Home First Aid
Denise Mann, MSUpdated: Jan. 27, 2021
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD
Healing is complicated, but you can speed up healing—and reduce the chances of complications like infections and scars—by making the right moves.
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Stave off scabbing
Scabs. So annoying. Sitting there announcing to the world that you have a boo-boo and flirting with infection. “It is such a common misperception that ‘scabs’ indicate good wound healing, ” says Adam Friedman, MD, associate professor of dermatology and director of the Supportive Oncodermatology Clinic at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. “A scab comprises dried blood, serum, dead skin cells, and dead bacteria that is actually a roadblock to new migrating skin cells which must now take a detour around that annoying scab to close the break in the skin,” he says. Try keeping the wound moist (with a thick moisturizer like petrolatum, for example) to allow new skin cells direct access.
Slap on a bandage
You might want to resist bandaging due to the ouch-factor when it’s time to peel it off. First, there’s a pain-free trick to removing bandages; second, you’ll speed healing with a little cover. “Keeping the area occluded will also prevent the risk for infection, as a scab is like an Old Homestead filet to bacteria,” says Dr. Friedman. Yes, this means that a bandage is your friend and won’t upset the healing process. In the future, smart bandages may be able to detect how well a wound is healing and send a report to the doctor. This research is now being conducted at several institutions, includingSwansea University in Swansea Wales, United Kingdom.
Sub out the Neosporin
Patients frequently ask Dr. Friedman if this favorite OTC spread can help healing. Simply putting any thick ointment on a wound has been shown to accelerate healing, but it’s good counsel to skip Neosporin or another antibiotic ointment unless there is an infection. The American Academy of Dermatology states that appropriate use of antibiotics, including topical ones, is paramount to preventing the rise of nasty antimicrobial-resistant bugs. (Do you know when to say no to antibiotics?) “Also, Neosporin is a well-known contact allergen which means for a good number of folks, its use can cause a really itchy and oozy rash,” Dr. Friedman says.
Make healthy choices
“Wound healing requires numerous cells, signals, and resources to mobilize over an extended period of time,” Dr. Friedman says. A “scar is not fully formed until one year after the actual injury, so how you take care of both the wound and yourself matters. This includes eating a diet high in Vitamins A and Z and zinc (especially coming from whole vegetables and fruit), avoiding sun exposure, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking.” (Here are some other ways to strengthen your immune system.) Of note, exposure to smoke from just one cigarette impairs blood flow to chronic wounds and compromises healing—yet doctors rarely discuss this with patients who have chronic wounds, according to 2014 findings published in the Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing.
Take the right vitamins and supplements
Did you know that the herb arnica can help clear up bruises? And that’s not all it can do: “I provide all of my surgical patients with a supply of Arnica Montana pre- and post-op, both the pellets and the Arnica gel,” says New York City facial plastic surgeon Sam Rizk, MD. “It helps if they start on it the pellets a few days before any surgical intervention.” He also recommends 2,000 mg daily of Vitamin C (from food, if possible), which helps the body build tissues like skin, hair, and nails. “It also works to minimize bleeding into the skin and swelling.” This advice may help with non-surgical wounds too. Another surprising antidote: medical-grade Manuka honey on the wound may also aid healing.
Follow the cutting edge
Some of the most exciting innovation taking place in wound healing today is in the area of nanotechnology—the science of making things really, really, really small so they are more likely to get to where they need to go, which in this case is a wound. “Nano-wound care includes nano-silver dressings are really good are killing off scary bacteria, fungi, and viruses,” says Dr. Friedman. (Some bandages and creams already use silver to help reduce bacteria in wounds and cuts, including Curad’s Germ Shield.)
Another huge step will be the advancement of nitric oxide-generating nanoparticles. “Nitric oxide is involved in every step of the wound healing process and in many chronic wounds, nitric oxide production is damaged,” Dr. Friedman says. Nanotechnology that facilitates the production of nitric oxide from its precursor nitrite is in the works.
There’s more: Curcumin—the yellow polyphenol that gives turmeric its brilliant orange color—has been used to heal wounds for centuries, but it turns everything orange if applied topically. But “when you shrink down something in size, we can make orange/yellow curcumin invisible, thereby enabling its use,” he says. “We showed that nano-curcumin can accelerate wound healing in both burn wounds and MRSA-infected wounds.” Stay tuned.
