Your wound healing speed has a maximum limit, which is the rate at which cells divide. It takes time for a tissue cell to grow, replicates its genome, split in two, and then grow to full size before repeating the process. Good things take time, and speeding them up leads to errors: that applies to cell replication as much as anything else. You do NOT want your cell division speed to go up! Having cells that replicate faster than normal is a condition called “cancer,” maybe you heard of it?
So disregard anyone who markets something that can make wounds heal “faster.” They are just lying to steal your money. The real question is, how can you prevent wounds from healing slower? How can you ensure you are healing as best as possible? And, while we are at it, how can you ensure the wound heals well, with little scarring?
- Keep the wound from getting infected! The infections will slow wound healing, in addition to their other problems. Wash the wound, then leave it alone. A bandage can help keep it from getting dirty. Antibiotics might be necessary for serious wounds, but you will have been prescribed them by a doctor if you needed them. Don’t bother with any fancy oils or herbs or “natural” products: they only exist to keep your wallet from getting infected with money. Just don’t get the wound dirty.
- Wound closure. If the wound is clean and does not involve much tissue loss, then bringing the edges together helps and reduces scarring. Surgical sutures [stitches] and bandages that pull the edges of a wound together do just that.
- Debridement: removing dirt, foreign particles, and any dead, necrotic tissue. If that’s necessary, you won’t do it on your own, as that’s best left to a doctor. They have several methods, including the use of sterile maggots that clear away dead tissue and produce their antibiotics. Really!
- Dress the wound. Not with clothes, but with a simple ointment, such as vaseline. The cells that migrate into the wound and close it move better in a moist environment, so the thinking now is that a moist wound heals better than one exposed to the air [to a point… some serious wounds require drainage]. You don’t want the wound to dry up and crack: that slows healing and is uncomfortable. Apply a thin layer of ointment [not too much!], at least for the first five days or so. Be careful with antibiotic ointments unless you were specifically prescribed them: they not only are leading to a rise in antibiotic-resistant microbes but also if you are allergic to them, can cause dermatitis that will impede wound healing. The same goes for the crap “naturopaths” to try to sell you, like tea tree oil and other plant oils. They don’t help at all but can lead to a skin rash that will slow wound healing to a painful crawl. Just say no.
- Prevent mechanical disruption. In other words, don’t move it or poke it. You want the tissue to stay close together and not keep moving. A good example is the immobilization of broken bones: they are put in a cast or splint to keep you from moving the bone pieces apart and to let them stay together long enough to seal up again correctly. Butterfly bandages work similarly.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol. They slow wound healing. Just say no.
- Get enough sleep. Your body heals more when you rest.
- If you are malnourished, work on that: it takes protein to make new tissue, so if you are protein deficient you will not heal as well. In truth, though, every nutrient is necessary to make new tissue just as it is to maintain it. So if you know you are malnourished, now is the time to eat a healthy diet… the same diet you should be eating pretty much every day regardless. Note that eating excess nutrients will do absolutely nothing to the wound. Again, wound healing has a maximum speed: eat more food than you need, and you won’t grow faster, just fatter.
- Keep your health in check otherwise: diabetes can slow wound healing, for example. Certain medications also affect wound healing.
- Lastly, don’t look online for one-size-fits-all answers. Keep the wound moist, or drain with gauze? Leave uncovered or bandage it? When should you change dressings? Should you leave the scab on or peel it off? The reason people can’t seem to agree is that the answer depends on the wound itself and what stage of healing it is in! Scabs are useful early on but can slow healing later, for example. A large burn wound is not the same as a puncture wound is not the same as a surgical wound is not the same as a tattoo [yes, a fresh tattoo is a shallow, colorful wound]. For the specific wound you have, ask the doctor who treated your wound [or the tattoo artist] for their recommendation on exactly how to treat that specific, unique wound on your unique and individual body.
The statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and represent the opinions of the authors. The authors are not medical doctors and do not engage directly or indirectly in diagnosing disease, dispensing medical advice, or prescribing the use of any products or services as treatment for sickness or disease. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional.