Chemical scalp burns are usually caused by hair products such as dyes, bleaches or relaxers.
photo courtesy of TomFullum- Getty Images
  Minor irritation and redness are common when getting hair processes done, but severe burns deep into the skin are a rare occurrence. However, chemical burns on the scalp can cause hair to break and stop growing in burned areas.

Scar tissue can form. The extent of the burn depends on the amount of chemical used, the amount of time the skin was exposed to the hair chemical and other factors. In this article I will explain a few ways to treat a burn at home, but it is important to note that some burns require professional medical help. It is best to seek the advice of a medical professional who can see and assess your individual burn first.

Do you still feel heat in the area of the burn?

The damage can continue even when you are no longer in contact with the item that burned you in the first place. That’s why running a burn under cold water feels so good, because it’s actually cooling the affected area. However, do NOT place ice on the burn, as it changes the temperature of the tissues too quickly and can incur further damage.

If the chemical is a solid or a dust, brush your scalp off immediately--don't use your fingers, or they can get burned, too. Y ou may be able to flush a liquid burn with water and using a cloth to dry. Be mindful of potential chemical reactions and side effects. Some chemicals may react with water to release toxic compounds or worsen a burn.  Dowsing pure sodium with water, for instance, can even start a fire! Protect yourself by reading labels to determine reactivity. Seek medical attention if you have to.

If you can flush the area with water, do so copiously.

  • Remove earrings, hairpins, hats and other items that may have come in contact with the chemical.
  • Pay particular attention to the eyes.
  • Dress the area in loose-fitting, dry bandages and observe.
  • Use appropriate ointments to treat peeling, itching, and blistering.

3 Steps to sooth the burn

1. Remove the heat source and run the burn under cold water for at least 30 seconds. 

2. Rinse the burn with white or apple cider vinegar. Dab pure white or apple cider vinegar over the affected area.

3. Apply a burn cream or other healing salve with gauze, a clean towel or t-shirt.

Why vinegar helps

Weak acetic acid in vinegar balances the damaged skin’s pH, which accelerates healing and skin regeneration. This also reduces the amount of scar tissue. Did you know there is a patent filed stating that the mixture of any citrus juice and salt has been shown to “stop pain on contact, prevent blistering, cause the tissue to remain elastic, promote healing and prevent infection"?

Certain salves and ointments will help, too. Aquaphor is an affordable and effective option available at Target or Walgreens. Josie Maran Argan Balm is a good option for those who take the natural but store-bought route. Nourishing Joy shares a DIY recipe that is 100% natural.

coconut and raw honey treatment

DIY scalp burn salve

  • 1/4 cup raw honey, preferably Manuka honey
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon beeswax
  • 1 tablespoon Sea Buckthorn oil, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon aloe vera gel, aloe vera juice, or rosewater

Why this works

Raw Honey is antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory, but must be in its raw state to be of use in wound healing. For burns, honey is especially useful because it stimulates new tissue growth, soothes the skin, and prevents primary infection (according to Livestrong). Raw Manuka honey is notably more effective, so much so that the FDA has actually approved one Manuka honey wound dressing for use in the US. (In fact, if you’d prefer not to make your own burn salve, you can find the 100% Manuka honey Medihoney Wound Dressing at your local pharmacy or on Amazon.) Coconut oil accelerates skin regeneration and stimulates collagen production within the tissue being repaired. It also  feels deeply soothing. Beeswax is used in this application largely as a firming agent, but it also locks in moisture and protects the skin while it heals. Beeswax also holds many of the same antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as honey, so it is beneficial for burn healing in its own right.
Sea Buckthorn oil contains more Vitamin E than any other oil and contains a high percentage of essential fatty acids, which makes it highly valuable as a cosmetic and rejuvenating component in healing and anti-aging creams. It is highly emollient and is very easily assimilated and absorbed by the skin. Aloe vera and Rosewater provide a deeply soothing sensation when rubbed on a minor burn (sunburn in particular) and aid in pain management.

Directions

1.Heat the beeswax over low heat in a small saucepan or double boiler. 2. Add in the coconut oil and melt completely once the beeswax is nearly melted. 3. Stir in the honey and sea buckthorn oil and whisk over the heat only until the whole mixture is one uniform liquid. 4. Remove from the heat and either pour directly into tins or other containers OR stir in the aloe or rosewater briskly until the mixture is completely homogenous, then pour into your containers. 5. Let the mix sit until comfortable to touch before using. It should fully harden in approximately 6 to 12 hours. For an extra healing boost, infuse the oils with healing herbs before making the recipe. Comfrey and plantain are especially good options.