Tap into PRP
You’re probably doing everything you can to keep your bones healthy, right? What if you could heal a broken one faster? There’s a whole lot of buzz about the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to heal injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones and joints, says Allan Mishra, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Stanford Medical Center in Menlo Park, California. “It is becoming much more mainstream to consider using components of your own blood or bone marrow to treat a host of conditions. The power to heal comes from within.” PRP therapy involves taking some blood (about as much as would be drawn for a cholesterol screen), spinning it to isolate the plasma and all of the growth factors and proteins it contains, and then re-injecting it to the injured area. This can also be done with surgery to accelerate healing and decrease complications. “First and foremost, it is safe as we are using your own blood.” Still, more research is needed to identify ideal formulations for specific injuries, and this work will also encourage insurers to cover the cost of the therapy, which can be high. This evolving field of medicine is called regenerative medicine, and PRP is likely just the tip of the iceberg, he says. “Researchers including those at Replicel are actively trying to isolate the most important growth factors in the blood that can trigger and sustain and healing process.”
Take on scars
Sometimes the wound repair process ends with a scar, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept this outcome. “A scar may be itchy or painful, have discoloration, redness, textural changes—such as excessive thickening, depression, or ‘railroad track’ marks,” explains Estee Williams, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Madfes Aesthetic in New York City. “Laser therapy is used to address each of these issues and is extremely important when optimizing the outcome of any scar, be it from trauma, surgery, or a burn.” For example, if the scar is from surgery, a vascular laser such as the Lumenis IPL (intense pulsed light) will selectively target the red part. “It is desirable to treat scars with lasers at this early point, not only for cosmetic reasons but also to facilitate proper wound healing. “By clamping down on the blood vessels ‘feeding’ the scar, IPL has the ability to prevent overgrowth of scar tissue. I recommend continuing monthly treatments until the redness has faded.” Some topical products such as Mederma Advanced Scar Gel or the Biocorneum line of products can also help.
- Adam Friedman, MD, associate professor of dermatology and director, Supportive Oncodermatology Clinic at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC.
- Allan Mishra, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Stanford Medical Center, Menlo Park, CA.
- Sam Rizk, MD, facial plastic surgeon, New York, NY.
- Estee Williams, MD, dermatologist, Madfes Aesthetic, New York, NY.
- American Academy of Dermatology: "Antibiotics For Your Skin."
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on August 01, 2019
Originally Published: September 12, 2019
Denise Mann, MS
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer whose articles regularly appear in WebMD, HealthDay, and other consumer health portals. She has received numerous awards, including the Arthritis Foundation's Northeast Region Prize for Online Journalism; the Excellence in Women's Health Research Journalism Award; the Journalistic Achievement Award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; National Newsmaker of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast; a Bronze Award from The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (for a cover story she wrote in Plastic Surgery Practice magazine); and an honorable mention in the International Osteoporosis Foundation Journalism Awards. She was part of the writing team awarded a 2008 Sigma Delta Chi award for her part in a WebMD series on autism. Her first foray into health reporting was with the Medical Tribune News Service, where her articles appeared regularly in such newspapers as the Detroit Free Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, and Los Angeles Daily News. Mann received a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She lives in New York with her husband David; sons Teddy and Evan; and their miniature schnauzer, Perri Winkle Blu.
How can I make a scab heal faster? ›
- Keep it clean. Share on Pinterest A person can gently wash a scab with warm water and soap. ...
- Avoid picking or scrubbing at the scab. ...
- Apply a compress. ...
- Moisturize the scab. ...
- Only cover the scab when necessary. ...
- Get enough rest. ...
- Eat a balanced diet. ...
- Avoid cigarette smoke.
Use a warm or cold compress
Proper healing involves skin regeneration. Applying a warm compress to your wound may trigger skin regeneration and blood flow. These properties can speed up the healing process while also providing relief from itchiness. A warm compress can also help add moisture to the wound site.
Warm compresses are another quick home remedy to make facial scabs from zits to disappear. Warm compresses are said to remove scabs overnight or in just a few hours. Why is that? The moisture from the compresses will soften the skin and loosen the scab.How long does it take a bad scab to heal? ›
A scab typically heals in about a week, but it depends on the size and depth of the wound. A small scab may heal after a few days, but a larger wound may take a few weeks or even months to heal. See your healthcare provider if you have a scab that isn't healing or shows signs of infection.Does massaging a scab help it heal? ›
Massaging your scars is important. It keeps the tissue around the incision loose so it doesn't “stick” to the tissue underneath. Wait until after your skin has healed before you start massaging your scar. Your skin will be healed when the edges of the scar are well closed with no gaps, and have no drainage.Do scabs heal faster covered or uncovered? ›
Wounds need to be covered so that they can heal properly. When a wound is left uncovered, the new surface cells that are being created can easily dry out. When these important cells dry out, it tends to slow down the healing process. A wound should be covered using a clean bandage.Do scabs heal better dry or moist? ›
Medical research proves that creating moist wound healing conditions will not only accelerate the healing process, but also prevent scarring and scabs, meaning healthy unimpaired skin.How do you make a scab less visible? ›
“Using the pointed end of a Beauty Blender, lightly tap concealer to cover the scab,” Hewitt says. Liquid or cream is best—Hewitt says that powder will make the scab look drier and way more noticeable.Does honey heal scabs? ›
According to a literature review published in the journal Wounds, honey offers the following benefits in healing wounds: Acidic pH promotes healing. Honey has an acidic pH of between 3.2 and 4.5. When applied to wounds, the acidic pH encourages the blood to release oxygen, which is important to wound healing.Should you put Neosporin on a scab? ›
Cleaning the area with water and applying gauze is usually enough. Do not use over-the-counter topical antibiotics such as Neosporin or Triple Antibiotic.
