Skin Burns – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

What is a Skin Burn?

Skin burns occur relatively often within the household and beyond it. In fact, burns (especially scalds from hot water and liquids) are some of the most common childhood accidents. The skin burn is characterized by skin damage, to varying degrees, associated with the death of most of the skin cells. Depending on the scope and severity of changes in tissue, burns are classified into four grades.

First degree

Slight, superficial burns, causing noticeable reddening of the skin, without blisters, there can be minor pain or swelling. Such burns usually heal within 3 to 6 days. The treatment may be carried out at home by suitable means (there are various home remedies, procedures and natural products available). Exceptions are these cases where burning covers a vast area of the body. If so, a consultation with a doctor will be needed in order to approve and/or prescribe a particular treatment.

The treatment may be carried out at home by suitable means (there are various home remedies, procedures and natural products available). Exceptions are these cases where burning covers a vast area of the body. If so, a consultation with a doctor will be needed in order to approve and/or prescribe a particular treatment.

Burn scar image
Source: Imgur

Exceptions are these cases where burning covers a vast area of the body. If so, a consultation with a doctor will be needed in order to approve and/or prescribe a particular treatment.

Second degree

Many blisters are formed on the skin’ surface, along with the redness. The skin is visibly inflamed and there is also a swelling of the tissues. Sometimes the blisters blow out and give a “wet” look of the skin.

Treatment can take more than 2-3 weeks. Instant medical care is needed when the burning affects a wide area, especially on the face, arms, legs, and groin.

Third degree

Extensive burns, reaching the deepest layers of the skin, including the nerve endings. It is characterized by partial necrosis of the skin, an opening of the blood vessels and discoloration of the skin into waxy-white, gray or black-brown.There is a wrong perception, according to which this is the most painful burning grade. In fact, pain may even be absent due to the nerve damage.

There is a wrong perception, according to which this is the most painful burning grade. In fact, pain may even be absent due to the nerve damage.

There is a wrong perception, according to which this is the most painful burning grade. In fact, pain may even be absent due to the nerve damage.

Sunburn Skin

Fourth degree

These are the most severe burns. They affect all layers of the skin, including the subcutaneous tissue, muscles, bones, and tendons. You should never try home treatment methods or any kind of self-medication in case you have to deal with third and fourth-degree burns. These burns require emergency medical care!

These burns require emergency medical care!

The reasons for burnings may include hot or boiling liquid, candles, lighters, fire, chemical burns, electrical burns. Another very common reason is the overexposure to sunlight causing sunburn.

The reason for the burning does not determine its severity.

For example, depending on the quantity and the temperature of the hot liquid which caused the skin burn, the combustion can be both first and third degree.

Another factor influencing the severity of the burn is the time of exposure.

On the other hand, chemical and electrical burns may affect the function of internal organs, causing minor variations in the skin appearance. Because of that, these burns require immediate medical help.

Depending on the cause and extent of the damage, in most cases, the recovery can happen without any serious health consequences. More serious burns, however, can be very dangerous and even life-threatening, which is why they require immediate emergency medical care.

When proper and prompt therapy is implemented in first and second-degree burns, they may have a very good perspective. Also, these burns are less prone to scar formation. The key in the therapy lies in minimizing further damage and infection, as well as helping to restore most of the damaged cells and tissues.

If nature has taught us anything, it is that it provides time-tested solutions for many conditions and diseases, including skin burns, especially those of first and second degree.

Alternative treatment for burns may include the application of various home remedies, natural products, and herbs.

Home remedies for burns

  • Lukewarm water

Cool water is the most affordable and fast remedy for burns treatment. It brings instant relief and stops the spreading of damage on the tissue. Running cold tap water over accidental burns and scalds is generally accepted as the best way to cool the skin and prevent blistering. The sooner you apply cool water on the affected area, the better the benefits.

  • Mint toothpaste

Mint toothpaste is a product that can be used as very affordable (available in almost every household) and effective remedy for minor burns. After running cold tap water on the burn, pat dry with a towel by gently tapping (do not rub the skin) and cover the area with a layer of mint toothpaste. Let the toothpaste dry and leave it on for a couple hours.

