How Do I Choose the Best Burn Salve?

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  • Written By: Andrea Cross
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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People apply salves to burns in order to reduce the occurrence of infection and to promote healing of the wounded area. There are a number of burn salves that you can choose from — some that you likely already have in your own home. The type of burn salve that you choose to use should be based on the severity of the burn.

First-degree burns are generally not very serious, although they can be painful. Skin becomes red, but there is no blistering and no scarring. Second-degree burns are more painful, and the skin both reddens and blisters; however, there is not usually a scar. Third-degree burns are very serious and result in scarring as many layers of skin have been removed.

Before you put a salve on the burn; however, you should always rinse it under cold water to stop the heat from further penetrating the skin. After the skin is clean and dry, you can then choose a salve to apply. Never choose to apply ice, however, as the extreme cold can further damage the skin. Also, never to choose to apply butter or grease — this can create a breeding ground for bacteria.


A common choice for first-degree burns is aloe vera. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can squeeze the gel straight from the plant onto the burn after it has been washed and dried. When you are buying an aloe burn salve, make sure you choose one that is 100% aloe vera gel and does not contain any alcohol. Aloe vera works on burns as both an anti-inflammatory and a natural pain reliever. You can apply this salve several times a day until the burn feels better.

Calamine cream, which contains zinc oxide, is also a common choice for first-degree burns. It works as an antiseptic and also helps to stop the burn from itching. Calamine also has astringent qualities and can help to prevent the skin from weeping. Calendula cream is an anti-inflammatory and may be useful as a burn salve in soothing irritated skin. Medicinal topical treatments are also popular choices, and antibiotic creams both relieve pain and prevent infection.

Second-degree burns should not be treated at home with a normal burn salve. A doctor will prescribe a more effective treatment as the risk of infection is greater with second-degree burns due to blistering. The doctor will choose the best burn salve for you, often a cream such as silver sulfadiazine. This cream works as an antibiotic, preventing infection from bacteria and promoting healing of the skin. Apply it thickly to the burns, and then cover it with gauze.

When applying whichever burn salve you have chosen, be careful to wash the area a couple of times a day. This helps to keep the burn clean and also allows you to check for any signs of infection that may be covered by the salve. You should not choose to apply a burn salve to a third-degree burn. Instead, you or the affected person should be taken to the hospital or nearest burn center to get proper treatment.


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