Why Do Scars Itch Years Later: Causes, Solutions & FAQs [2024]

Have you ever experienced the annoying sensation of an old scar itching, even years after the injury has healed?

You're not alone. Many people find themselves scratching at scars that have long since faded, wondering why this phenomenon occurs.

In this article, we'll explore the fascinating world of scar itching, delving into the causes and solutions for this common problem.

Understanding Scar Formation

The Basics of Scar Formation

Woman pointing to a raised scar on her neck, highlighting the need for effective scar treatments and itchy scar prevention.
Close up of woman pointing to a raised scar on her neck

Scars emerge as a consequence of the body's remarkable ability to heal itself. Scars form after you heal from burns, cuts, sores, scrapes, or even surgery.

When the skin sustains an injury, be it from a skin burn, a deep cut, or a bout of severe acne, the body immediately sets its repair mechanisms into motion.

Collagen, a protein crucial for maintaining skin's structural integrity, plays a central role in this process. As the body repairs the damaged tissue, it forms scar tissue, which is often distinguishable from the surrounding skin due to its texture and appearance.

The healing process can take several weeks or months, depending on the severity of the injury.

Types of Scars

Scars are not one-size-fits-all. There are various types, each with its unique characteristics and potential to cause itching:

Educational diagram showing types of scars, including acne scars, burn scars. This highlights the need for scar treatment.
Educational diagram showing types of scars

  1. Hypertrophic scars: These scars are raised and tend to be itchy. They often develop after surgery or injury and are more common in younger individuals and those with darker skin tones.
  2. Atrophic scars: These scars appear sunken and may also be accompanied by itching. They are often the result of acne or chickenpox.
  3. Keloid scars: Known for their excessive tissue growth, keloid scars can be a source of persistent itchiness. They are more common in individuals with darker skin tones and tend to run in families.
  4. Contracture scars: These scars result from burns and can cause tightness and itching in the affected area.
  5. Stretch marks: While not typically considered scars, stretch marks can be itchy, especially when they first appear. They are often the result of rapid weight gain or loss, pregnancy, or growth spurts.

Why Do Scars Itch Years Later?

Inflammatory Response

Inflammation is a natural part of the body's healing process. However, when it becomes chronic, it can lead to itching in scars.

The prolonged inflammatory response can cause changes in the scar tissue, making it more prone to itchiness over time. This chronic inflammation can be triggered by various factors, such as:

  1. Irritation from clothing or jewelry
  2. Exposure to certain chemicals or products
  3. Changes in hormone levels
  4. Stress and anxiety

Nerve Damage

Nerve endings are an integral part of our skin, serving as messengers for sensations like touch and itch. During a skin injury, nerve damage can occur, and this damage may persist even after the wound has healed.

Nerve damage can result in long-term itching, a phenomenon known as neuropathic itching. This type of itching can be particularly stubborn and may not respond well to traditional anti-itch treatments.

Dry Skin

Scars, particularly older ones, may be more prone to dryness than the surrounding skin. This dryness can lead to itching and discomfort. Factors that can contribute to dry skin include:

  1. Low humidity environments
  2. Harsh soaps or detergents
  3. Hot showers or baths
  4. Certain medications

Scar Maturation

As scars mature, they undergo various changes in texture and appearance. These changes can sometimes lead to itching, particularly if the scar becomes dry or tight. Scar maturation can take several months or even years, depending on the type and severity of the injury.

Allergic Reactions

In some cases, itching in scars may be the result of an allergic reaction. This can be due to the use of certain products on the scar, such as lotions or adhesives. Allergic reactions can cause redness, swelling, and itching in the affected area.

What Are The Causes Scar Itching

Environmental Factors

While the internal factors contributing to scar itching are significant, external elements also play a role. Environmental factors such as weather conditions and clothing choices can exacerbate the itchiness of scars:

  1. Dry skin caused by low humidity or air conditioning can intensify the itching sensation.
  2. Exposure to sunlight can cause further dryness and itching in scars.
  3. Abrasive fabrics, such as wool or rough cotton, can irritate the scar tissue.
  4. Tight clothing can cause friction and irritation, leading to increased itching.

To minimize these environmental triggers, consider wearing soft, breathable fabrics and using moisturizers to combat dry skin. Protecting scars from direct sunlight with clothing or sunscreen can also help reduce itching.


Some individuals may be more prone to developing itchy scars due to genetic factors. For example, those with a family history of keloid scars may be more likely to experience itching in their own scars.

While genetic factors cannot be changed, understanding one's predisposition can help in the management and prevention of itchy scars.

