This is a patient-focused resource, meant to provide general instruction regarding short and long term aftercare for dermal abrasion wounds (for example, road rash after a fall from a bicycle).   This information has been developed based on medical literature review, experience of the author, and consultation with a clinical dermatologist.  This information is generalized only, and (as with all resources and information found on this page) is not meant to substitute for or supersede any advisement given in person by a qualified medical professional. 

Abrasion After Care

The best care for an abrasion (commonly referred to as road rash) is to first get it completely clean.  This has probably been done for you here today already.  The wound has likely also been dressed for you.  But keep in mind, the best outcome for wounds like this requires continued attention, much of which you will need to do at home.

Your job initially:

  • Wash the wound(s) gently daily with warm water and mild soap.  Alternatively, you can use hydrogen peroxide for the first few days, but this is not superior to simple cleansing with tap water.
  • Next, apply a thick ointment like vaseline/petroleum jelly, aquaphor, or vitamin A & D ointment.  Using a topical antibiotic is generally not necessary.  Antibiotic ointment such as neosporin or bacitracin can cause allergic reactions, making the wound itchy, red, and bumpy.  If this was specifically recommended by your health care provider, make sure you are not allergic.
  • After application of ointment, bandage the wound. A topical non-stick dressing may have been provided to you, or can be purchased over the counter cheaply.  The wound may have weeping of clear fluid (exudates) which seeps through the non-stick pad, so place a layer of dry, absorbent gauze over this to handle any exudates.
  • This type of dressing should be removed and re-applied twice daily initially, then reduced to once daily when the weeping of clear fluid decreases.
  • Initially, do not let the wound get dry and crusted. Rather, keep it moist with the vaseline/petroleum as this will help it heal faster.

During this initial healing period, be weary of signs or symptoms of infection.  These may include: increasing (rather than decreasing) pain at the site of your wound; redness spreading around the wound edges (although a thin, light rim of redness around the wound edges initially can be normal); white, thick or foul-smelling discharge from the wound base; or unexplained fevers.  If you suspect these symptoms or have other unexplained symptoms or concerns, seek out consultation with a qualified health care professional immediately.

Once your wound is no longer oozing and raw, and shiny new pink healthy skin is visible, begin:

  • Gentle rubbing of the scar(s) with vaseline/petroleum jelly to help the scar mature and flatten faster.
  • Silicone gel sheeting can be used if it is raised.  For example, you can try Curad Scar Therapy (one of many available products, not an endorsement).  Leave this on for 24 hours per day (you can leave it off for an hour or so around bathing).
  • If you are not able to do this, then use it nightly.  Replace the pad with a new one when old one falls off.

As the wound heals, keep in mind:

  • In the first few weeks, you may not feel satisfied with the appearance of your wound.  Don’t get too concerned.  You won’t see the final appearance of your scar for 6 months to a year, and it is very likely to fade and improve with time.  
  • Vascular laser therapy (offered by some dermatologists and skin specialists) can help the redness fade faster, but generally isn’t necessary.  There are other procedural treatments that can help to smoothe and lighten a scar that you may read about, but we wouldn’t recommend these initially.  
  • The abnormal color will fade on its own after numerous months.  If after 6 months to a year you feel unsatisfied with the scar appearance, it may be reasonable to seek out consultation with a qualified skin specialist for one of these treatments.
  • In the meantime, strict sun protection is essential. The sun can permanantly darken scars.  Wear sun protective clothing and sunscreen which is at least SPF 30, broad spectrum (including UVA and UVB) with either zinc or titanium or both as active ingredients.  A thick layer and frequent application when in the sun for prolonged periods of time is essential.  You are also better off avoiding peak sun hours altogether!

Be sure to attend any aftercare visits that your provider has scheduled for you.  If you have been given any specialized instruction for your wound by your provider, adhere to these.

Not exactly what you were looking for?  If you are a provider, you might be interested to hear the clinical side of the story.   If you were recently a patient, you might want to visit related pages on suture removal and laceration aftercare instructions.