On the long list of beauty mishaps, curling iron burns are perhaps the most painful. And, they're especially concerning as they can lead to longterm damage and scarring. And they're common—even those most adept at wielding wands and styling swiftly can have an accidental slip of the wrist. For those of us (raises hand) less dexterous with a hot tool, curling iron burns are a real threat every time we take on the task of styling our hair.
In the event you do end up in this unfortunate situation (I've been there more than I'd like to admit), it's important you treat the wound properly to avoid infection and minimize your chance of scarring. We had two nurses (who specialize in wound care and plastic surgery) weigh in on the matter, providing step-by-step advice on how to heal a curling iron burn at home. So the next time you happen to singe your face, neck, or wrists during your styling efforts, you'll know exactly what to do. Keep scrolling to read their instructions.
Meet the Expert
- Meghan Brown, RN, is the nurse manager for the wound center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
- Donna Sieffert, RN, is the nurse manager for plastic surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Cool It Down
Your first instinct in this situation might be to ice the area or run ice-cold water over it, but that can actually worsen the burn. "Immediately after a burn, you should cool down the skin with a cool compress for several minutes," explains Meghan Brown, RN. "Do not use ice, as it could potentially damage your skin further."
Assess the Damage
Once you've cooled down the burn, assess the damage. "Most curling iron burns are first-degree and treated at home without medical intervention," assures Donna Sieffert, RN. However, if the burn results in blisters, discharge, or severe color change, immediately seek medical care.
Disinfect and Protect the Burn
Once you've assessed the damage, it's important to disinfect and protect the burn to prevent infection. "After you cool the burn with a compress, clean it with soap and water and coat it with an antibiotic ointment and cover if possible," advises Brown. Always wash your hands thoroughly before cleansing and applying ointment. Do not use hydrogen peroxide, as this can destroy the healthy tissue along the wound and further damage the skin. Avoid using cosmetics or any products with fragrances or active ingredients near the area as this could irritate the burn.
Soothe and Moisturize the Area
"There is a saying amongst us nurses: 'A dry cell is a dead cell,'" notes Brown. "So keeping a wound moist aids the healing process." In the first few days of recovery, the antibacterial ointment you apply should pull double duty, not only disinfecting and protecting your wound but also keeping it moisturized. After those initial days, you can continue moisturizing with a thick ointment like Aquaphor to speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of scarring.
Minimize Your Risk of Scarring
"You can't actually prevent scarring, but after it heals, you can massage the wound with coconut oil every day to help break up the scar tissue," suggests Sieffert. To minimize your risk of scarring, Sieffert insists it's important to "stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen to lessen the appearance of the scar."
Avoid Future Burns
Most curling iron burns happen because we're rushing or not giving the process our full attention. Be sure to use caution when styling your hair, especially when using a hot tool close to your hairline or neck. Minimize distractions and avoid styling when you're very tired, if you can. And, try to begin styling further from your roots when possible.
What is the first thing you should do if you burn your skin with a curling iron?
You should immediately turn off your curling iron and assess the type of burn you have. From there, you can determine what steps you need to take next.
Why shouldn't you apply ice to a burn?
Ice is too cold and can damage your skin even further.
How can I minimize getting a scar?
You can't eliminate your chances of getting a scar completely, but you can try to minimize it while it's healing. You can massage your wound with coconut oil, which is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, as well as making sure to avoid excess sun exposure.