Most scrapes heal well with home treatment and do not scar. Minor scrapes may be uncomfortable, but they usually heal within 3 to 7 days. The larger and deeper the scrape, the longer it will take to heal. A large, deep scrape may take up to 1 to 2 weeks or longer to heal. It’s common to have small amounts of fluid drain or ooze from a scrape. This oozing usually clears up gradually and stops within 4 days. Drainage is not a concern as long as there are no signs of infection.

Healing process

The way a scrape heals depends on the depth, size, and location of the scrape. Whether a scrape heals with or without a scab does not affect the healing time or the amount of scarring.

  • When a scrape removes the outer layers of skin, new skin will form in the bottom of the wound and the wound will heal from the bottom up. This type of scrape looks pink and raw at first. As it heals, the new skin sometimes appears yellowish and may be confused with pus.
  • When a scrape removes all of the layers of skin, new skin will form on the edges of the wound, and the wound will heal from the edges in to the middle. This type of scrape looks white at first, and fat cells may be visible. This type of scrape takes longer to heal.


Some scrapes form a scab during the healing process. A well-formed scab protects the scrape from more injury and infection. Once a scab is formed, the scraped area usually remains dry and does not ooze fluid.

  • A scab that forms over an area that moves, such as a joint, may crack and a few drops of clear yellowish to pinkish fluid may ooze from the wound. A cracked scab may be uncomfortable, and an infection can develop under the scab.
  • Scabs usually decrease in size and fall off as the new skin under the scab is formed.
  • During healing, a scab may accidentally get rubbed off, which causes the wound to start bleeding again. Treat the wound and protect the area so the healing process can begin again.

No scab

Some scrapes heal without a scab.

  • While it heals the scrape may stay moist and pink and ooze fluid or small amounts of blood. Over time, the area will turn pink and shiny as the new skin forms. This usually occurs when a scrape is kept covered with a bandage and is washed regularly with soap and water to remove the scab-forming tissue.
  • If a scrape is likely to get dirty or infected or if it is not forming a scab, it is better to bandage the scrape and allow it to heal without a scab. This healing process requires more treatment, such as washing off the scab-forming tissue and bandaging the scrape regularly.


Current as of:
March 9, 2022 Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP — Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD — Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD — Family Medicine
H. Michael O’Connor MD — Emergency Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD — Family Medicine

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What Is a Scab?

Scabs are a natural crust made of dried blood clots , usually forming over a scrape or cut. They’re a common part of the body’s healing process, designed to protect your wound from further blood loss and infection1. If a wound starts to scab over, it usually means your wound is healing and your body is protecting it. However, while scabs are natural, they can make the healing process more difficult than the ‘clean, treat, protect’ method.

How Do Scabs Form?

When you get a wound that bleeds, the platelets in your blood will clump together to form a clot1. These blood clots start to dry out, creating a scab to protect the delicate tissue underneath1.

How Long Do Scabs Take to Form?

Scabs usually start to form pretty quickly after a wound appears1. In most cases, blood will begin to clot in a matter of seconds to reduce blood loss1. Deeper wounds, however, will take longer to scab over than more shallow, minor injuries2.

How Do Scabs Form on the Scalp?

Many different skin conditions, including psoriasis, can cause scabs to form on your scalp3. They may also form as part of a reaction to hair treatments, shampoos and hair dyes3.

How Do Scabs Form in the Nose?

The skin on the inside of our noses is incredibly delicate and can become injured in several ways4, including from:

  • Allergies – which may lead to excessive sneezing or blocked airwaves
  • Trauma – such as a hard bump to the nose or nostrils
  • Certain medications – which may cause a reaction or nosebleed
  • Underlying medical conditions4 – such as sinusitis, which may cause swelling

Frequent cleaning could also cause damage to the delicate lining of your nose, and also end up disrupting the natural healing process4.

How to Heal a Scab

When it comes to knowing how to get rid of a scab, the critical thing to remember is not to try and pick at them or rush the healing process. Trying to get rid of a scab fast could increase your risk of scarring or infection2. That said, there are some useful things you can do to try and help a scab heal properly.

Keep the Scab Clean

Keeping your wound clean with warm water and a gentle soap, or an antiseptic wash, may help reduce your risk of infection2.

Use an Antibiotic Ointment

This can help to keep your scabs moisturized and prevent them drying out. NEOSPORIN® Antibiotic Ointment offers 24-hour infection protection, adding an extra layer of defense for your wounds.

Keep the Scab Covered

Covering your wound with a sterile bandage or other dressing can help protect your injury from infection or further damage. BAND-AID® Brand products are available to help and can be easily applied.

