What is the Cause of Skin Discoloration from a Burn?

Written by Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors on October 12, 2022

Skin Care
Pain Management
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If you have suffered a serious burn injury, you might be frustrated with skin discoloration from burn. One of the most common cosmetic issues is skin discoloration. How long does it take for skin pigmentation to come back after a burn? Learn more about burn marks healing below, and remember to reach out to a medical professional if you have questions about your recovery process.  

What Is the Cause of Skin Discoloration After a Burn? 

If you suffer a burn injury, certain skin cells will die. When skin is damaged, it produces a protein called collagen. You have collagen throughout your body, and it performs a variety of roles. In this case, your damaged skin cells produce collagen and an effort to repair themselves. If you have a small burn mark on skin, the scar may fade over time. On the other hand, if you have large burn scars, they may produce massive amounts of collagen. That is why the skin looks a bit thick and discolored. It is actually the healing process that causes skin discoloration.  

Will my pigment come back after a burn injury? 

With a burn injury, the pigment from the skin is lost. With healing, the pigment may return, but this process is unpredictable. Often, newly healed skin appears pink and unpigmented. As the scar matures, the skin may regain pigment. 

Is it Possible To Restore Skin Color? 

It depends on the burn's degree, the burn's size, and the treatment process on whether or not coloration will restore to what it was. You can take a few steps to reduce the degree of scarring, but your skin will likely not return to its original color. In some instances, medical intervention will help, but it is likely that at-home techniques will not assist with restoring any pigmentation on its own.  Here are a few tips to consider doing regularly at home to help with improving scarring and appearance of your skin: 

  • Avoiding sun exposure after a burn injury. Burn scars are extremely sensitive areas of your skin, so apply plenty of sunscreen. 

  • Your doctor may also recommend purchasing silicone scar sheets to help with reducing the appearance of a scar, and in some instances, may also recommend a silicone gel. Always consult a doctor before use. 

  • You may want to considermassage specifically for scars. Be sure to always talk to a doctor before getting a massage, and speak to your massage therapist before your session to make sure they are comfortable working with people who have suffered severe burns. Massage for scars can also be helpful for reducing contractures. 

  • Regular stretchingofthe scarred area can help reduce tension around the area, maintaining your mobility. Thick scars can hamper your flexibility, creating discomfort due to traction. You may want to reach out to your doctor to get recommended lotions you can put on the scars. Lotions are helpful for reducing inflammation, and treating discomfort. 

It is important to note that scarring usually develops within the first few months after the burn, peaks around six months, and will resolve or “mature” in 12-18 months. As scars mature, they fade in color, become flatter, softer, and generally less sensitive over time.

What Are the Ways To Help With Discoloration and Restoring Pigment? 

After a burn injury heals, you might also be wondering how to address this type of discoloration. Your doctor may present you with several options to help with improving appearance. One treatment option is called fractional CO2 laser therapy. This is a noninvasive burn scar treatment. It can break down scar tissue, revealing smooth skin underneath. It can also help you increase your range of motion and improve the cosmetic appearance of your skin.  

Another treatment option is called microdermabrasion. During this treatment process, a professional will sand down your skin. The goal is to remove thicker, uneven, discolored skin on the outside, revealing new, soft skin underneath. Depending on the severity of the scar, this could be an effective treatment option. 

Will My Skin Return To Its Normal Color? 

If you have skin discoloration from burn, will it return to normal? Unfortunately, your skin will probably never recover 100 percent. It depends on the size of the burn, the degree of the burn, and the treatment techniques that are used in the immediate aftermath. It is important to note that all bodies are different, and everyone heals differently—no journey to healing from a burn injury is the same. Even though your skin might not heal completely, there are interventions that can significantly improve the functionality and cosmetic appearance of the skin. For example, some of the treatment options above could help you improve the appearance of your scar even if you cannot remove the scar completely. You could reach out to a medical professional who can talk about your options with you.  

Even though it can be frustrating to develop scars following a serious burn injury, you do not have to go through the treatment process alone. There are professionals and other survivors available for support. At the Phoenix Society, our goal is to help burn injury survivors through the recovery process. We offer a variety of resources that you can use to help you as you recover.

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