Treating wounds

Why is my Wound Turning White? All Possible Reasons

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: August 2, 2020
Why is my Wound Turning White? All Possible Reasons

The recovery process of a wound may be different from one person to another. There are many mitigating factors including the condition of a person's immune system, any comorbidities and, of course, how the wound was sustained. However, if you receive a small open wound such as a cut, the wound healing stages usually start with a reddish brown scab forming after bleeding stops. Healthy skin will start to cover it within a week or so. In some cases, you may start to see a pale white color in the middle of the wound. You may wonder why is my wound turning white? There are several reasons for a wound turning this color, with some being potentially serious. Read this oneHOWTO article to find out possible reasons for a wound turning white and how to address any issues.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Wound Smell
  1. Should you keep a wound moist or dry?
  2. Over-use of cream or ointment
  3. Reaction to a medicine ingredient
  4. Infection
  5. Skin cancer
  6. General wound care

Should you keep a wound moist or dry?

Trapped moisture is perhaps the most common reason for your wound turning white. You may notice some white spots on your open wound as it starts to scab. Water may be the reason for whiteness either on the open wound or on the skin around it. If water is the reason behind this, the change in color will likely only be temporary. A scab is the body’s natural way to keep the skin protected while it is in the healing phase. It creates a kind of natural bandage around the wound, so that it does not bleed and remains protected against any possible environmental factors.

Unfortunately, while humans have suffered wounds since the beginning of recorded time, treatment of these wounds has not remained constant. There has always been debate over whether you should keep a wound moist or dry, but there has not always been consensus. Until the early 2010s, many believed that it was better to keep wounds dry for optimal healing. The theory was that a scab will protect the wound while the tissue repairs itself. Scabs are not waterproof and can soak off with too much moisture, allowing water to reach the wound. Often, this is the caue of white spots on or white skin around the wound.

Current medical consensus shows that moisture is not actually a hindrance and may even promote wound recovery during the healing stage. According to a 2013 study released in the journal Advances in Wound Care:

Wet or moist wound treatment significantly reduces the time required for re-epithelialization, and leads to reduced inflammation, necrosis, and subsequent scar formation[1].

Re-epithelialization is the regrowth of the skin. If the wound is kept moist, then it is possible for the wound to turn a little white as the moisture saturates the skin. Reduction of inflammation is an important factor, but other journals discuss how moisture can benefit in repairing skin without leaving a scar[2]. Keeping the wound moist is now the official course of action for wound treatment in medical bodies such as the NHS in the UK.

Keeping the wound dry may also lead to appearance of white skin. When the wound is too dry the skin around the wound can start turning white and peeling off. This is not so much the wound turning white as it is the dead skin around the wound coming off naturally. In general it should not cause concern and is often sign of a healthy healing. However, there are other reasons for a wound turning white.

Over-use of cream or ointment

Moist or dry in wound care is not the only consideration many need to make. Whether or not to use a topical ointment also leads to differences of opinion. Some may use pharmaceutical grade ointments either prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter. Some even think to use home remedies such as Vaseline petroleum jelly to cover the open wound.

According to the American Academy of dermatology, Vaseline can be a great help in minor wounds[3]. The Vaseline covers the wound to protect it from dirt and preventing a scab to form which can extend the healing process. However, a recent report suggests that this should not be applied directly after the wound has been cleaned[4]. Waiting half an hour lets the blood clot and coat the wound in a thin film of a substance named fibrin. After this time the Vaseline can be added to keep the wound moist and protected.

While Vaseline may work if rubbed onto the wound, it is not a good idea to use ointment to excess. A wound may turn white if you keep it coated with thick cream or ointment all the time. Using a first aid cream is a good thing to do, but excessive application can lead to poor circulation of air through the wound. If that’s the case, you should remove the cream from the open wound and let air pass over it. Keep it moist with something more suitable and the white color should disappear after only a few hours.

Why is my Wound Turning White? All Possible Reasons - Over-use of cream or ointment

Reaction to a medicine ingredient

The problem with an open wound turning white is the need to differentiate between a healthy wound and one which is discolored for a negative reason. An allergy to a certain ingredient in a medication can lead to a wound or the skin around a wound turning white. A chemical reaction in response to the allergy can lead to a thin white film growing over the wound. It could also lead to white spots or even pus oozing from the area.

