Every part of your body plays an important role to ensure that you are at your best. There is no surprise that your brain is the smartest in the room while your heart takes home the “Most Hardworking” award. Your lungs belong to the athletic category and your stomach will surely take home the food prize.
But What About Your Skin?
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, which could stretch and cover up to 22 square feet and weigh eight pounds.It is responsible for covering the most important organs in your body and performs various functions such as regulating body temperature for your overall health.
In other words, it is your body’s protective shield or first line of defense against germs, toxins and other harmful elements.
What happens when your skin is confronted with something foreign, painful and bloody?
Your Skin And Its Healing Abilities
Unfortunately, your skin is among the most underappreciated organ, as evidenced by the countless wounds, scrapes, scratches and burns you probably have had. Thankfully, it has its own magic and is even capable of repairing itself.
When the epidermis or the top layer of the skin is broken, there is nothing much to worry about. You will see light blood, scratches or some dead skin cells on the area and that’s it. It is not a matter of life and death situation plus, the smaller the wound, the faster it will heal.
However, it’s a different case if the wound cuts deeper and down into the dermis. Aside from blood coming out of your skin, it must respond quickly to major threats affecting your body. In case you got yourself in a messy, more serious wound situation, don’t worry. Your skin has a plan on how to heal your wound.
1. The Two Major Threats
A wound or cut on the epidermis or outer layer of the skin is manageable. There is no need for antibiotic treatments and soap and water are enough to clean the area.
If it involves the dermis and other deeper layer of your skin, then your skin starts to respond to two major threats – the loss of blood and the lack of a physical barrier between your inner organs and the outside world.
Your body needs to think of a quick but effective plan to protect yourself from harmful elements. After all, an open cut makes your body more susceptible to bacteria and harmful pathogens. Too much blood loss is also not good for your health and makes you weaker. This could also make you more vulnerable to infection so your skin should act quickly.
Don’t worry. Your skin is already programmed to do that for you.
2. Scabs: The Temporary Barrier
Every time you cut yourself, the first thing you will notice is blood coming out of your skin. You will instantly reach for tissue or a clean towel to wipe it off, press the area to encourage the blood to flow and stop the blood from coming out.
Then, you will attribute the stoppage to yourself and the tissue for doing a great job.
It turns out that your skin knows what to do to a wound even before you reach out for that tissue. Your body activates its wound function and reduces the blood flow to the wounded area to reduce the amount of blood from coming out. Thereafter, fibrin and other proteins in your blood will work with the blood platelets and plasma to form scab.
The scab is your wound’s protective barrier against outside infections and substances,as your skin underneath heals and regenerates. Once the scab is formed, your immune system will also activate itself to protect the wound against harmful substances and infection.
3. The Inflammation Phase
As soon as the bleeding stops, your skin moves on to the inflammation stage.
At this point, the basic connective tissues of your skin reach out to the wounded area. This builds a stable framework as your body organs support the rebuilding of the skin.At the same time, various substances pay the wound a visit to remove and clear any germs, damaged cells and other foreign items that could affect your skin’s healing and recovery abilities. These substances also create new cells that are crucial in healing.
Your wound may become tender and slightly swollen. Depending on the severity of the wound, you may also see clear fluid coming out of it, which is normal and nothing for you to worry about. In fact, this fluid helps clean the area aside from the soap and water you use. Your body’s blood vessels also open to bring more oxygen and nutrients in the wounded site to facilitate faster healing.
The scab formation also happens during the inflammatory phase. It may be annoying to look at, but the formation of scab or the crusty layer on top of the wound is among the first steps in healing a wound. Therefore, make sure to impose discipline by constantly reminding yourself not to remove or pick the scabs too early. This could cause more skin damage and worse, lead to scars – and you don’t want that.
Yes, you should leave the scabs alone, but experts still recommend that you take care of them to ensure faster and proper healing. To protect both the scab and the wound, keep them covered and moist at all times. An antibacterial cream and covering the affected area with non-stick gauze could do wonders. Eventually, the scab will fall off on its own, so relax and let your body do the healing work for you.
4. The Proliferation Phase
There is a reason why your skin, together with other components in your body, form scabs. It serves as your reliable protector as your skin heals and new skin cells grow beneath it. This is where your wound starts to enter the proliferation stage.
In this phase and a few hours after the injury, new skin cells start to form around and over the wound. This new cells start at the edges of the wound and work its way towards the center of the injured area until they cover the entire lesion. Your skin starts to repair itself, which could last for three to 14 days, depending on the gravity of the wound. This is also where scabs start to become dry and fall off. At the same time, this is the stage where your body creates more collagen, a type of protein found in the skin and connective tissues, and other skin-healing substances. Collagen is crucial at this point because it helps attract new cells in the area. It also encourages growth of new tissues, which facilitates healing in the shortest time possible.
The best part is collagen can work in almost all kinds of wound, regardless of the severity. To boost your collagen levels and ensure that your skin will repair itself quickly, increase your protein intake, limit the amount of sugar that goes inside your body and quit smoking. Applying a sunblock before you go out in the open, which can also do a lot in maintaining the right amount of collagen in your body.
5. The Maturation Phase
This is the last stage of the healing process. Finally, your wound is healed, usually three weeks after an injury, or longer depending on the size and extent of the wound.
During this stage, water starts to leave the wounded area as the collagen fibers start to lie closer together. This makes your skin stronger, thanks to the new cells and collagen that filled the area, although not as strong as the skin prior to the wound.
Still, your skin continuously stimulates new tissue growth and repairs any broken blood vessels. The wound also starts to fill in with new tissues, known as granulation tissue. As your wound gets smaller, the edges of the wound pull inward and new skin forms over the injured area.
However, the process doesn’t end there. It may look like it is healed outside, but a month or so from the injury, your skin continuously heals underneath.
6. Understanding Wound And Scars
Fact: there are types of wounds that may lead to scars. At the same time, there are people who are more prone to scarring than others are.
Keep in mind that a scar is a normal part of the healing process; no matter how annoying it may look. In fact, scars happen in deeper wounds because new tissue grows differently than the original one. As the healing continues, a scar is formed, which is usually smaller than the original wound. However, it is less flexible and weaker than the surrounding skin.
Depending on the nature and severity of the wound, scars will fade over time and could even disappear for good. The good news is, there are many treatments available to help you minimize the appearance of scars, just in case it led to that.
No matter how amazing your skin may be in repairing itself, proper wound care still plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and recover. Make sure to keep the wounded area clean, cover when necessary and avoid picking at the scabs. Wounds are wounds and thankfully, you don’t have to deal with them for the rest of your life.