  • Baking soda

Baking soda is another popular remedy that can take the pain of burning away. Just mix a little baking soda with clean water until you reach a paste consistency and apply it to the burn. Let it dry and rinse with cool water (after 1-2 hours).

  • Aluminum foil

Aluminum foil is one of the easiest home remedies providing instant relief from the burns. Once the area is cold enough, you can apply aluminum foil on it, which will quickly relieve the pain. It is necessary to leave the foil for about 30 minutes in order to soothe the irritated skin.

  • Salt

Salt is an appropriate treatment for burnings affecting the mouth cavity (e.g.after taking hot meals or drinks). Just mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and rinse your mouth with the mixture. Repeat every hour until the irritation is gone.

Natural products against sunburn


Honey has long been used as a natural agent for the disinfection of wounds and the treatment of burns. When used to treat burns, honey pulls the excess fluid from the tissues and cleans the affected area. The antibiotic properties of honey have been useful for preventing further infection. You can apply honey on gauze or a bandage and put it on the damaged skin. Remember to change the bandage 3-4 times a day.

Tea bags

The use of tea bags [6] as a natural remedy against combustion can be accomplished in several ways. The first is to put 2-3 packets Under cold water, then put them in a bowl and then carefully absorb the liquid separated from them, apply it on the burn through a cotton ball or gauze.
You may also directly apply the tea bags (after steeping them in cold water) and fix them using a bandage or cotton cloth.
Alternatively, you can put 3-4 bags of tea, 2 cups fresh mint leaves in 1 liter of boiling water.

Let the liquid cool, dip a cotton swab in it and apply it on the burned area.
The most appropriate for such application is the black tea as it is rich in tannic acid, which takes heat away and can significantly reduce the pain.


The healing process of skin burns is often accompanied by severe itching. An easy way to relieve the itching is adding 1 cup of uncooked oatmeal in a bathtub of cool water or in a suitable container. Soak the affected area for about 15-20 minutes, then let it air dry so on it to remain thin coating of oatmeal on the skin surface. Be careful when entering and exiting the bathtub as the oatmeal will make it extremely slippery!


The high content of fats and proteins in the milk provides smoothing of the skin and also a reduction of the combustion.

For minor burns, you can apply a cloth soaked in milk and leave it on for 15-20 minutes. Repeat every few hours to relieve the pain. You can use both milk and yogurt. Remember to rinse the towel before any further soaking with milk!

White cider vinegar

White cider vinegar [5] has very strong astringent and antiseptic action that prevents infection and accelerates the healing process. It can provide quick relief from the pain and also reduce the itching and inflammation. You can soak a cotton pad in a mixture of equal parts white cider vinegar and water and apply on the burn or prepare a compress if the affected area is wider.

Banana Peel

Banana peels are chock-a-block with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, so they’re a natural cure for many skin conditions and an aid for cell regeneration. Placing a banana peel on the burned area can be helpful for skin burns. Leave the banana peel on until it becomes black.

Raw Potato

Raw potatoes can treat skin burns because of their soothing properties. They will contribute to relieve pain and reduce the risk of blistering. You should just simply cut a piece of raw potato and rub it over the burn, making sure that you cover well the entire combustion zone.
Another option is to cut raw potatoes into several pieces and lay them on the affected area for 15 minutes.

Onion juice

Onions contain quercetin and sulfur compounds proven to relieve pain, heal tissues and help restore the skin. The onion juice should be applied immediately after extracting it because after a few minutes the juice loses its healing properties. Apply several times a day until the skin is completely healed.

Noni juice

Noni juice applied directly on the burn, promotes the healing process as it soothes the inflammation and protects cells from further damage.


Vanilla extract can be used for minor burns, apply it on the damaged skin using a cotton pad. The extract helps to relieve the pain and cools the area, leaving the skin rejuvenated.

Vitamin C and E

Vitamin C promotes fast wound healing and stimulates the production of collagen. Collagen is a type of protein and works with keratin to provide the skin with strength, smoothness, elasticity, and resilience.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to restore and protect the cells from free radicals.
The daily intake is strongly recommended in case of skin burning. You can open a capsule of vitamin E and apply directly onto the burned area.

