Skin Healing Tips

If you spend much time outdoors in the summer, the delicate canvas of your skin is wide open to a variety of minor injuries, such as insect stings, barbecue burns and scrapes from a biking accident. Key to healing your skin is acting promptly by cleansing the wound and taking measures to reduce risk of infection–as well as knowing when to seek medical care.

Minor Burns and Scalds

Minor burns should only be treated if they’re first-degree burns (limited to injury to the epidermis only) and second-degree burns (burns that blister) that are no more than 3 inches in diameter. Burns on the hands, extremities, groin and buttocks or those that cover a major joint, such as a knee or elbow, should be treated by a physician. To ensure that your skin heals, the Mayo Clinic advises running the burned skin under cool (not cold) water for 10 to 15 minutes or submerging it in cool water. Wrap the burned skin loosely in gauze so no pressure is applied to the skin. Change bandaging daily and watch for signs of infection (oozing and increased inflammation and pain). Don’t put ice on a burn, and don’t apply butter or thick ointment, advises the Mayo Clinic, as this can cause infection.

Cuts and Scrapes

As long as cuts and scrapes are minor, you don’t need to go to the emergency room for care, says the Mayo Clinic. Start by applying a clean bandage on the bleeding wound, applying pressure for 20 to 30 minutes (if the cut or scrape continues to bleed profusely, seek medical attention). Elevate the injured area, if possible. Next, clean the wound with plain water. If dirt or debris remains in the injured area, gently remove it using tweezers. Next, clean the skin around the wound with a soapy washcloth (washing the injury itself with soap is not advised). Apply a thin layer of topical nonprescription antibiotic to the cut or scrape to discourage infection. Cover the injured skin with an adhesive bandage or sterile gauze, making sure to change dressing daily or whenever bandaging becomes wet or dirty.


Sunburns occur on a large area of your body, resulting in redness, pain, swelling and even blistering. Most sunburns resolve on their own without need for treatment, but to help your skin heal faster and get relief from hot, painful skin, the Mayo Clinic recommends taking cool baths or showers. To sooth sunburned skin, apply aloe vera gel or a soothing lotion. Avoid using home remedies such as petroleum jelly and butter that can delay skin healing. If you have blisters, the Mayo Clinic advises leaving them alone; if they break open of their own accord, apply a nonprescription antibacterial ointment on the exposed area of skin.

Bites and Stings

A bite or sting may cause a mild allergic reaction in your skin in response to the insect’s venom. Mayo Clinic experts state that most insect-inflicted skin injuries are nonhazardous, resulting in inflammation, stinging and pain for around a day. If you get stung, remove the stinger from your skin with tweezers to prevent more venom from being released, and rinse the skin with soap and water. Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the sting. The Mayo Clinic also suggests applying calamine lotion or a paste made of baking soda (3 teaspoons baking soda to 1 teaspoon water) numerous times daily until symptoms subside. The Mayo Clinic cautions that while severe allergic reactions to insect stings are rare, you should call 911 immediately if you experience respiratory difficulties, swelling of the lips or throat, hives, dizziness/vertigo, confusion and increased heart rate.

About this Author

Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She’s worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.