Basic first aid and home remedies for minor burns

Basic first aid and home remedies for minor burns

We’ve all done it. We’ve held a sparkler for too long or forgot that the pan we’re cooking with, right there on the stove, might be hot. Even these minor burns require immediate attention so that they won’t leave a lasting impression. Once the initial shock wears off it's time to take care of your skin. Here's what to do if you get a minor burn.

Don’t panic. We’re talking about minor burns here. You’ll know if it’s more serious. If you think you might have a third-degree burn, seek medical attention immediately. While we’re setting parameters, for the purposes of this blog we’ll just be covering basic skin burns. If you get burned near your eyes or mouth, for instance, we’d recommend consulting your doctor for a treatment plan. If you have a chemical or electrical burn, call a healthcare professional for advice on how to proceed. 

If your burn is less serious, take a deep breath. It hurts, but you’ve got this. 

and breathe in text on an instant photo

Burns are categorized by how deep they are. So generally, a first-degree burn is topical. It only affects the epidermis, that top-most layer of skin. A second-degree burn is deeper and usually includes blistering. A third-degree burn includes all the layers of the skin and probably some permanent damage. 

So let's say you have a first-degree burn. You should be experiencing some discomfort or pain. You’ll notice some pain, redness, and perhaps swelling. Sunburns are in this category. For these types of burns the advice we found was pretty simple. 

  • Gently clean the area with lukewarm water if you need to.
  • You can use a cold compress on your skin for up to 15 minutes. Don’t use ice. That will likely just aggravate your skin as it is trying to recover.
  • Add a layer of salve or ointment to help your skin heal. More on this later.
  • Keep an eye on it and if it gets worse, seek medical care.

Your skin might peel after a few days. Keep the burn site clean and dry and add more salve as needed. Your skin should be back to normal in less than a week. 


If you have a second-degree burn the process is much the same.

  • If you’re wearing jewelry, remove it if you’re worried that swelling might make those items difficult to remove later. 
  • You may want to rinse the burn longer. It can actually help with pain relief. We wouldn’t rinse longer than 30 minutes and again, be sure the water isn’t too cold. 
  • Clean the burn. Make sure your hands are clean beforehand. Try not to break any of the blisters that might be forming and remember to pat (not rub) dry with a clean cloth.
  • Depending on the severity of the burn you may want to bandage it. Generally speaking if the blisters are intact and the skin isn’t broken, you probably don’t need a bandage. If, however, you have open blisters, you’ll want to cover those initially to give them time to close a bit and heal. 
  • Use a clean bandage, preferably something that’s not sticky. You can add some ointment or salve at this point if it doesn’t hurt too much to do so. Use a thin layer at first, so that the wound can breath too. Wrap the burn loosely. 
  • After a day or two you should be able to remove the bandage entirely. In the meantime, change the bandage as necessary and make sure the burn site is clean. If the bandage gets stuck you can use warm water to soften things up and do less damage as you remove it.

Healthline has a page with some great home remedies for burns. As nature lovers, we like honey and aloe. You probably know, but the entire internet wants you to remember not to put butter on a burn. That old remedy has been debunked thoroughly. 

Aloe vera plant in a white pot

We’re seeing a lot about not applying oils at all and while the burn is still “hot” we agree, but afterward we think a plant-based salve like our First Aid or Skin Repair is going to benefit your skin immensely. First Aid, for instance, has St. John's wort for pain relief, plantain and calendula for soothing protection, and sunflower and beeswax to rejuvenate your skin. Our Skin Repair is dynamite on sunburns. That’s what we use. It features aloe and chamomile to soothe along with yarrow and vitamin E to help nurse your skin back to health. 

So there you have it. Hopefully, if you burned yourself it’s already feeling better. If you’ve found a remedy that we missed let us know in the comments below. Keep that skin clean and dry and if it gets any worse call a doctor and get it checked out. 

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