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Why do Wounds Form Scabs?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The human body has a lot of tricks up its sleeve when it comes to healing itself, including the formation of scabs over a wound. Blood is a very complex substance chemically speaking, and several of those substances play a crucial role immediately after a surface injury. Blood platelets immediately pack themselves together in the wound itself and form a plug, better known as a blood clot. This clot can prevent or reduce further blood loss, but it can't hold on forever. As more platelets collect around the wound and white blood cells attack opportunistic germs, a new substance called fibrin starts to build a web over the wound.

It is this combination of platelets, fibrin and plasma that combine to create scabs. They function as protective caps over the wound that prevent dirt, germs and other contaminants to enter the "work site." As the blood platelets dry out, the scab usually takes on a deep, rusty brown color and develops crusty edges. It usually remains firmly in place until the skin underneath has been repaired and new skin cells have appeared. If it's prematurely removed, the revealed skin may look red and oozing. A new scab may reform, but often the new skin develops scar tissue.

Scabs should be allowed to dry completely and fall off naturally, although that is often more easily said than done. The skin underneath may become very irritated or itchy during the healing process, which may cause sufferers to claw or scratch at it. Some bandage companies even promote the use of specially treated adhesive products that prevent the formation of scabs. The treated bandage is believed to absorb the liquids and blood products that would have ordinarily congealed. Whether or not someone chooses to use bandages on a wound or else allow them to heal naturally, the key is to keep the area protected from infection and dirt.

There are a number of people who suffer from a obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the picking of scabs. Similar to compulsive self-mutilation, obsessive creation and picking can seriously harm a sufferer's social and professional life if not addressed professionally. Compulsive picking at scabs can also cause a number of disfiguring physical ailments, so it may help to use antiseptics containing an anesthetic such as lidocaine to reduce the temptation to pick or forcefully remove them.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon1000383 — On Sep 10, 2018

The body knows how to heal. Rinse the wound and keep it away from dirt. Let a scab form. If you don't need a bandage let it air dry. I run a piece of raw garlic across it quickly. Stops bleeding and the cut closes up! Keeping it moist and covered makes an ideal environment for bacteria which like precisely that - moisture and warmth. Modern medicine is not too correct.

By anon82805 — On May 07, 2010

how soon after the doctor injects Lidocaine into a wound should the doctor begin stitching a wound?

By wolf007 — On Jul 11, 2009

anon31684 do you respond to all post, who are you?

By wolf007 — On Jul 10, 2009

i was stabbed by a forklift fork -- large deep cut with broken leg. i had an operation to remove small bone fragments. now comes the part i do not understand: the dr. never wanted the cut to form a scab. now its been 2 months and its still not well. should i find another dr? --Russ

By anon31684 — On May 10, 2009

Shancan, reading what you have said, i surely hope you chose to seek medical attention. Your Post-op site most definitely sounds infected. Although if you choose to continue to tend to your site on your own, a mere moist gauze won't promote healing on a site like that at all. Something to try would be silverthiazine dressing or medical honey followed by a non-adhesive dressing (telfa etc.). With such exudate and increasing necrosis it doesn't sound standard at all.

anon26156- you could be scratching yourself in your sleep, how big are the scabs and what are the locations? I'm sure there's something they all have in common to link you to the source.

In regards to the burn scabs, these are quiet different to normal scabs. Leaving them in place for as long as possible would be beneficial, other than that, without being able to see it, I can't give further guidance.

Remember people, the internet is *only* a source of information. If your able to use that information to treat yourself, go to university, retain it and become a doctor. If your not capable of that, let someone who is help.

By darlenemarth — On Feb 18, 2009


I have the same situation and similar. My incision wound is at the heel of the achilles. And I'm waiting for the same answer, just let it scab and run its course?

By anon26515 — On Feb 14, 2009

reading from this text, scabs form when there's been bodily harm. in my case i've got tiny scabs that form on my skin and i was not wounded or hurt...so why does this happen to me??

By anon26165 — On Feb 09, 2009

I have a 5cm burn on my shoulder and a very thick scab has healed over it, i was wondering when it will go and if it will just automatically fall off?

By shancan — On Nov 17, 2008

I had an incision done on my knee to remove a tumor and evidently the stitches irritated the incision which in turn turned into necrosis around the site. The stitches were removed (not early) and the incision opened. I have been using a combination of accuzyme in the wound and calmoseptine around the wound..wet saline gauze over the wound and a dry gauze on top of that. I then placed tegaderm patches over that to cover it up and changed the dressing once a day. After over a month and the wound would still not heal. It seemed daily it was re-creating more necrosis in the form of yellow patches that were flush with the wound and lots of yellow slough. Now I got a horrible rash around the wound that looks as bad...it started out as super itchy then blistered and broke open. I stopped using tegaderm and calmaseptine but the rash would not go away, since I have no way of securing the gauze to the wound it is now scabbed over with a yellow scab, the rash has yellow scabs on it too. Should I just leave it all alone and just let it heal or am I still not going to heal because of the scab?

By anon15413 — On Jul 10, 2008

I have a 3rd degree burn on shoulder. The scab is small now, but the scab is very thick. It has been this size for quite awhile. Will the scab fall off automatically when healing is completed?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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