A Guide To Faster Healing
Because first aid has changed a lot since you were a Boy Scout.
Forget what you learned about disinfecting with hydrogen peroxide and letting cuts dry out and scab over. Doing that damages the cells in skin that are essential for repair, which can prevent skin cells on the edge of a wound from fusing back together and healing, says Kleinerman. The new thinking is that cuts should be kept moist to prevent scarring — antibacterial ointment works, but basic Aquaphor is just as good — and covered with a bandage. Also, if you notice that the cut takes an extra day or five to heal now that you're older, know that it's normal. "As we age, we lose elasticity in our skin, and this decreases our wound-healing capacity," says Kleinerman.
When a blade pulls a hair instead of slicing it neatly, it irritates the follicle and the body sends an inflammatory response: a red bump. Prevent it by applying a moisturizing shaving cream with a brush. The lubricating cream prevents the blade from dragging, and the brush dislodges dead skin cells that may be covering hairs and raises strands so they aren't lying against the skin — all of which leads to a cleaner cut. Most important, skip the traditional liquid aftershaves and tonics. They won't "close" pores or prevent or heal razor burn, and they typically contain alcohol, which dries out skin and makes things worse. If you still get bumps, apply 1 percent hydrocortisone cream (the same stuff you put on bug bites) to reduce redness and soothe irritation.
After running cold water over a burn, apply a compress that's been soaked in cold milk and water for an instant anti-inflammatory effect, Kleinerman says. (This works for first-degree burns and sunburns.) The protein in milk helps soothe and repair skin damaged by the burn. Whatever you do, don't apply ice or a frozen compress directly to a burn. Because your nerve endings are dulled from the injury, you won't be able to feel your skin chilling, which can lead to frostbite — another type of burn.
Research supports icing (to reduce swelling) and elevating (to decrease blood flow that deepens the bruise), but the evidence is mixed that herbal remedies like arnica will help you heal any faster. However, vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, has been shown to make a bruise fade faster when applied topically, says Kleinerman. You can find the stuff at most drugstores.