18 April 2011

Scabs and Scars: Helping Skin Heal Itself



Yesterday we were at our niece's fourth birthday party (yes, we're on a roll, "partying" every weekend). Boo, sitting on a swing, shouted, "Mama, can you come push me?" I turned around just in time to see her flip backward. While still holding onto the swing, feet passing over her head, it looked like she was going to make it all the way around. That is until something broke her momentum.

Wouldn't you know it, the "something" that prevented a beautiful 360 was her face. I have to say, I was pretty impressed. She managed to do a face-plant into the sand, yet avoided getting a single grain of sand in her hair. *claps silently to self* Her mouth, on the other hand, well that needed quite a bit of rinsing to remove what eventually turned into mud by the time we reached the bathroom.

After assessing the situation, I'm still amazed with Boo walking away from the ordeal with only two tiny scrapes on her face. It scared her more than anything. But as tiny as the scrapes are, I'm back to dealing once again with scabs and the possibility of scarring on her face.


When Boo get's scraped she loses the pigment in her skin, as we all do, while it's healing. However, it's much less noticeable on vanilla skin. So on her normally chocolate skin she gets very prominent white marks, lasting sometimes up to a year or more. We know this because Boo sported a Band-Aid on her forehead for the better part of her second year due to a scrape she got from missing the step into the car and landing head-first on the curb. The photo above is simply a scratch she got 8 months ago that has not yet returned to her regular colour. It will; it's already a lot darker than it was.

There are three things that we do to help facilitate healing: Use cocoa butter, keep out of the sun, and  prevent Boo from picking scabs.

Keeping in mind that the new skin forming is extremely sensitive, cocoa butter helps prevent it from drying out and hardening. I should note that we only apply it to the wound after the scab has fallen off. Prior to that we treat it just like any other scrape, very often with just Bactine and/or Neosporine and a Band-Aid. In our house, we always have cocoa butter on hand. I just pick up a stick of it at Walmart or Target and it's usually only a dollar. It's solid but can be warmed up in your hand or shaved off in small pieces and heated in the microwave. Just a few dabs will do. We will do it twice, sometimes three times a day, just to keep the skin soft and supple.


Sunlight can also permanently alter the colour of a scar. This is true for chocolate and vanilla skin. In Boo's case, we are trying to prevent scars from developing in the first place (especially the scrapes on her face), so keeping the tender, sensitive skin away from things that can do it damage is the best way to prevent that. Sunscreen is key, but often times we will just keep it covered with a Band-Aid, if reasonable. I have to laugh to myself because the white mark she had on her forehead from her run-in with the curb was quickly replaced with a tan-line from the Band-Aid (see above photo). But it was worth it because at three years old you would never know that she had the injury in the first place.


Lastly, and probably the most difficult at this age, is keeping Boo from picking her scabs. Again, not chocolate-specific; it's definitely something every parent faces. Having her wear a Band-Aid helps with this, but sometimes Band-Aids are just not necessary (or possible). Further, recently Band-Aids have started to irritate Boo's skin, especially worn for a few days in a row. So how do we keep her from picking? We tell her that the scabs are God's Band-Aid; if she takes off God's Band-Aid then it's like telling God that He doesn't know how to do His job properly. Guilt. It works wonders!