It doesn't take much to acquire minor wounds and scrapes. Trip over a curb, mishandle a dull kitchen knife, and before you know it you're bleeding -- and wondering, is that going to scar?
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to prevent some scars and reduce others. WebMD went to practicing dermatologists for their quick tips on how to take care of minor cuts and scrapes. Follow their advice and you may have a tale to tell about your mishap -- but without the scar to prove it.
The Best Scar Prevention: Good Wound Care
Whether you're concerned about scarring from a cut, scrape, stitches, or even a small surgical wound or acne, the best way to prevent an unsightly scar or reduce the cosmetic appearance of it is to do a good job caring for the wound. Use these three steps:
- Clean out a fresh cut or scrape . Soothe and clean the wound with cool water. Then remove any pebbles or splinters with alcohol-sterilized tweezers. Gently wash around the wound with soap and a washcloth. Irritants such as harsh soap, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, and alcohol aren't good for cleaning minor wounds. In fact, these substances can actually delay healing.
- Keep it covered. Covering your cut or scrape helps it heal by barring bacteria, dirt, and other irritants. It also helps keep the wound moist for the first few days, which speeds healing. You can use an antibiotic cream or ointment to help keep your wound clean and moist. Keeping the wound covered and moist helps reduce the appearance of scars.
- Don't pick at scabs. Right after you get a cut or scrape, or even pick a pimple, your body starts healing the wound. White blood cells attack infection-causing bacteria. Red blood cells, fibrin, and platelets create a clot over your wound. And in no time, a scab forms. If you pick off the scab, you may not only reopen the wound and introduce bacteria, you could also create a larger scar.
Why Could a Scar Still Form?
Even if you care for a wound perfectly, you may still end up with a scar. That's because some people are just more prone to scarring and some places on the body are just more prone to scars. A wound doesn't need to be deep or severe to leave a scar.
"Scars tend to develop more frequently in areas of skin that are under tension or pull," says Valerie D. Callender, MD, a dermatologist in Maryland. For example, your chest, shoulders and back are common places for scars to form. To prevent scars in these areas, avoid upper body exercise and lifting heavy objects while your wound heals.
When scars do form, they are usually pale and flat, although some can be raised. Called hypertrophic or keloid scars, these occur when the body produces too much collagen.