Burn scars

How to treat sunburn and burn marks

5 min read

The skin is the largest organ of your body as well as the one most exposed to the environment, meaning it is more than likely that, at some point in your life, you will expose it to either intense heat, UV rays or chemicals. Burns will result from this exposure and with them comes the risk of scarring.

  • Burn scars can be different from other scars and so need different care.
  • Burns are split into three degrees of severity.
  • Burns may create hypertrophic scars and even contracture scars.

What’s in this article:

  • How do I get burn scars?
  • How to prevent scarring from burns
  • How are burn scars different from other scars?
  • What about sunburn scars?
  • How to fade burn scars

How do I get burn scars?

As your skin is the most exposed organ of your body, burn marks are fairly common. In terms of burns, degrees are important (pun intended), as burn injuries are classified into 3 groups: first degree burns, second degree burns and, you guessed it, third degree burns. The higher the degree, the more serious the burn. Depending on the severity and seriousness of the burn and the extent of the affected skin area, it may be necessary that you consult a healthcare professional or visit an emergency room.

Skin Illustration
Skin Illustration

First degree burns are not likely to leave any scar on your skin since they only affect the epidermis. On the other hand, second and third degree burns affect the dermis, thereby increasing the chances of scarring [1–3]. Therefore, it is important that your burned skin is properly taken care of as quickly as possible. Your care provider may elect to apply special burn creams or ointments and appropriate dressings[4].

How to prevent scarring from burns

With severe burns, it is not possible to fully prevent burn scar formation as burn wounds tend to form hypertrophic scars or keloids [5]. You can reduce the appearance of scars from minor burns by running your burn under cool water and letting your skin air dry [2]. If the burn has occurred in an area subjected to tension, such as joints, it can cause what are called contracture scars that could result in movement limitation [6,7].

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  • Unique triple benefit formula
  • Protects scars from sun damage
  • Cream format

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How are burn scars different from other scars?

In case you have any doubts on how to treat your burn scars, it is always a good idea to consult a dermatologist. Depending on their location and severity, burn scars are at higher risk than other types of scars of turning into hypertrophic scars and keloids since burn injuries result in prolonged inflammation, a risk factor for scar formation [8–10]. The longer your burn takes to heal, the higher the risk of hypertrophic scarring [11]. Other factors may also increase the likelihood of burn scar formation. For instance, if you have a darker skin type, you are more at risk of developing a keloid scar [10,12]. Finally, since they usually affect larger areas, burn scars are more likely to cause contracture scars, which are particularly painful and disabling, especially when located on joints [13,14].

Overall, the larger and more severe the burn, the higher the risk of scarring. In case of a severe burn, seek care from a specialized care provider. They would care for your burn in the best way possible and therefore should be able to minimize scar formation as much as possible.

What about sunburn scars?

Sunburn, especially second degree sunburn (blistering sunburn) can cause scars and may affect large areas of the body. If you do get a blistering sunburn, you should refrain from trying to pop the blister. The skin underneath is delicate and therefore more prone to injury and infection, so don’t rub it. Leave the blister alone, apply a soothing product, such as aloe vera, and allow your skin to heal at its own pace. It may be necessary to consult with a care provider.

The best way to avoid getting sunburn scars is sun burn prevention, so first take good care of your skin and use sunscreen. If you get sunburn, follow the recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology, drink plenty of water and apply a soothing product such as aloe vera [15]. Then, once it has healed, start applying a burn scar treatments to reduce any scarring that may appear.

Mederma® Scar Cream Plus SPF 30

  • Unique triple benefit formula
  • Protects scars from sun damage
  • Cream format

Buy today

How to fade burn scars

Many treatments are available for your burn scars, from over-the-counter to prescription-only. If you’re not sure what type of burn scar treatment is best for you, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.

Burn scar treatments are perfectly adapted to reducing the appearance of burn scars. All Mederma® scar creams or gels contain a unique triple action formula shown to be effective in reducing the visibility of scars [16–18].

Many burn scar treatments are specially formulated to cover different needs, so it is likely you’ll find one that suits your lifestyle. Treatments can help moisturize your new skin and improve the appearance and feel of scars [16–18]. You can read more about Mederma scar treatments on our product pages, but here are some key things to think about when searching for a treatment:

  • Burned skin is particularly sensitive and lacks the oil and sweat glands necessary to keep the new skin soft and tender [19]. Moreover, given that burn scars, such as sunburn scars, may affect a large surface area of your skin, it is all the more important to make up for this lack of moisture. Applying a moisturizing burn scar treatment would be a good way to start since.
  • Scars don’t tan, they burn [20]. This is true for any type of scar and even more so for burn scars, especially if your scars are due to a nasty sunburn. It is therefore crucial to keep them protected from further sun damage. If you are not able to stay indoors, which is obviously the best way to avoid sun exposure, you could use an SPF burn scar treatment to do double duty.
  • The skin rejuvenation process is more active at night [21], and this can be turned to your advantage by applying and overnight scar cream. This could help the skin’s healing process that naturally occurs at night as well as helping to minimize scarring [22].
  • Kids treatments are often specially formulated to make scar treatment “fun” with its packaging, scents and coloring.

As mentioned above, burn scars may form hypertrophic scars and even contracture scars that are stiff and usually painful [7,25]. Massaging the scar when applying any topical product on it will help mobilize the scar, thus reducing the likelihood of contracture formation [26].

Be gentle while doing so, since newly formed skin is particularly delicate and sensitive. Of course, this applies not only to new scars but also to older ones and massaging an old scar may also help it to fade away to some extent and regain flexibility. As always, the sooner you start, the better.


Burned skin is delicate and sensitive and, if not cared for properly, can turn into very visible scars, so it is important to treat it as soon as you can. Burn scars will fade overtime if properly treated, but it is long and sometimes tedious.


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