How to heal properly: the right actions to take


The complex healing mechanism can be accelerated or slowed down by different factors. Location on the body, genetics, severity of the injury: it all comes into play. Even if the scar will evolve naturally, certain reflexes can help you improve it.

Scar, healing: what exactly is it?

A scar is a mark left by a wound after healing. This “fibrous tissue permanently or very prolongedly replacing normal tissue after an injury”, as defined by Larousse, is possible thanks to the process of healing.

Healing is when we have to repair an opening in the skin barrier or mucous membrane. The barrier that was naturally provided for our body has been damaged or blown open altogether. The body will therefore seek to repair this opening, explains Dr. Catherine Gaucher, dermatologist.

” In order to repair the opening, it is necessary to both close the hole that has been made in the skin barrier, but also to avoid the negative effects linked to this point. And how to repair? By making new cells », replies Dr. Gaucher. After an injury, a burn, a cut, or even a surgical procedure, the skin rebuilds itself through cell regeneration.

How is the healing process carried out?

“To make new cells, our body needs a humid environment. On an open scar, the contact of air with the tissues which are united (oozing from the wound) causes drying of the surface which creates a protective crust “, explains Dr. Gaucher.

The crust, a natural dressing for the skin

“When everything goes well, the cells that are being made under the crust create another little closure and the crust ends up falling off on its own after a while. We then have below, a normal and dry skin. The crust is somehow the natural dressing that the body produces when the wound remains open.

It is also possible to artificially close the wound by sewing it (the stitches).

But beware ! Once the wound has been closed, or the scab has formed, for healing to go well, it is necessary that the bacterial balance under the skin is sufficiently well maintained. “Normally, the immune system kills unnecessary or annoying bacteria, and promotes the reaction of the inflammatory cascade naturally formed when we want to create healing,” notes the doctor. “The disadvantage is that the immune system is not always able to defend itself and eliminate unnecessary or annoying bacteria. There can then be a infection ».

This is why, before closing, an essential step is the cleaning the wound.

How to clean a wound for good healing?

“Most often, we advise asking a health professional to do what we call 'verification' : we check that there are no stones, pieces of glass, debris, etc. which remained under the skin. If this is the case, and we lock them under the wound, it will create an abscess. Today we have small instruments that allow us to examine the wound and see if there is anything left inside.”

It is then recommended to clean with plenty of water or physiological serum.

The safest way is to clean with physiological serum. We definitely do not use alcohol, which clots the blood! Dr. Catherine Gaucher, dermatologist

“Make sure you remove dried blood, which is a fantastic breeding ground for bacteria,” she advises. “Once we clean, we can disinfect with a disinfectant (preferred over alcohol). The wound must then be either closed or protected.”

Bandages, cream or stitches depending on the type of wound

  • Or an ointment, impervious to air or water, such as petroleum jelly or healing ointment which contains petroleum jelly;
  • Or a special dressing which is called the hydrocolloid dressing and which acts like a small sponge by absorbing the liquid from the wound. “The hydrocolloid dressing contains a healing product which mixes with the wound fluid and produces a sort of natural cream. We leave it for a few days, then remove it and put another one back on so that the wound is completely closed. This is what we call the directed healing”, says Dr. Gaucher;
  • Otherwise, these are the points de suture who hold the scar. “In this case, people are asked to limit their movements in the area where the wound is located for 15 days.”

How to heal a wound quickly?

Immobilize the wound area as much as possible

Another principle to promote good healing and have a “pretty” scar: immobilize the area where the wound is located. “In fact, the cells which form the scar are essentially cells and fibers with elastic capacities. During the healing process, when the new cells come to weld the edges and rebuild the hole, movement should be avoided, at the risk of 'breaking' these fibers and cells, and slow down healing,” explains Dr. Gaucher.

The risk of hypertrophic scar

If we move too much during healing, the other risk is overproduction of new cellswhich will create a hypertrophic scar. “In other words, the scar will swell,” says the dermatologist. “It is often on moving parts of the body that scars can become 'ugly'. The ideal is therefore to immobilize the area whenever possible. If, for example, you have a scar on the front of your knee, it would be best to put a splint on for one to two weeks.”

When the scar is already closed, it is possible to use silicone dressings : “these are transparent silicone dressings which will adhere to the skin. We apply them by pressing to compress the wound, and we keep this dressing on day and night, to prevent the wound from thickening and becoming a hypertrophic scar.”

How long does the healing take?

Healing is a long process. “If it is a traumatic wound, it can close in 10 to 15 days. Most of the time, a week is enough, but it depends on the size of the wound. Healing of large wounds can take several months.” And it often takes several months or even several years depending on the type of wound, before being able to judge the definitive appearance of a scar.

What other actions can help heal well?

We massage and protect from the sun

Once the wound closed, you have to take care of your scar. Be sure to protect it from the sun's UV rays with a high-factor sunscreen to avoid hyperpigmentation. And finally, take the opportunity to regularly massage the scar with an oil or moisturizing cream.

Be careful, “massage is only useful when the wound is healed or closed,” warns Dr. Gaucher. “You never massage a wound that is healing.”

We can focus on food

“Through food, we put into our body all the elements that the skin needs to make cells and healing elements “, explains Dr. Gaucher. “We favor foods rich in vitamin A, B, C and D, but also proteins – whether plant or animal – and certain trace elements which are mainly found in fruits and vegetables,” notes Dr. Gaucher. “Many natural substances have healing properties such as honey or sugar, for example, because they contain precisely these elements.”

What to do if the scar itches?

Some sores may itcheven if in the vast majority, this is not the case. “Most of the time, when there is an itch, there is a problem,” warns the dermatologist. “Either it's an infection, and in that case it's recommended to apply an antibiotic ointment, or the stitches are not yet removed when they should have been.”

Some people can still have itching during healing without there being any particular problem, although this remains rare. In this case, try to resist. Scratching the wound and, worse, tearing off the scabs that form, risks damaging the tissue levels that have developed. You can possibly ask your pharmacist for a soothing cream.

In case of burn, immediately run under cold water

“You should know that a burn is a protein coagulation wound,” notes Dr. Gaucher. “If you scald yourself, the first thing to do is to put the scalded part in cold water, before you even call someone, clean or take off their clothes, and leave for at least 5 minutes. The goal is to stop the proteins from cooking inwards, like a boiled egg that is run under cold water after taking it out of the hot water to slow down the cooking and do not cook the yolk (thus the inside…)”.

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