Scarred for Life
Last month my brother smacked his head on the gate of his minivan, and what did he do? He called his little sister for advice. To minimize scarring from the stitches across his forehead, I told him to use vitamin E. Just puncture the liquid capsule with a sterile needle and squeeze the contents over the wound as it heals. (This is great, too, for minor burns. Just wait until the scab forms to apply.) Of course there are many natural remedies that help heal skin. For additional information about healing skin and scars, I spoke with holistic practitioner Diane Spindler, ND, PhD, of Indian Hills, Colorado. Take good care of the wound initially. For minor cuts and scrapes, rinse the affected area under cool water, clean with an antiseptic solution such as hydrogen peroxide, allow to dry and, if required, cover with a sterile bandage. You can also apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment such as bacitracin or Polysporin. For wounds such as deep cuts and punctures, large area scrapes and second- or third-degree burns, seek immediate medical care and closely follow your doctor's instructions. To speed healing, stimulate skin regeneration and prevent infection, Spindler recommends the topical application of herbal remedies. However, do not apply any botanical if the wound is open. You can find ready-made products containing these herbs at quality health-food stores, or fashion your own remedies...
*Comfrey contains a compound called allantoin, which helps heal bruises, sprains and strains. Buy powdered comfrey root. Make a paste by placing powder in simmering water and saturating a bandage. Cover the area with the bandage. Apply warm water to the bandage every two or three hours.
*Calendula stimulates the growth of new skin and blood vessels. Make a hot compress, soak a sterile towel in tea made from dried calendula flowers and apply it to the wound after scabbing. Allow to cool a bit before applying so that you don't burn yourself.
*Aloe vera helps speed the healing of superficial minor scratches or bruises. It is best to use fresh aloe vera directly from the plant, since much of aloe vera's power is lost one hour after it is extracted from the leaf. You can buy aloe vera plants at your local nursery. Break off a leaf and squeeze out the juice onto the scratch or bruise.
*Tea tree oil is a powerful antiseptic. According to contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, it aids wound healing by suppressing yeast, mold and fungi. Apply it directly to minor wounds after scabbing. Avoid pure tea tree oil, which may be too strong.
Important: Avoid exposing the affected area to the sun for six months. Cover up with clothing or sunblock. A sunburn can impede healing and worsen a scar.
When you can't completely avoid scarring, there are treatments today that can significantly reduce the appearance of scars or even make them disappear altogether. Procedures such as laser therapy and dermabrasion are routinely carried out under local anesthesia at dermatologists' offices, and pressure bandages or massage can flatten raised scars.
One note of caution: If you or your child experiences a facial wound that is likely to require stitches, try to avoid going to the local emergency room, where you might encounter an inexperienced resident. To avoid scarring, your best bet is to ask your primary care provider to refer you to an experienced plastic surgeon to repair the wound.