Do Sunburns Scar?

Great question. The short answer is yes, if it’s severe enough. We’ve all had that one sunburn we remember that was so painful because we fell asleep in the sun with not enough sunscreen on. Accidents happen, but it’s important to ensure you never let a burn get this bad. Not only can you develop skin cancer and painful blisters, you can experience scarring.

Most sunburns fade in a day or two, but not with excessive sun burning. That can have lasting effects. Whether you scar or not from it will depend on how bad the burn was, what you did to care for it, and the extent of exposure.

It’s not uncommon for prolonged sun exposure to result in blisters and second-degree burns. But it’s not as common for a severe sunburn to result in third-degree burns or scarring. It can happen, though. That’s because the skin happens to be the largest and most exposed organ in the body, and that means burn marks can occur. After all, the skin is quite fragile.

Second Degree Sunburns

Second degree sunburns (AKA blistering sunburns) may lead to scarring over a large area of the body. You may be tempted to itch at or pop the blisters, but refrain from doing so. If you break the skin, you can get an infection or experience further injury or scarring. Instead, gently apply aloe vera or a silicone scar gel like Scarfade to the area while staying hydrated. Cover your skin if you have to, but whatever you do, let it heal slowly and naturally. Don’t go back out in the sun until it’s healed.

Degrees Matter

In terms of whether a sunburn will scar or not, the degree matters. Burn injuries are categorized into first-, second- and third-degree burns. The higher the degree, the more serious it is. If you have a second-degree burn, you should see a doctor. If you have a third-degree burn, you should head to the ER.

First degree burns are the mildest and usually do not leave scars in their wake due to the fact that they only affect the epidermis (the first layer of skin). Second and third degree burns may leave scars, on the other hand, because they affect the dermis. Properly caring for burned skin immediately is imperative, such as through the use of burn creams or ointments, dressings, then Scarfade treatment.

You can’t prevent scar formation with the most severe third-degree burns because they leave behind hypertrophic scars or keloids. This doesn’t mean you can’t reduce the appearance of scars arising from minor burns. Simply apply cool running water to the area and air dry. When burns affect a joint, a contracture scar can result that limits movement.

The top risk factor for scars forming is the location and level of severity. Burn scars are more likely to result in keloids or hypertrophic scars because there’s a more prolonged inflammation period involved.  

So what can you do to ensure a nasty sunburn doesn’t scar? Always apply a high SPF sunscreen when venturing outside, stay in the shade and wear wide-brimmed hats in the sun. Pick up some Scarfade to have on hand in case a burn does occur.