Well, the first thing you should put on cuts and scrapes is water and soap. Medical professionals call this irrigating a wound, and it helps to prevent infection by flushing away microbes, dirt and debris that can cause a cut to become infected. In the ER, they use special equipment to irrigate wounds, but at home, running tap water works just fine [source: Carroll]. If you like traditional natural remedies, make your own irrigating solution by mixing 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea oil, which is a strong antiseptic, into a cup of warm water [source: Readers Digest]. Resist the urge to dab or wipe the cut, even if you're using a sterile pad. That can actually push dirt deeper into the skin. Instead, just let it air dry [source: Carroll].
Once you've cleaned the cut thoroughly, now it's time to moisturize it. You want to keep the wound damp and soft and pliable, so that it doesn't dry out and scab over. Despite what your mom probably told you when you were a kid, scabs are bad. They actually hinder cuts from healing properly and they also have a tendency to get picked at or pulled off accidentally, which damages your traumatized skin all over again. Healthcare practitioners commonly advise squeezing an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin onto the cut and then covering it with a bandage. Each day, take off the bandage when you shower or bathe, gently clean the injured spot again, and then reapply the ointment and a fresh bandage. Keep that up for about a week [source: Morales].
After that, the healing process is far enough along that you can dispense with the bandages, but keep moisturizing the skin to aid the healing process and prevent the formation of scar tissue. At this point, you may want to invest in a jar of that old moisturizing standby, petroleum jelly [source: Morales]. It may be way too greasy and messy for the salon crowd, but the old first-aid remedy of dabbing a little on kids' minor scrapes actually has some validity. Not only is the gooey stuff a potent moisturizer and skin softener, but the barrier that it creates to seal in moisture also can block out invading microbes. It's so effective at preventing infection that hospitals use it to protect premature infants, whose skin hasn't yet developed into an effective barrier [source: Schueller].
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Alspaugh, Lara. "Cuts, Scrapes and Wound Healing," Livestrong.com. 2008. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.livestrong.com/article/14103-cuts-scrapes-and-wound-healing/
- Carroll, Patricia. "Caring for cuts and scrapes: three easy steps," Nursesnotebook.com. June 2001. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.nursesnotebook.com/cuts_and_scrapes.htm
- Durkin, William T. Jr., MD. "Wound Care." eMedicineHealth. Undated. (Sept. 17, 2009). http://www.emedicinehealth.com/wound_care/article_em.htm
- Edell, Dean, MD. "Vitamin E for That Cut?" HealthCentral.com. Aug. 8, 2001. (Sept. 17, 2001) http://www.healthcentral.com/drdean/408/54767.html
- Gelfand, Jonathan, MD. "Staph Infection." WebMD. Aug. 1, 2007. (Sept. 21, 2009) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/staph-infection-cellulitis
- Heller, Jacob L. MD. "Cuts and Puncture Wounds." Medline Plus. Jan. 8, 2009. (Sept. 17, 2001) https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000043.htm
- Hess, Cathy Thomas. "Skin and Wound Care." Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2007. (Sept. 17, 2009). http://books.google.com/books?id=VaJ84CryFmwC&dq=wound+moisturizer&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Johnson & Johnson. "The Science Behind Neosporin Ointment." Neosporin.com. Undated. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.neosporin.com/firstaid/pdf/ScienceFactSheet.pdf
- Little, James W., Bickley, Harmon C., Daugherty, William B., Bickley, Christie. "Effect of Aquafor Ointment on Wound Healing." Journal of Dental Research. 1972. Vol. 51, p. 1672. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://jdr.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/51/6/1672.pdf
- Loden, Marie, Maibach, Howard L. "Dry skin and moisturizers: chemistry and function." CRC Press. 2000. (Sept. 21, 2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=JpfgVgb62nsC&dq=old+fashioned+moisturizers&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Mayo Clinic staff."Cuts and Scrapes: First Aid," MayoClinic.com. Jan. 8, 2008. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-cuts/FA00042
- Mayo Clinic staff. "Moisturizers: Options for Softer Skin." MayoClinic.com. June 23, 2009. (Sept.17, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/moisturizers/SN00042
- Morales, Tatiana. "Preventing Those Ugly Scars: Dos and Don'ts to Help Wounds Heal." CBS News. May 27, 2003. (Sept. 21, 2009) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/05/22/earlyshow/health/main555189.shtml
- Prevention Health Books Staff, Prevention Health Books for Women. "Natural remedies: nondrug healing strategies that work best." Rodale.1999. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=c6ebVRjxrw8C&dq=moisturizer+cuts+scrapes&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Readers Digest. "Home Remedies for 8 Summer Pains: Cuts and Scrapes. ReadersDigest.com. Undated. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.rd.com/living-healthy/home-remedies-for-a-healthy-summer/article27917-2.html
- Schmidt, Barton D., MD. "Skin Injury (Cuts, Scrapes, Bruises)." Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. June 24, 2008. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.lpch.org/healthLibrary/ParentCareTopics/skininjurycutsscrapesbruises.html
- Schueller, Randy, Romanowski, Perry. "Conditioning Agents for Hair and Skin." CRC Press. 1999. (Sept. 21, 2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=f_ETtcJM_0gC&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=petrolatum+barrier+infection&source=bl&ots=cpXoB_8vo-&sig=sS4QAo1veVF2v0lNIkR5BPb8ILM&hl=en&ei=SvW3Ss-oL8PBlAfApfjZDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=petrolatum%20barrier%20infection&f=false
- University of California, Berkeley. "The New Wellness Encyclopedia." Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1995. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=SAf1p4dWsgcC&dq=vitamin+e+cuts+and+scrapes&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Yarosh, Daniel B. "The New Science of Perfect Skin: Understanding Skin-Care Myths and Miracles at Any Age." Random House. 2008. (Sept. 17, 2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=GguwESFKbHIC&source=gbs_navlinks_s