You might not be happy about the appearance of a scab on your lip. It might bother you less if you realize that it works like a bandage, protecting the skin underneath so it can heal.

Your scab is your body’s way of protecting and healing an injury. When the skin is broken, your body reacts to stop the bleeding and to keep out debris and germs.

Platelets — part of your blood — clump at the wound site to form a blood clot to slow or stop the bleeding. A scab is formed as the clot dries out and gets hard and crusty.

Typically, in a couple of weeks, your scab should fall off to reveal the new skin that has grown underneath it.

To help the healing process and maybe speed it up, here are some tips for treating your scab:

Keep it clean

Proper hygiene can help you avoid irritation or infection.

  • Don’t scrub your scab. Gentle cleansing will suffice.
  • Don’t touch your scab. If touching cannot be avoided, wash your hands first.
  • Don’t use a harsh soap. Use a mild, non-foaming cleanser.

Moisturize

Moisturize your scab to promote fast healing and reduce itching. Consider using petroleum jelly. Since you’re washing the area and the scab is protection from infection, you most likely do not need an antibacterial ointment.

Apply a warm compress

Apply a warm compress to help maintain moisture, increase blood flow, and encourage skin regeneration. If your scab itches, a warm compress might also provide some welcome relief.

Use sunscreen

While you’re applying sunscreen to your face, don’t forget the scab on your lip. A sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher, can help prevent scarring.

Don’t pick at it

When your mom told you not to pick your scab, she was right. Picking at your scab can prolong the healing process. It can also result in infection, inflammation, and potential scarring.

You shouldn’t be concerned if there’s a small amount of swelling or pinkish-red skin around your scab. These are common signs of healing. You should, however, watch for the following signs of infection:

  • a fever, with no other explanation
  • redness and swelling, which increases over a period of days
  • red streaks extending from the scab
  • your scab is painful to the touch
  • your scab feels hot
  • your scab is oozing pus
  • your scab bleeds when touched
  • your scab isn’t healing after 10 days
  • the area around your scab is yellow and crusty

If you think that your scab has become infected, see your doctor.

There are a number of potential causes for a scab on a lip, including:

A scab on your lip is a sign that your body is doing its job. It’s protecting an area of damaged skin from dirt, debris, and bacteria.

Taking care of the scab on your lip with proper washing, moisturizing, and other steps can hasten healing.

A scab will commonly fall off in a couple of weeks, revealing new skin underneath, but keep your eye out for infection. If you think you might have an infection, talk with your doctor.