do scars form?
Scars are all a part of your body’s natural healing process. It involves complex phases that overlap together. There’s hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and tissue remodeling.
In hemostasis, your body stops the flow of blood to this immediate area. That’s when a scab will form to over your wound. Inflammation then happens when the blood vessels dilate. The immune cells congregate together to repair your wound. It will look red and swollen.
In proliferation, the cells that are in the wound, known as fibroblasts, quickly create collagen, proteoglycans, and glycosaminoglycans to make a new ECM (extracellular matrix). After all of this, the wound goes into the final stages of when the scar tissue is formed.
It’s been shown that the scar stays in the phase for at least a year but usually can take several years to turn pale and for the skin to mature. You don’t have to wait for it all to happen though. You can do a few things to encourage better healing so it looks less noticeable.
Even if the scar was formed intentionally, like when you go in for plastic surgery, your surgeon is always looking for ways to minimize the appearance of scars. They will often make incisions in skin creases or in the hairline where it is less noticeable. Good scars are flat though raised or sunken scars tend to catch light and attract more visibility. Narrow scars are easier to conceal too while wider ones are much more noticeable.
There’s a lot you can do too, depending on the type of scar you have unless it’s flat and thin. There’s no improving that but a scar that is depressed can be raised while a raised scar can be flattened. A wide scar is narrowed and becomes less noticeable.
With raised scars, there are hypertrophic and keloid scars. If you were to look at them under a microscope, they appear the same but they are defined on the skin by the extent of the formation of the scar. If the borders to the original wound aren’t extended by the scar it’s hypertrophic. Keloid scars, on the other hand, exceed the border. They almost look like a tumor.
So how then do scars change color? Keep reading!
Why does a scar turn white?
When you first have an injury or undergo surgery, the scar that is left behind is usually red or purple. This is because the underlying blood vessels under the area are injured plus your body’s natural inflammation response to begin the healing process. Eventually, as the scar heals, it will usually turn white, a process they call hypopigmentation.
But what causes that hypopigmentation to happen?
Skin, being the largest organ on the body, is an amazing thing. It compensates for this with pigmentation. The normal skin tissue you have is controlled by a protein you’ve likely already heard of, melanin. Melanin is produced by melanocyte cells. These cells are usually deep down in your skin.
When you are injured or have surgery, the wound that’s created damages the skin cells. If that wound is deep enough, it can also damage your melanocyte cells. With this damage, they can’t function as they should. When damaged, they won’t make the right amount of melanin and thus, you wind up with a lighter area of skin.
If the scar is on your face, you can use makeup to make it less noticeable, but ideally, you’ll want it to heal better so no one will know it ever happened except you, your plastic surgeon, or in an injury, anyone that happened to bear witness to the event. Keep reading to find out what could make your scar heal more quickly or more slowly!
Factors that affect scars healing time
Plenty of things can impact how quickly (or slowly) your scar heals. There are some that you can expect you have zero control over like your age and the type of skin you have. If you’re of a certain ethnicity, you are more prone to developing abnormal-looking scars, like the keloid scars mentioned above.
As we age, the skin is much less elastic too and that plays a role in how quickly your skin heals. When you were a kid if you fell and skinned your knee, it healed up quickly. Now as an adult, it’s going to take longer. And with every trip around the sun, your skin becomes less and less adept at healing quickly.
But that’s not to say you’ll have to suffer an unsightly scar. Despite these unchangeable factors, there are some things you can do to help them heal faster.
For starters, the most urgently important thing you can do once you have a wound is to practice proper wound care. You must keep it clean and covered to ward off infections. An infection isn’t just risky for the emergency factor of it (which could land you in the ER) but it’s also because the infection will keep the wound from healing. When microorganisms take over the wound site, they fight the fibroblasts for the nutrients and it’s a big mess. Should your fibroblasts be halted from doing their job, your wound can become larger and will be more difficult to recover from. And on top of all of that, an infection can make a scar look even worse by the end of the healing process.
Do you know what else is in your control when you’re healing from a wound? Your diet! Nutrition is one of the key factors that can help your scars heal. Low carb diets aren’t a good idea at this point. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for wound healing. Choose good carbs and you’ll give your body the glucose it needs to help form new blood vessels and tissues.
