How Does a Wound Heal? A Brief Guide November 15, 2021 – Posted in: Informative – Tags: , , , ,

The process of piercing aftercare is designed to help your body along the path to healing. But, piercing aftercare can only be effective if you know why your body reacts the way it does and how it’s healing.

The human body offers a pretty amazing system when it comes to healing a wound. The moment that it detects an injury, your body jumps into action to ensure its survival. Some of these symptoms—swelling, bleeding, and oozing clear liquids—seem alarming, but they occur in order to protect your body as it heals.

Here’s how minor wounds heal.

A brief overview of the healing process

Depending on your immune system, the size and location of the wound, and genetics, the specifics of the healing process can vary from person to person. Some wounds will take longer to heal than others, and certain disorders, such as hemophilia, prevent key portions of the healing process from occurring.

Luckily, barring any major disorders, healthy bodies run like well-oiled machines, and you can count on a step-by-step healing process after any minor wound.

close up of palm with band aid

Your body does most of the work when it comes to healing. You need to know the ways that you can help.

The first few seconds: your body closes the wound

When your body is injured (including a piercing), it immediately jumps into action. Two things will happen in the first few minutes of your injury:

  1. The blood begins to clot within the first few seconds of receiving the injury.
  2. Within minutes, a scab will form over the wound, protecting internal tissue from harmful bacteria that can cause infection.

While not all wounds will bleed, bleeding often occurs in piercings, especially those found in fleshier areas, so you need to be prepared for some initial scabbing. If scabbing should occur, let it be. These first steps are imperative so that the body can conduct its next self-protective steps.

The first few days: your body protects itself from attack

Once the blood clots over the wound to keep the damaged tissue free from germs and prevent further bleeding, it allows the body to begin flushing the wound of harmful bacteria. A few things will happen during this process:

  1. The blood vessels will open, rushing blood to the area, which will bring oxygen and other helpful nutrients to the wound.
  2. The rush of blood will cause swelling, redness, and tenderness.
  3. White blood cells will work to heal the area.
  4. You might see clear, white liquid oozing from the wound, but it’s part of your body’s healing process; it serves to flush harmful substances from the wound.

In the first few days of your piercing, especially if it’s in a fleshier area like the belly button or eyebrow, these symptoms might seem concerning, especially if your piercing starts oozing. However, these symptoms should be celebrated; it’s a sign that your body is doing its job.

The next few weeks: your body heals itself

Beneath the scab, your body begins to stitch itself back together internally. It will begin to repair blood vessels, and new skin and tissue will form. However, the new skin and tissue will be a little different than the skin and tissue you had before, which is part of why scars can form.

  1. Red blood cells that aid in healing bring about white, tough collagen that acts as a foundation for new tissue.
  2. On top of the collagen, new tissue will form.
  3. On top of the new tissue, new skin will form, and the wound has completed its healing process.
  4. The scab will fall off since the new skin will be tighter than the old skin, and it will pull at the sides, pushing the scab away.

Things to keep in mind for a healing piercing

When you have a new piercing, you’re essentially inflicting a controlled wound upon your body. Because of this, you’ll be interrupting portions of your body’s natural healing process in order to keep your new piercing. This is part of what leads to piercing complications down the line, so it’s important to understand why your body reacts the way that it does to your new piercing in order to avoid scarring, infections, and other issues.

Your body won’t like the new jewelry

If you’ve ever had a deep splinter, you’ve probably seen your body push it out itself during the healing process. This trick is designed to protect us from foreign substances wreaking havoc on our systems, but it causes issues when it comes to new piercings.

Your body’s first instinct will be to push the jewelry out of your body, like it does with a splinter. This is why you see piercing migration and rejection. Your job is to let your body know that the jewelry is supposed to be there. Here are some ways to avoid jewelry rejection:

Woman with nose and ear piercings, close up
  • Use APP-approved metals.
  • Make sure that your jewelry is the right size.
  • Make sure that your piercer places the piercing properly.

Your wound will need to heal a little differently internally

In a standard cut or scrape, your body works to heal the skin so that it (almost) looks the same as it did before. With a piercing, the goal is different. You want your body to heal so that a small puncture wound remains.

Because you won’t necessarily have the scab completely covering the new wound as it heals, oozing discharge that typically occurs beneath the scab will ooze from the piercing hole instead. This will lead to more crusties around the piercing site that won’t be very aesthetically pleasing. You’ll be tempted to clean those off, but cleaning the crusties can do more harm than good.

If the crusties really bother you, you can soak them in a saline solution, softening the crusties so that they can be gently wiped off.

What shouldn’t I do as I heal?

When your body heals a wound, it needs extra energy to do so. Much like fighting a cold, you’re going to have to make some lifestyle changes in order to aid in its healing. Here are some simple healing tips so that you can get back to normal quickly:

  • Don’t drink alcohol excessively. Alcohol negatively affects the immune system.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Give your body the energy it needs to properly recuperate.
  • Rinse the wound daily. A simple saline spray conducted 2 – 3 times daily will remove excess debris and crusties and aid your body in healing.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes. Oxygen is key to healing, and smoking affects that.

When should I see a doctor?

Your body is pretty amazing at healing itself. However, some of the healthy symptoms of healing, such as the initial swelling, look similar to symptoms of larger issues. It’s difficult to know which are signs to ignore and which beg for a doctor.

doctor crosses arms with stethoscope
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Here are some signs that you should consult a doctor:

  • You see excessive bleeding, swelling, or tenderness. These are excellent signs of healthy healing, but if they become unbearable, then it could be a sign of a larger issue.
  • You develop a fever. A fever is another of your body’s defense mechanisms, but when it comes to a wound, a fever is never a good sign.
  • If you have any doubts, please see a medical professional. It’s much better to waste a day in the waiting room than having to visit the ER later down the line.

In order to start the journey toward successful healing, it’s important to understand what your body is doing so that you can help it along the process. Throughout healing, keep an eye on its progress, and be sure to continue aftercare practices through the entire healing process and not just when it looks healed to you. Remember that there’s an entire healing process occurring internally that you can’t see.

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