Should you soak a scab off? ›
The scab will eventually go away as a scar forms. While moisture helps the skin to heal faster, submersion for long periods of time can slow the healing of scars. After a long soak in the bathtub or a nice hot shower, you may have noticed that your scabs or scars are soft and discolored.Is it bad to leave a scab on too long? ›
Is it important to leave scabs untouched for as long as possible? Sometimes leaving a scab in place will allow the area to heal, but sometimes having a scab prevents wounds from healing and removing the scab will expedite the healing process. It is better to address this on a case-by-case basis with your doctor.Should I put Vaseline on a scab? ›
Wounds/scars heal best when they are kept well moisturized with Vaseline or Aquaphor. Any crusting/scabbing that occurs should be gently removed by soaking the area with warm water, increasing vaseline treatment until scab falls off on its own.What stage of healing is a scab? ›
Stage 2: Scabbing over (clotting)
Platelets, which are the clotting cells in blood, clump together to make a “plug” in the wound. Clotting or coagulation includes a protein called fibrin. It's “blood glue” that makes a net to hold the platelet plug in place. Your wound now has a scab over it.
Scabs are usually a dark red or brown color initially, and they often get darker during the healing process. However, in some people, a scab may lose color and turn lighter over time instead. Yellowish crusting can form on a scab when pus builds up.Is it OK to touch a scab? ›
Even though it may be tough not to pick at a scab, try to leave it alone. If you pick or pull at the scab, you can undo the repair and rip your skin again, which means it'll probably take longer to heal. You may even get a scar. So let that scab sit there — your skin will thank you!How do you know if a scab is healing properly? ›
- Clotting blood at the wound.
Fresh fruits and vegetables eaten daily will also supply your body with other nutrients essential to wound healing such as vitamin A, copper and zinc. It may help to supplement your diet with extra vitamin C. Keep your wound dressed. Wounds heal faster if they are kept warm.How can I promote wound healing? ›
- Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. ...
- Copper helps strengthen scars and supports chemical reactions related to wound healing.
During the deepest phases of sleep, blood flow to muscles increases. Since blood carries oxygen and nutrients, this helps the muscles heal. In many cases, cells are regenerated by this increased flow of blood.
Do scabs fall off faster wet or dry? ›
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, keeping your wounds moist helps your skin heal and speeds your recovery. A dry wound quickly forms a scab and slows your ability to heal.What is a scab that won't heal? ›
Chronic wounds, by definition, are sores that don't heal within about three months. They can start small, as a pimple or a scratch. They might scab over again and again, but they don't get better.How long does it take for a scab to shrink? ›
Minor scrapes may be uncomfortable, but they usually heal within 3 to 7 days. The larger and deeper the scrape, the longer it will take to heal. A large, deep scrape may take up to 1 to 2 weeks or longer to heal.How do you flatten a raised scab? ›
Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy uses extreme cold (liquid nitrogen) to freeze and slowly destroy scar tissue, which helps flatten the raised tissue. This treatment may be combined with the other injection treatment options to further reduce the scar.Is honey better than Neosporin? ›
“Most antibiotics will slow down wound healing, and they will cause cellular damage as well, whereas honey seems to actually kill the bacteria and promote healing,” says Carter. As for smaller, run-of-the mill cuts? Carter says honey still has an advantage over things like Neosporin and hydrogen peroxide spray.How fast can honey heal a wound? ›
Although there are several Cochrane reviews that withhold hearty endorsement of honey in wound care due to questionable aspects of the research, honey use is often considered to be “alternative” medicine. Should its use be considered for wound and skin care within 24 hours to up to 5 days.Does honey draw out infection? ›
Because of osmosis, the honey draws fluid away from the infected wound. This helps to kill bacteria, which need liquid to be able to grow.What does a black scab indicate? ›
If your scab is black, it's most likely a sign that it has been in place for enough time to dry out and lose its previous reddish brown hue. If your wound doesn't completely heal, or heals and returns, call your doctor.Why is Neosporin no longer recommended? ›
Why is Neosporin no longer recommended? Neosporin is no longer recommended because it contains neomycin, which is a common allergen. It frequently causes allergic contact dermatitis with red, itchy, and scaly skin. The skin reaction gets worse the more Neosporin you use.What happens when you pick a scab over and over? ›
When you pick off a scab, you leave the wound underneath it vulnerable to infection. You also increase the amount of time it'll take for the wound to completely heal. Repeatedly picking off scabs can also result in long-term scarring.
