4 Treatment Options for 1st Degree Burn Scars: Dermatologists

by Ella

First-degree burns, also known as superficial burns, are the mildest type of burn injuries. These burns affect only the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis) and often result in redness, pain, and minor swelling. While first-degree burns typically heal without significant medical intervention, they can sometimes leave behind scars. This article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding first-degree burn scars, including their causes, symptoms, treatment options, and strategies for prevention and management.


What is  a First-Degree Burn?

Characteristics of First-Degree Burns

Layer of Skin Affected: First-degree burns impact only the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.


Appearance: The affected area is typically red and dry, without blisters. The skin may peel as it heals.


Pain: These burns are usually painful to the touch and can be sensitive to temperature changes.


Healing Time: First-degree burns generally heal within 7 to 10 days without leaving permanent scars.

Common Causes of First-Degree Burns

Sun Exposure: Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun is a leading cause of first-degree burns, commonly known as sunburn.

Scalds: Contact with hot liquids or steam can cause first-degree burns.

Contact Burns: Brief contact with hot objects, such as a stove, iron, or curling iron, can result in first-degree burns.

Chemical Burns: Certain chemicals, including household cleaners and industrial substances, can cause superficial burns.

Radiation: Radiation therapy for cancer treatment or exposure to certain types of radiation can cause first-degree burns.

Understanding First-Degree Burn Scars

How Scars Form

Healing Process: During the healing process of a first-degree burn, new skin cells form to replace the damaged ones. In some cases, the body produces excess collagen, leading to the formation of scar tissue.

Appearance: First-degree burn scars are usually mild and may appear as slight discoloration or pigmentation changes in the affected area. They are generally less severe than scars from deeper burns.

Factors Influencing Scar Formation

Skin Type: Individuals with darker skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation, which can make scars more noticeable.

Location of the Burn: Burns on certain areas of the body, such as the face, neck, or joints, may be more prone to scarring due to increased movement and tension on the skin.

Healing Environment: Proper wound care and protection from further injury or infection can influence the extent of scarring.

Genetic Predisposition: Some people are genetically predisposed to developing more prominent scars.

Symptoms of First-Degree Burn Scars

Early Symptoms

Redness: The affected area may remain red or pink after the initial burn has healed.

Tenderness: The skin may be tender or sensitive to touch.

Mild Swelling: Slight swelling or puffiness in the affected area is common.

Long-Term Symptoms

Discoloration: The scar may appear darker or lighter than the surrounding skin, depending on the individual’s skin type.

Texture Changes: The scarred area may feel slightly different in texture compared to the surrounding skin.

Sensitivity: The scar may be more sensitive to sun exposure or temperature changes.

Treatment Options for First-Degree Burn Scars

1. Immediate Care for Burns

Cool the Burn: Immediately cool the burn with running cool (not cold) water for 10-15 minutes to reduce pain and swelling.

Gentle Cleansing: Clean the affected area with mild soap and water to prevent infection.

Moisturize: Apply a moisturizing lotion or aloe vera gel to keep the skin hydrated and promote healing.

Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

2. Scar Treatment Options

Silicone Gel Sheets: These are applied directly to the scar and can help flatten and soften the scar tissue. They are particularly effective when used consistently over several weeks.

Scar Creams: Over-the-counter scar creams containing ingredients like onion extract, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid can help improve the appearance of scars.

Corticosteroid Creams: These can reduce inflammation and are sometimes prescribed by doctors for more prominent scars.

3. Medical Treatments

Laser Therapy: Laser treatments can help reduce pigmentation and improve the texture of scars. This option is typically used for more stubborn scars that do not respond to topical treatments.

Microdermabrasion: This procedure involves exfoliating the top layer of the skin to improve texture and reduce the appearance of scars.

Chemical Peels: Chemical solutions are applied to the scarred area to remove the top layer of skin, promoting the growth of new, healthy skin.

Injections: Steroid injections can be used to flatten raised scars and reduce redness and itching.

4. Natural Remedies

Aloe Vera: Known for its soothing and healing properties, aloe vera can be applied directly to the scar to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Honey: Honey has natural antibacterial properties and can help keep the scar moist and reduce inflammation.

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil can help moisturize the skin and may reduce the appearance of scars over time.

Vitamin E: Applying vitamin E oil directly to the scar can promote healing and improve skin texture, although results may vary among individuals.

Preventing First-Degree Burn Scars

Immediate Care Strategies

Prompt Cooling: Cool the burn immediately to reduce heat and prevent further skin damage.

Avoid Popping Blisters: If blisters form, do not pop them, as this can increase the risk of infection and scarring.

Keep the Burn Clean: Regularly clean the burn area to prevent infection, which can exacerbate scarring.

Moisturize: Keep the area moisturized with aloe vera or a suitable lotion to promote healing and prevent dryness.

Long-Term Prevention

Sun Protection: Protect the scarred area from sun exposure by using sunscreen with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding peak sun hours.

Avoid Picking: Do not pick at scabs or peeling skin, as this can cause further damage and increase the risk of scarring.

Healthy Diet: Maintain a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, which are essential for skin health and healing.

Hydration: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and promote optimal healing.

Managing Emotional Impact

Psychological Effects of Scarring

Self-Esteem: Visible scars, even from minor burns, can affect an individual’s self-esteem and body image.

Anxiety and Depression: Concerns about appearance and social acceptance can lead to anxiety and depression in some individuals.

Coping Strategies

Support Groups: Joining support groups for individuals with burn scars can provide emotional support and practical advice.

Counseling: Professional counseling can help individuals cope with the emotional impact of scarring and develop healthy self-esteem.

Education: Educating oneself about scar management and treatment options can empower individuals and reduce anxiety about the appearance of scars.

When to Seek Professional Help

Signs of Complications

Infection: Symptoms of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, warmth, pus, or fever, require immediate medical attention.

Delayed Healing: If the burn does not show signs of healing within a week or worsens, consult a healthcare provider.

Severe Pain: Persistent or severe pain that does not improve with over-the-counter pain relievers should be evaluated by a doctor.

Significant Scarring: If the scar is causing functional impairment or significant cosmetic concerns, seek professional advice for treatment options.

Consulting Specialists

Dermatologists: For persistent or bothersome scars, a dermatologist can provide specialized treatments such as laser therapy, chemical peels, or prescription medications.

Plastic Surgeons: In cases of significant scarring, a plastic surgeon can offer advanced surgical options to improve the appearance of scars.

Burn Specialists: For severe burns or complex cases, a burn specialist can provide comprehensive care and rehabilitation services.

See Also: Why Do Burn Scars Turn Dark?


First-degree burns are common injuries that can sometimes result in mild scarring. Understanding the nature of these burns, the factors that influence scar formation, and the available treatment options is essential for effective management and prevention. Immediate and proper care, along with long-term preventative measures, can significantly reduce the risk of scarring. For those dealing with the emotional and physical impact of burn scars, seeking professional help and utilizing coping strategies can greatly improve quality of life. By staying informed and proactive, individuals can minimize the effects of first-degree burn scars and maintain healthy, resilient skin.


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