How skin heals
Wounds heal in several, overlapping steps. How fast and well any skin damage heals depends on many factors, including a person's health and age, location and type of injury, and care for the wound while it is healing.
Listed below are the steps or phases when skin heals normally:
Phase 1: “Inflammatory” Phase
After an injury, a number of substances in the body reach the site of the wound quickly to begin to repair it. Besides causing blood to clot, these substances help remove damaged cells, germs and any foreign items (such as dirt). They also help create new cells that are important to healing.
As one of the first steps in healing a wound, the body starts to form a scab, or crusty layer. Removing scabs too early can cause more skin damage and cause larger scars. So to lessen scarring and improve healing, experts suggest leaving most scabs alone. Protect the scab and wound by keeping them covered and moist (with an antibacterial cream) while new skin cells grow beneath it. After a while, the scab will loosen and fall off.
Phase 2: “Proliferation” Phase
New skin cells begin to form over a wound during this phase, which begins hours after an injury. The repair continues for three to 14 days. During this phase, the body also creates collagen, an important protein that is in the skin and connective tissues, plus other substances to help the skin draw closed. If scabs are present, they will eventually dry up and fall off. Wounds that are kept moist with antibiotic creams develop new skin cells faster, according to plastic surgeons.
Phase 3: “Maturation” Phase
More complete healing continues in phase 3, about three weeks after an injury. Water begins to gradually leave the scar, and collagen fibers begin to lie closer together. This process makes the wounded skin stronger. After about two months, the area of the wound will be about as strong as it can be, which is about 80 percent as strong as unwounded skin. This phase of healing can continue for months or even years.PREVIOUS: Types of scarsNEXT: Caring for scars