Vitamin E oil provides the skin with necessary moisture as well as antioxidants for intense healing. However, pure vitamin E oil is not ideal for a daily application because it is so thick and sticky.

The increased consumption of foods rich in these vitamins (or the intake of their synthetic form) can speed up the recovery process.

Sunburn skin
Skin Burn

Herbal sunburn soothers

Aloe vera

Aloe vera [1] is one of the basic and most recommended natural remedies for burns treatment. The effect of aloe is due to the soothing, cooling and regenerating properties of the plant.
You should just squeeze the juice from the aloe leaf and apply it directly to the area of combustion.
An alternative is to use organic aloe vera gel, which can be bought from a pharmaceutical store or organic foods’ store.


Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) is a herb that can be useful in the treatment of burns. The leaves of plantain are high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. They are also rich in mucilage, iridoids glycosides, and tannins. These ingredients have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-hemorrhagic properties. To obtain the optimal effect, mash some fresh leaves of plantain and apply the paste directly onto the area of the burn.


Calendula [4] has proven anti-inflammatory properties and shows promising results in the treatment of burns. Calendula infusion can be applied directly to the place of burning.
“Effect of Calendula officinalis flower extract on acute phase proteins, antioxidant defense mechanism, and granuloma formation during thermal burns”

Essential oils for sunburn treatment

Coconut oil

Coconut oil [3] is an excellent source of vitamin E and fatty acids that help repair skin and it also has an antibacterial effect.

Lavender oil

Lavender essential oil [2] has remarkable healing effect Commonly used to speed up the healing process of wounds, cuts, burns, and sunburns because it improves the formation of scar tissue.

Lavender has pain relieving properties as well Lavender has antibiotic and pain relieving properties. The essential oil of lavender is used for burns and in some hospitals, as a means of relief and accelerating the healing process.

You can apply lavender oil by mixing 1 teaspoon of pure essential oil to 60 ml of water. Mix well and apply gently on the skin with gauze or a clean cloth. Repeat as often as necessary. Tea tree oil may also be appropriate.

What should NOT be used for burns?

Egg white

Raw egg white may contain bacteria, and moreover, it retains the heat, rather than eliminate it.


Never apply ice directly on the burn because it causes a sharp contraction of blood vessels, ceases the blood clotting and may lead to further tissue damage.

The best way to combat burns is to prevent any incidents which can take place. Please, check the list containing some easy tips and preventive measures:

  • Keep children out of the kitchen while you are cooking!
  • Place a fire extinguisher near the kitchen!
  • Install your smoke detectors in the house and renew them every 10 years.
  • Maintain the temperature of the water in the boiler below 60 ° C.
  • Keep lighters, matches and any other sources of ignition away from children!
  • Keep all kinds of chemicals locked up, away from children! Always wear gloves when using chemicals and detergents!
  • Use electrical safety products only!
  • Do not leave exposed electrical cables or cables with damaged insulation!
  • Always put out your cigarettes! To be absolutely sure, you can pour them in water!
  • It is also important to have a plan for evacuation from your home or office! In a case of fire, crawl under the smoke in order to minimize the risk of stifling and fire entrapment.


    Therapeutic effects of Aloe vera on cutaneous microcirculation and wound healing in second-degree burn model in rats.
    Healing advantages of lavender essential oil during episiotomy recovery: A clinical trial
    Effect of Topical Application of Virgin Coconut Oil on Skin Components and Antioxidant Status during Dermal Wound Healing in Young Rats
    Development of Animal Model for Studying Deep Second-Degree Thermal Burns
    Vinegar-a traditional vulnerary as a modern topical antiseptic
    The Beneficial Effects of Green Tea Extract and its Main Derivatives in Repairing Skin Burns of Rabbit

About the author

Monika Hristova

Monika is the Editor-in-Chief at SkinPractice. She is a skin care addict and researcher, who feels strongly about helping people with different dermatology conditions from alopecia to warts.

You can read her recommendations and advice both here at SkinPractice or at Quora where she answers skincare-related questions frequently and is the most viewed author in the Skincare category with more than 3 million views or follow her on LinkedIn.

She is also a certified skin care specialist with certification from the Medical College in Sofia.

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