What is the best way to care for a wound?

Written by Paul M. Graham, D.O.

13242Let’s face it, it is almost guaranteed that sometime during your lifetime you will experience an injury that causes a skin wound. For many, the wound is only superficial and relatively mild but for some, these wounds can be quite extensive and distressing. One of the biggest fears people have with skin wounds is the development of scarring. I see people every day in our office that are looking for options to help with wound healing and prevent further scarring. There are many options available but one basic treatment method trumps them all!

Wounds come in many shapes and sizes from mild to severe, hence wound care is a very important factor to prevent unsightly and abnormal scarring. Fortunately, there is one very simple thing that you can and should do with any wound. That is to apply a petrolatum ointment (Vaseline, Aquaphor, etc..) to the wound bed 2-3 times a day for the first week of the wound.

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The premise of this recommendation lies within how the cells reform the barrier on the surface of the skin. As a wound heals, the skin cells migrate or “leap-frog” over one another to form a new skin surface barrier. If the wound bed is dry and a scab forms overtop, this significantly limits the ability of the skin cells to move. A petrolatum-based ointment will give the “lubrication” and mobility needed for proper skin cell movement. 

Petroleum-JellyDue to the “greasiness of petrolatum ointment, it is a good idea to keep the wound covered with a bandage or non-adhesive dressing. One misconception that I commonly hear about pertains to cleaning the wound. Many people believe that the wound bed needs to be scrubbed and cleaned daily to prevent infection. This is not the case at all. Each time the wound bed is scrubbed or cleaned with harsh cleansers, this removes the newly produced skin cells thus prolonging the wound healing time and the risk of scarring.

The other misconception is that an antibacterial cream or ointment needs to be applied to the wound to prevent infection. This also is not the case as the initial cleaning of the wound immediately after it occurred, typically is all that is needed to rinse away any foreign bacteria or contaminates, however, there are exceptions. After this initial cleaning, all that is commonly needed is the application of a petrolatum-based ointment and a bandage. It typically takes about 7-14 days for a wound to regenerate a new surface skin barrier. The longer you use a petrolatum-based ointment during the wound healing process, the easier it will be for your body to regenerate the skin barrier. Although the wound may look completely healed on the surface, your body will continue to remodel with new collagen and depending on the severity of the wound it can take up to a 1 year before the strength of the wound is 80% of the surrounding skin.

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There are many other successful treatment options (injections, lasers, silicone gel, etc…) currently available for newly healed wounds but this will be covered in a different article.

Stay tuned and thank you for reading!

Make sure to check out our other articles on wound care below!

  1. Wound Care Concierge: Part 1

  2. Wound Care Concierge Part II: Nutrition

  3. Wound Care Concierge Part III: The Power of Protein and More

  4. Wound Care Concierge Part IV: The Stages of Wound Healing

  5. Wound Care Concierge Part V: Types of Wounds

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Please note, our medical disclaimer applies to all information, images, recommendations, and comments published on this page.

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