Equally as important is protein. Without enough protein capillary formation, collagen synthesis, and fibroblast proliferation won’t be optimum. Speaking of collagen, it requires plenty of iron and vitamin C without which can impair the healing of your wound. Simply balance your diet and your scar will heal better and faster.
It’s little wonder why your doctor encourages healthy eating after surgery of any kind. Whether you have plastic surgery, have a c-section, or anything in between, you’ll always be told to eat a balanced diet of healthy foods. This helps your wounds heal more quickly and keeps your body strong during the process.
Remember, your skin doesn’t know the difference between when you accidentally sliced your finger in the kitchen and choosing to have elective surgery. It all goes through the same fascinating process of trying to mend itself. Giving it the nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy will always work out in your favor.
Scars also heal faster when the area in question gets more oxygen. Things that help your body circulate blood more efficiently are always ideal, like exercise. Something that isn’t ideal is smoking. Smoking interferes with your oxygen supply. The nicotine it contains decreases the tissue blood flow by restricting your blood vessels. Smoking isn’t cool and does lots of damage to your body, as you are fully aware. Not trying to lecture you on how to live your life, but do know if you want your scars to heal better and faster, you should quit smoking.
Here’s a run-down of things that can affect how your scar heals:
With every passing year, our bodies take more time to heal. When you’re young, you get heavy and thick scars quick. But with time, that changes and our capabilities for healing are lessened. You certainly can’t control your age, but knowing that it’s something you need to contend with can help you use other things that are in your control to keep your skin from developing a noticeable scar.
If you have darker skin, you are more likely to form those heavy, large keloid scars. It’s not a life sentence though just because you have dark skin. Depending on how you uphold the other factors that are within your control, you can avoid this type of scar.
– Wound source
How did the wound come to be? If you have surgery, the scalpel will cut the skin with a sharpness that causes very minimal damage to surrounding tissues. But let’s say you were hit with a rock while rock climbing, it will cut your skin and damage those surrounding tissues. With additional damages, it takes more healing and will usually leave a more noticeable scar. When those surrounding tissues contract, they create depressed scars. If you have an injury caused by lasers heat radiation, chemicals, or abrasion, it can cause extensive damage to your surrounding tissues plus a loss of pigment cells in the skin, leading to a white patch.
– Tension and inflammation
If you have a cut in an area where the skin is tight, you’re likely to get wide scars. Additionally, if there’s a lot of inflammation to react to the cut, infection, or any foreign body, it may form heavy and thick scars.
Now that you know what factors affect scars and the way they heal, keep reading and you’ll find out how to make it heal faster!
How to speed up the scar healing process and prevent it from turning white
No matter how you got your scar, there are ways you can work to heal it faster. Of course, you should take steps to eat healthier every day and avoid smoking to benefit your healing process. But following these next tips, it should be the perfect combination to restore your skin to pre-scar condition.
Use scar treatment products
Along with your skin color and the damage done to your melanocyte cells, you may find that your scar isn’t all that noticeable. Darker skin will always have more noticeable hypopigmentation to it than those with paler skin. Should you already have a white scar, it is permanent and you can’t reverse it. You can cover it up with makeup to make it disappear though.
The best thing you can do is to act quickly after you have been injured. When you do, you’ll help your body’s own natural healing kick in. Scar creams are great for this and can fade their appearance away. Although you might be tempted to try home remedies, these aren’t advised. Vitamin E and lemon juice are often touted as natural scar healers, but they can cause more irritation to the area and make it take longer to heal.
Anything that has fragrances or preservatives isn’t recommended either for the same reasons. Instead, choose something that has silicone gel in it like SkinMedica Scar Recovery Gel (Amazon link) which have medical-grade silicone and reputed to be one of the best home scar treatments. Silicone gel has been proven to promote the healing of scars. In clinical studies, silicone gel and sheeting both have been shown to minimize scarring. Scar experts recommend them. You apply it topically to protect your skin from bacterial infections as it creates an occlusive barrier. The barrier additionally nurtures the skin with hydration while giving it light pressure. With that bit of pressure, it encourages the scar to stay flat and soft while keeping it from being red.