Lifestyle Factors

Certain lifestyle factors can also influence the likelihood and severity of scar itching:

  1. Smoking can impair healing and increase the risk of itchy scars.
  2. Poor nutrition can affect skin health and slow down the healing process.
  3. Stress and anxiety can trigger or worsen itching sensations.
  4. Lack of sleep can disrupt the body's natural healing processes.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep, can help support the body's healing process and reduce the risk of itchy scars.

How To Manage Scar Itching

Applying silicone gel to a burn scar on the arm to aid in wound healing, reduce itchy skin, and treat raised scars.
Close up of woman applying silicone gel to a burn scar on the arm

1. Over-the-Counter Solutions

For many individuals, over-the-counter (OTC) solutions can provide relief from itchy scars:

  1. Moisturizers: Keeping the scar well-hydrated can help reduce itching and discomfort. Look for products containing ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, or vitamin E.
  2. Silicone sheets or gels: These products can help soften and flatten scars while reducing itching and redness.
  3. Anti-itch creams: Creams containing ingredients like calamine, hydrocortisone, or menthol can help soothe itchy scars.
  4. Cool compresses: Applying a cool, damp cloth to the itchy scar can provide temporary relief.
  5. Sun protection: Using sunscreen or covering the scar with clothing can help prevent further dryness and itching caused by sun exposure.

It's important to patch test any new product before applying it to the entire scar to ensure you don't have an adverse reaction.

2. Prescription Medications

In severe cases of scar itching, a dermatologist can prescribe medications to manage the discomfort:

  1. Corticosteroid creams or injections can help reduce inflammation and itching in the scar tissue.
  2. Oral antihistamines can help relieve itching caused by allergic reactions or histamine release.
  3. Capsaicin cream, derived from chili peppers, can help desensitize nerve endings and reduce itching.
  4. Gabapentin or pregabalin, typically used for nerve pain, can be effective in treating neuropathic itching in scars.

It's essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any prescription medication, as they can provide guidance on proper usage, potential side effects, and precautions.

3. Laser Therapy

For persistent scar itching that doesn't respond to other treatments, laser therapy may be an option. Various types of lasers can be used to target the scar tissue, helping to break down excess collagen, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.

Laser therapy may require multiple sessions and can be performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

4. Psychological Support

Chronic scar itching can take a toll on one's mental well-being. The constant discomfort and urge to scratch can lead to stress, anxiety, and frustration. In some cases, addressing the psychological impact of scar itching can be just as important as treating the physical symptoms.

Seeking support from a therapist or joining a support group for individuals with chronic skin conditions can provide valuable coping strategies and emotional support.


While not all scars can be prevented, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of developing itchy scars:

  1. Protect wounds from friction and irritation during the healing process.
  2. Keep the wound clean and moisturized to promote optimal healing.
  3. Avoid picking at scabs or scratching the healing wound.
  4. Use sunscreen to protect the scar from sun damage.
  5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle to support the body's natural healing process.
  6. Follow any specific care instructions provided by your healthcare provider.


Scar itching, even years after the initial injury, is a common and often frustrating problem. By understanding the various causes and factors that contribute to itchy scars, you can take steps to manage and alleviate this discomfort.

From over-the-counter remedies to prescription medications and lifestyle changes, there are numerous options available to help you find relief.

Remember, if your scar itching persists or becomes severe, don't hesitate to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment.

With the right approach and a bit of patience, you can minimize the impact of itchy scars and embrace your unique skin story with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for old scars to itch?

Yes, it is relatively common for old scars to itch. Scar tissue can be sensitive, and various factors, including inflammation and nerve damage, can contribute to persistent itching.

How do you stop old scars from itching?

There are several ways to alleviate itching in old scars, including using over-the-counter creams, moisturizing the skin, and consulting a dermatologist for prescription medications.

Why does my scar hurt after 20 years?

Scar tissue can remain sensitive for many years, and nerve damage during the initial injury can lead to long-term discomfort or pain in the scar area.

Why are old scars sensitive?

Old scars may remain sensitive due to changes in the underlying tissue and nerve damage during the initial injury. These sensitivities can lead to itching, discomfort, or pain even years after the scar has formed.

Can itchy scars be a sign of something more serious?

In most cases, itchy scars are not a sign of a more serious underlying condition. However, if the itching is accompanied by other symptoms, such as redness, swelling, warmth, or discharge, it may be a sign of an infection or an allergic reaction. If you experience these symptoms or if the itching persists despite home remedies, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Are there any natural remedies for itchy scars?

Yes, there are several natural remedies that may help alleviate itching in scars. These include aloe vera gel, coconut oil, tea tree oil, and oatmeal baths. However, it's important to patch test any new product before applying it to the entire scar and to discontinue use if irritation occurs. Keep in mind that natural remedies may not be as effective as medical treatments for severe or persistent scar itching.