Burn scars

How to treat sunburn and burn scars

5 min read

The skin is the largest organ of your body as well as the one most exposed to the environment. These are two reasons why 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. Read on to find out more about them.

How do I get burn scars?

As your skin is the most exposed organ of your body, burns 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.

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].

With severe burns, it is not possible to fully prevent burn scar formation as burn wounds tend to form hypertrophic or keloid scars [5]. 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].

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, keloid scars 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 sunburns?

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. It 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 Mederma® scar treatments (such as Mederma® Scar Cream Plus SPF 30) to reduce any scarring that may appear.

How should I treat burn scars?

Many treatments are available for your scars, from over-the-counter to prescription-only. If you’re not sure what type of treatment is best for you, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Mederma® scar products 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]. Your physician may have already recommended Mederma® to you since it is the no.1 brand of scar reduction treatments among health professionals according to a 2020 survey*. It is widely available over the counter, so it’s a good option if you want to start treating your scars.

Mederma® scar range includes several products specially formulated to cover different needs, so it is likely you’ll find one that suits your lifestyle. They all moisturize your new skin and have been shown to improve the appearance and feel of scars [16–18]. You can read more about these products here, but, specifically with regard to burn scars, here is a quick summary:

  • 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 Mederma® Advanced Scar Gel would be a good way to start since it contains allantoin, a well-known skin barrier with anti-irritant properties.
  • 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 Mederma® Scar Cream Plus SPF 30 to do double duty.
  • The skin rejuvenation process is more active at night [21], and this can be turned to your advantage by applying Mederma® PM Intensive Overnight Scar Cream. Indeed, this Mederma® product contains Tripeptol™, a specially formulated copper peptide that will help the skin healing process that naturally occurs at night. It also contains an emollient to minimize scarring [22].
  • Mederma® for Kids™ is specially formulated to make scar treatment “fun” with its special “fun package”: a grape scent and purple color that turns clear upon application. It is the no. 1 scar treatment for kids [19, 20].

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 with Mederma® will 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 a long and sometimes tedious

References

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