Here in my Miami practice, I have seen a number of patients who have experienced burns from things like hot cooking oil, curling irons and motorcycles. One of the biggest concerns after a burn is how to treat your skin in order to maximize healing and minimize scarring.
If you have experienced a mild burn and do not require medical attention, follow these steps for treating a burn and reducing signs of scarring.
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Immediately immerse the burn in cold water
As soon as possible after a burn, immerse the affected area in cold water or apply an ice pack for about 30 seconds. This will reduce the surface temperature of your skin and help to ease pain and discomfort.
The next step is to apply aloe to the area, either directly from the aloe plant itself or from a pre-packaged gel. Here in South Florida, it is easy to grow an aloe plant or two in your backyard to have on hand just in case. Cut the leaf open and squeeze out the gel onto your skin. You should feel an immediate cooling effect.
If you don’t have aloe on hand, you can also cut open a vitamin E capsule and apply its contents to your skin. Aloe and vitamin E are strong antioxidants, so they can help to reverse the skin damage caused by a burn, as well as accelerate the healing process.
Clean with an antibacterial cleanser
Next, clean the area with an antibacterial cleanser such as GCP Pre and Post Procedure Cleanser, then apply a topical antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin or Polysporin and cover the area with a Tegaderm dressing or Band-Aid.
Cover with a Tegaderm dressing
Tegaderm is a transparent polyurethane dressing that allows oxygen transfer across the dressing. It seals out water, dirt and germs and protects the area while it heals. Apply the dressing as soon as possible after the injury and leave on for as many days as it will stay on (usually three to four). This will allow the top layer of skin to stay over the injured layering. This speeds healing. These dressings are sold at CVS and Walgreens — ask the pharmacist if you cannot find them. I like to keep them on hand in my kitchen.
Do not pick at or peel off the top layer of skin
You should notice a scab or dark thickened skin begin to develop as your burn heals. Resist the urge to pick at it or peel it off because keeping the top dead layer of skin on speeds healing and protects the underlying skin. Continue to apply the antibiotic ointment and bandage each day until the scab has completely healed and fallen off on its own.
Once the scab has fallen off, you can stop using the antibiotic cream and bandage, but be sure to apply a physical sunscreen to the area to help minimize post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (darkening) of the skin.
If you end up with a red scar that you don’t like, you can talk to your doctor about getting Vbeam laser treatments. You may need more than one Vbeam treatment, depending on the severity of your scar, but many people see a noticeable improvement in their scar’s appearance after just one session.