Scars can take up to a year or more to fully heal. With SkinMedica Scar Recovery though, you can get faster healing in 3 to 7 weeks. It’s certainly worth trying if you’d have a recent wound as it’s non-invasive, doctor-recommended and safe.
Massage your scar twice a day
Massage can also benefit the healing of your skin. Try it after 3 weeks, or at 6 weeks for surgical incisions. Just 5 minutes of massaging a day along with a moisturizing cream or ointment can make a big difference. It encourages the scar to heal faster and mature, resulting in a flatter scar that isn’t red. This method can even be used after a burn.
Massages are beneficial in so many situations so it makes sense that they’d be recommended for your scars. Massaging with these creams and ointments is soothing for you and the scar too. If it’s in a place you can’t reach, ask a friend or loved one to help you. It will speed up your healing process. With surgeries, be sure you’ve gotten your checkup from your doctor first to ensure you can resume normal activities. Usually when you have that all-clear from your doctor, it’s a good time to begin this massaging treatment.
Avoid the sun
Hopefully, when you go out in the sun, you always protect your skin. On days that you go outside with the intention of spending time in the sun, you should cover yourself with sunscreen from head to toe and keep reapplying that protection every 80 minutes. Your best choice is always something that is a sport or waterproof formula to keep you covered even when swimming or running.
Clothing that covers you properly is also essential. Hats and proper attire can protect you. If you go to the beach or have a picnic outdoors, bringing along some the shade like an umbrella or even a day tent gives you a place to retreat from the sun’s rays.
Even if you’re merely commuting to work though, either sitting in your car on the freeway waiting for traffic to move or walking through the busy city streets, protecting your skin is in order. And yes, that means on cloudy days and cold days too.
All of these steps are always important for your skin, but they’re even more essential when you have a wound that is healing. While your body does have fantastic healing powers, that scar will change colors as your skin regrows and heals. New skin cells will replace damaged ones but with frequent sun exposure, especially without proper protection, you may cause that scar to overgrow its boundary. Then it can become a keloid scar, or it can become raised. That final coloring it has, really depends on how much sun exposure you took in. If you want it to heal right, protect it every time you expose yourself to the sun.
Laser treatment to reduce scar redness
If you have tried everything else and you still have a scar that is red and very visible, you may want to fork up the money for special laser treatments. They can’t help with raised scars, shrink wide scars, or correct depressed scars, however lasers can reduce redness and make it less visible.
On a part of your body that is hidden, you may not worry so much. But if the scar is on your face, this could be an option for you to consider. You’d need to have a consultation with an expert first to make sure they can do something to improve your scar. It never hurts to ask and you may find that a scar you’ve had for a while can look infinitely better if you proceed with laser treatment from a renowned expert.
Steroid injections could be an option
If you have a large scar, steroid injections with corticosteroids could be in order. The only downside is that they can potentially shrink fat deposits and thin out the dermal layers of the surrounding area. Additionally, it may result in a change of pigmentation for your skin which could be even more noticeable than the scar itself.
Again, everyone is different and every scar is different. Discussing the possibilities with a medical professional will help you make the right choice for your individual needs.
If you’ve just had surgery or suffered an injury that caused a wound, you’ll need to allow your skin proper time to recuperate. The tips above can help you minimize visible scarring as your skin works to repair itself. While things like age and your skin type are unchangeable factors, using what you learned above can help you take control of other aspects like your overall health.
It’s never a bad idea to manage healthy eating habits and take care of your skin. It can only help you look and feel better overall.
For wounds that were created surgically or injuries that were sustained that required stitching, make sure you consult with a medical professional about when you can start applying scar creams and doing massages. This way, you don’t risk causing further damage.
Taking care of your skin and avoiding the sun will also play a vital role in how your skin heals over. If you want to keep a scar to the minimum, follow these tips. However, if you’ve already got a scar that’s healing over, consulting about laser treatment and steroids may be a good option for you.
Everyone gets scars at some point or another. Some may come with a riveting story that involves alligators or sporting accidents. Others will be from surgeries, either emergency or elective. Whatever the reasoning behind them though, when you take care of your skin as it heals, you’ll minimize their appearance and feel more confident in your own skin.