If an allergic reaction is the reason for your wound turning white, discontinue using that medicine and take antihistamines to subside the allergic reaction. If the problem persists or grows worse, you will need to ask a physician for further diagnosis and treatment options.


An infected wound may turn white due to the natural immune response of your body. In case of an infection, the wound may become white, the area around it may turn hot and red. You may even see white pus oozing from underneath as well as a bad smell. Mostly, the open wound seems white due to the presence of pus. A wound which only has a minor infection may be combated adequately by the body's natural immune response. After this time, the white pus should disappear as the wound heals.

However, some viral infections like human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes may also cause white scabs on your skin. In that case, you need to get them diagnosed and treated properly to prevent any further complications. This will require a doctor's diagnosis.

The type of wound will also have a bearing on infection. A deep open wound turning white may indicate that a reaction is going on under further into the skin. If there is inflammation around the wound, this could be a sign an infection is taking place, even if you don't see any white appear. If the wound is deep enough, then you may even see white tissue in the wound bed. This could be fatty tissue, but it won't turn white all of a sudden. It will because the wound is so bad it has punctured into the flesh and it will need qualified medical treatment.

Why is my Wound Turning White? All Possible Reasons - Infection

Skin cancer

Sometimes, you may start seeing white lesions on different parts of your skin, but not on cuts and wounds. If you notice these, you should immediately consult a physician. In some skin cancers, these kinds of lesions appear in the very early stages. If diagnosed in time, they can be successfully treated and managed. The medical experts do a biopsy on these lesions and determine if skin cancer is their cause or not. It is important to remember that it is unlikely cancer will develop at a wound site. White lesions from skin cancer will appear seemingly out of nowhere and not from a pre-existing wound turning white.

General wound care

If you are worried about your wound turning white, then it may be helpful to know the normal type of healing process. This is applicable to minor wounds such as puncture wounds, cuts, scrapes or burns. If you have a deep wound, you should take yourself to the hospital, especially if bleeding is profuse. The healing stages of minor wounds include:

  1. Blood begins to clot and stops active bleeding from the open wound.
  2. A scab begins to form, growing harder as it develops.
  3. Wound may grow swollen due to the immune response.
  4. Some oozing may occur if a minor infection is present. This may be a reason for the wound turning white.
  5. Over about 3 weeks, blood vessels repair and new tissue is formed.
  6. Skin grows over the wound site.
  7. Scab falls off. If the wound has closed over, this area may look red and shiny.
  8. A scar may form, but this only usually occurs with deep wounds.

As you can see there are different possible reasons for a wound turning white, but most of them are either part of the natural healing process or due to the type of treatment applied. There are other signs a wound may be infected or need attention. They include:

  • Redness and inflammation around the wound indicates infection. If the pus is yellow or green, then this can also indicate a problem which may need to be treated if it does not get better on its own.
  • If you develop a fever during the healing process. This is something you need to be careful of as it may indicate a condition such as blood poisoning which is very serious.
  • Bleeding which does not stop after a short while.
  • Increased pain and irritation of the area.
  • A wound turning black implies necrosis, i.e. the skin tissue is dying.

If you see any of these symptoms occurring you should take yourself to a doctor to achieve an appropriate diagnosis.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why is my Wound Turning White? All Possible Reasons, we recommend you visit our Family health category.

Write a comment
What did you think of this article?
Helpful article!
The current standard for wound care is to keep it moist. Please update your reccomendations
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Meredith

Thank you for your comment, we will take your information into account. oneHOWTO
Thelma Taylor
I have severe psoriasis in my foot has turned white after I took a shower put Neosporin on it and it turned even deeper wipes so I put Vaseline on it and now it's back black what do I do
keep using th Vaseline. Not too much though just every few days it's really good for the skin.
Cassandra Daubney
you should stop using Valeline because your foot can fall off due to lack of circulation
1 of 3
Why is my Wound Turning White? All Possible Reasons