A Curling Iron Scalded the F*ck Out of My Neck But Here’s What I Didn’t Know About Treating It

Everyone told me to talk to a derm, so FINE, I talked to a derm.
Publish date:
December 21, 2016
curling irons, dermatologists, hair styling, heat damage, burns

Making fun of one of my favorite friends from my childhood for having a hickey over Thanksgiving was a very real thing that occurred for me at the age of 25. Burning my neck with my waving wand but 18 hours later, to the tune of 365 degrees F, was also a very cool thing that happened to me at 25. And by cool, I mean possibly karmic but also really painful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing.

Makes you wonder about the vibes you put out into the universe, no? Anyway, aside from the fact that it hurt enough that I cried and was so bothersome it actively disrupted my sleep, I found myself on the receiving end of “What is THAT?” about 10 times a day. My bigger concern though, was that it would scar because it’s super visible. I have olive skin, and because of my mixed ethnicity, I have a lot of melanin and am prone to scarring. So, not only would I have to endure the shame of a hickey-burn for a few weeks, it might be eternal shame of hickey-scar. This, my friends, is not ideal.

So I did what any rational human being would do — I frantically reached out to all of my friends who work in the industry asking them whether they thought I would literally be scarred for life. They all told me the same thing, “Talk to a derm.” RIGHT.

My immediate reaction upon scalding myself was to yell at the person who was in the room with me, which is very mature and also wrong. Dr. Shereene Idriss of Wexler Dermatology, told me, “Regardless of the burn severity, cooling the site immediately is imperative as burns tend to progress deeper the first few minutes surrounding the initial contact. Therefore stopping the progression is key — either via cold running water or a cold damp cloth. This step should be continued until the skin is no longer warm to touch.”

I, however, did not do this, I reached for ice which according to Dr. Idriss is counterproductive. This has actually been proven to be more harmful than not as putting ice on a burn has been shown to cause frostbite and damage the skin further. Excellent. Well, at least now I know — cold compress or bust.

Thankfully, my burn scabbed instead of blistered, because I can only imagine how hideous that would have been. Nevertheless, if you have a burn that blisters, Dr. Idriss warned that you should never, ever pop the blister. Ever.

“A blister should never be unroofed as it exposes the raw base to environmental factors, which can lead to infection. If the blister peels off on its own, it is important to keep the base well moisturized with a strong barrier ointment such as Vaseline,” Dr. Idriss says.

OK, so now that we’ve covered the don’ts, what about the do’s. A shocking, but apparently helpful immediate treatment for a burn is minty toothpaste. What the what?

“When used immediately on a fresh burn,” says Dr. Idriss, “the mint helps create a numbing sensation which masks the pain. In addition, it has cleansing properties that help protect the burns from bacterial infections.” Full disclosure, I didn’t try this, but in the future, I’m curious to see if it would work for me. Especially because I spent the immediate proceeding hours of my burn moaning and groaning about how uncomfortable I was.

As for another DIY, use a little baking soda. “ It balances the pH of the skin and offers a cooling sensation,” according to Dr. Idriss. Additionally, the list of ingredients you should look for, or use to treat your burn are as follows: Aloe vera, vitamin E and silver sulfadiazine. These are all proven and derm-suggested when it comes to effectively treating a burn.

My burn has been subject to neurotic, thrice daily applications of arnica (I’m lying, it’s more like hourly with the arnica) and vitamin E — for the purposes of preventing scarring and Pro Vitamin D, to reinforce my skin barrier since it is compromised and frankly needs all the help it can get. As of today, roughly three weeks later, the scabbing on my burn is gone (blegh), but it’s still healing. Dr. Idris told me that this is normal, saying “Healing of burns depends on burn severity, but on average, first degree burns heal within 7-10 days; second degree burns can require 3-5 weeks and there is no set limit on 3rd degree burns.”

It’s important to note that scabbing can accompany any degree burn, whereas blistering is more common in second-third degree burns. And of course, If a burn continuously remains painful, produces purulent discharge, has associated warmth or fevers, then medical attention should be sought out ASAP.

I truly hope you never get a hickey-burn. It’s unpleasant. But if you do, or if you get any kind of burn really, I hope this derm approved advice helps.