Do Not Pick a Scab

Picking or removing them before they’re ready to drop off can interfere with the healing process2. Avoid picking at or scratching the scab as much as you can2.

How Long Does it Take for a Scab to Heal?

Once the skin underneath your scab has healed, the scab will fall off by itself. The deeper and more severe your wound, the longer this will take. Most minor injuries should heal within a couple of weeks2, with some only taking a matter of days.


What Will My Skin Look Like When My Scab Falls Off?

When your scab falls off, the new skin may look red, shiny and stretched2. As the skin ages, however, it should start to look more like the rest of your skin. If it doesn’t, it may form what we know as a ‘scar’2.

Do All Wounds Scab Over?

No. Not all wounds bleed, so not all wounds scab2. For example, burns, certain puncture wounds and pressure sores don’t tend to bleed and so are less likely to scab over2.

How Do Scabs Help Wounds Heal?

Scabs provide a layer of protection for your wounds to stop them becoming infected, which would delay or even halt the healing process2. A scab is a dry, rough protective crust that forms over a cut or wound during healing. A scab starts to form as soon as the skin is injured. Blood platelets begin to clump together, forming a loose clot to stem the bleeding. When the clot dries, it turns into a scab. As scabs heal, they often start to itch. Avoid scratching it as it could cause further damage to the skin, causing the healing process to begin again. It is important to protect scabs to prevent infection and minimize scarring as they heal. This article discusses scabs. It explains how a scab forms after a wound, the stages of scab healing, and how to care for it to minimize scarring. healing scab on leg Sinhyu / Getty Images

How Do Scabs Form?

Scab formation occurs after injury to the skin and promotes wound healing—a process that can take months or even years to complete. The four stages of wound healing are:

  • Hemostasis and degeneration
  • Inflammation
  • Proliferation and migration
  • Remodeling and maturation

Hemostasis and Degeneration

Hemostasis, or the stopping of blood flow, occurs immediately after the skin is injured to prevent excess blood loss. Coagulation, or blood clotting, begins as platelets from the blood clump together to form a loose clot, which turns into a scab as it dries and hardens. These platelets release chemical messengers that send signals to bring inflammatory cells to the injury site to initiate healing. Degeneration occurs through the formation of a hematoma, or pooling of blood under the skin, as well as the deterioration of dead skin cells and initiating an inflammatory response.


In the inflammatory phase of wound healing, fluid is brought to the area of injury to dilute harmful substances and provide support for cells to fight infection. Once the blood clot is formed, an increase in blood flow to the area stimulates cells to travel to the area of injury to destroy bacteria and release substances that support the formation of new skin cells to repair the injury. Approximately five days after injury to the skin occurs, fibroblasts and skin cells migrate into the wound to form granulation tissue, specific connective tissue that forms in the area of a wound to promote healing. Dead cells are broken down and removed, and tissue healing begins in this stage.

Proliferation and Migration

Two days after skin injury, cells begin forming blood vessels near the edges of the wound. These blood vessels begin to proliferate or increase to promote a network for delivering oxygen and nutrients to support the healing skin tissue. The process of forming new blood vessels is called angiogenesis. As the number of inflammatory cells decreases at the area of injury, new cells migrate to the wound to repair the skin. These cells form collagen and elastin, structural proteins that cross together to form a scar.

Remodeling and Maturation

In the final stage of wound healing, the scar tissue that forms is remodeled to a smoother appearance that is reduced in thickness and redness as the concentration of blood vessels in the area decreases. The remodeling phase of wound healing can take years to fully lighten a scar to resemble regular skin tissue more closely. Even under ideal conditions, the repaired tissue that forms when an injury to the skin heals never regains its full strength and stability. It can take up to 12 to 18 months for a scar to fully mature, and at this point, it is approximately 20% to 30% weaker than normal skin tissue.

Why Do Scabs Itch?

Many of the cells involved in the stages of wound healing release cytokines, inflammatory proteins that, in addition to increasing the inflammatory response, can cause itching. Changes in the level of pH and nerve signaling stimulated by tissue tension as an open wound begins to close and heal may lead to itching as well. Specialized sensory nerve cells in the skin—called pruriceptive neurons—respond to these changes and send signals to the brain, where the itch sensation is recognized. Wound dryness that develops as a scab forms and hardens can also cause itching by blocking sweat ducts and activating enzymes that increase itching. As a wound heals, the itching sensation decreases as nerve stimulation and blood flow to the area slow down.