What does an infected scab look like? ›
There are several ways to tell whether a scab may be infected: Redness and swelling around the scab increase 48 hours after your injury. Scab feels hot or painful. Pus is oozing from the wound.Do scabs heal slower as you age? ›
Although the elderly can heal most wounds, they have a slower healing process, and all phases of wound healing are affected. The inflammatory response is decreased or delayed, as is the proliferative response. Remodeling occurs, but to a lesser degree, and the collagen formed is qualitatively different.Is Vaseline or Neosporin better for scabs? ›
Myth #3: A topical antibiotic cream improves wound healing.
A study comparing white petroleum ointments (such as Vaseline or Aquaphor) with an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin, Neosporin or Bacitracin) showed no significant difference in wound infection rate.
Aquaphor tends to be a better moisturizer because it contains humectant ingredients and is occlusive, while Vaseline is only occlusive. When used for wound healing after surgery, Vaseline has shown to cause less redness at the wound site than Aquaphor. If you have a lanolin allergy, opt for Vaseline over Aquaphor.What ointment is best for wound healing? ›
- Bacitracin. Bacitracin can be found in just about every over-the-counter antibiotic ointment on the market. ...
- Bacitracin and Polymyxin B (Polysporin) The common brand name for this medication is Polysporin. ...
- Bacitracin, Polymyxin B, and Neomycin (Neosporin)
Scabs are usually a dark red color. This color comes from hemoglobin — the protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen.
The clotted blood at the surface of the wound starts to dry out and forms a hardened scab. This may happen quickly, or take a few days. This scab forms a protective layer, while allowing cells to move around underneath it so they can continue repairing the skin.How to treat a scab? ›
After cleaning the wound and applying petroleum jelly or a similar ointment, cover the skin with an adhesive bandage. For large scrapes, sores, burns or persistent redness, it may be helpful to use hydrogel or silicone gel sheets. Change your bandage daily to keep the wound clean while it heals.What color is an unhealthy scab? ›
Wound bed. Healthy granulation tissue is pink in colour and is an indicator of healing. Unhealthy granulation is dark red in colour, often bleeds on contact, and may indicate the presence of wound infection.Why is my scab black and thick? ›
There are two main types of necrotic tissue present in wounds. One is a dry, thick, leathery tissue usually a tan, brown, or black color. The other is often yellow, tan, green, or brown and might be moist, loose, and stringy in appearance. Necrotic tissue will eventually become black, hard, and leathery.
What oil helps heal scabs? ›
Some people use certain essential oils — such as Helichrysum, lavender, or tea tree oils — on the skin to promote wound healing and reduce the appearance of scars.What does an unhealthy scab look like? ›
When the hemoglobin byproduct is washed away, all that's left of a scab is empty dead red blood cells, platelets, and skin debris. When this happens, the scab takes on a yellow or brownish hue.What does a dark scab mean? ›
If your scab is black, it's most likely a sign that it has been in place for enough time to dry out and lose its previous reddish brown hue. If your wound doesn't completely heal, or heals and returns, call your doctor.Why is my scab healing slow? ›
During the healing process, your body's red blood cells carry new cells to the site to begin rebuilding tissue. Poor blood circulation can slow down this process, making the wound that much longer to heal. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, can cause poor blood circulation.
To help the injured skin heal, use petroleum jelly to keep the wound moist. Petroleum jelly prevents the wound from drying out and forming a scab; wounds with scabs take longer to heal. This will also help prevent a scar from getting too large, deep or itchy.Is a scab better wet or dry? ›
Wet or moist treatment of wounds has been shown to promote re-epithelialization and result in reduced scar formation, as compared to treatment in a dry environment. The inflammatory reaction is reduced in the wet environment, thereby limiting injury progression.Should I put Neosporin on a scab? ›
Once your cut or wound has been cleaned, the next step is to apply antibiotic ointment, such as NEOSPORIN® First Aid Antibiotic Ointment. Apply a thin layer to your wound to kill bacteria and stop infection before it starts.What vitamin helps scabs heal faster? ›
Vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc help your body to repair tissue damage, fight infections, and keep your skin healthy.Should I put vitamin E oil on a scab? ›
Anecdotal reports claim that vitamin E speeds wound healing and improves the cosmetic outcome of burns and other wounds. Many lay people use vitamin E on a regular basis to improve the outcome of scars and several physicians recommend topical vitamin E after skin surgery or resurfacing.Why is my scab so thick? ›
If the scab appears to be getting bigger after several days instead of staying the same size or getting smaller, this can also indicate an infection. A common misconception is that if a scab is black instead of deep red or brown, the area is infected.