Complications can occur that cause wounds to become chronic, taking a very long time to heal or not heal at all. Three main factors that impair the ability of wounds to heal include:

  • Poor blood supply and lack of oxygen
  • Excessive proteolytic activity
  • Infection

Blood Supply and Oxygen

All tissues of the body require a good blood supply to get oxygen. When blood flow is disrupted through damage to blood vessels, tissues become deprived of oxygen, which leads to cell damage, and in severe cases, cell death. Cells that are involved in the wound healing process have high oxygen demands. A prolonged lack of oxygen, called hypoxia, can significantly delay wound healing. Factors that contribute to poor circulation and reduced blood flow and supply of oxygen include:

  • Older age
  • Diabetes
  • Arterial or venous diseases that damage blood vessels
  • Necrotic wounds that result from significantly damaged tissue from injury, burns, disease, or infection

Proteolytic Activity

Proteases, also called proteolytic enzymes, are found in the fluid that leaks from wounds. While they are essential for wound healing by breaking down proteins and restructuring the skin, they can become harmful to wound healing when there is excess activity due to chronic inflammation. Proteolytic enzymes are released by cells involved in tissue repair stimulated by the inflammatory response. During the normal phases of wound healing, proteases reach peak levels three days after injury and decrease after day five. With non-healing wounds, levels of proteases peak significantly higher on day three and persist for much longer, causing a destructive environment that does not promote wound healing. A class of medication called protease inhibitors can help promote the healing of chronic wounds by lowering the activity of these destructive enzymes.


When the skin becomes damaged, bacteria naturally found on the skin surface can enter the wound and cause infection. Bacteria can also stick together in a wound, forming a protective biofilm that decreases the ability of white blood cells to fight off the infection and reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics.

When to Call a Doctor

You should contact your doctor if you think your wound is infected. In addition to a slowly healing or non-healing wound, signs of an infection include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Oozing pus or liquid, called wound exudate

How to Help Scabs Heal

You should avoid scratching at a scab so that you do not cause further breaks in the skin, which can disrupt the healing process and increase the risk of infection and scarring. To help relieve itching, use a moisturizer to help prevent water loss from the skin and decrease the dryness that can cause itching. Cooling ointments that contain menthol can also help decrease stimulation of the sensory nerves on the skin to help alleviate itching. To prevent infections, wounds should stay clean and moist. Wounds need moisture to promote the migration of new skin cells over the wound bed, so the wound should be kept moist but not too moist. Antibiotic skin ointment can be applied topically to an open wound to prevent infection. Covering the wound with a sterile bandage can also help decrease the risk of infection by creating a barrier between your skin and the outside environment.


Scabs form to help your skin heal after injury. However, they do come with discomfort like itching during your recovery process. It’s usually nothing to worry about, but if you think your wound is infected, call your doctor to receive further medical care.

Frequently Asked Questions

    • How can you help a scab heal quickly?You can help it heal by gently cleaning the wound to remove debris and germs. You may want to use petroleum jelly to keep it from drying out and getting itchy. Cover the wound with a bandage to help keep the wound clean while it’s healing.
    • What causes scabs on your scalp?Scalp scabs can be caused by several conditions. Some may clear up on their own, and some might require treatment. These include contact dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff. Use extra caution when styling your hair when you have a scab on the scalp. Brushing or combing your hair near the scalp scab can rip it and disrupt healing. As the scab starts to heal, you may forget it is there. It may help to post a reminder on your mirror where you style your hair.
    • How can you get rid of scabs on your face?If you have scabs from acne or another condition, there are ways to help them heal. Wash with a gentle cleanser to keep from disrupting the scab. Try using facial moisturizers to keep the scab from drying out. If the scab is from acne, continue using your acne medicine to help the pimple heal.
    • How long does it take a scab to fall off?A scab typically heals in about a week, but it depends on the size and depth of the wound. A small scab may heal after a few days, but a larger wound may take a few weeks or even months to heal. See your healthcare provider if you have a scab that isn’t healing or shows signs of infection. Signs of a scab infection include increased redness, swelling, pain, and pus oozing from the wound.
    • How do you treat a scab inside the nose?A scab inside the nose can be painful and may get infected. To protect the wound and promote healing, use a saline spray to keep the nasal passages from drying out. If the scab hurts, try a cream like pain-free Neosporin, which helps to fight infection and reduce pain. Most scabs heal in a week. See your healthcare provider if a scab in your nose is still painful and not improving after a week.
    • Is it better to pick a scab or leave it?It is not a good idea to pick a scab. Doing so can cause it to be retraumatized and can lead to scarring. The scab protects the wound as it heals and should be left alone to fall off in its own time.

By Kristen Gasnick, PT, DPT Kristen Gasnick, PT, DPT, is a medical writer and a physical therapist at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey. Thanks for your feedback!

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