(Warning: This post contains pictures of a triangle-shaped burn wound on a naked arm).
About a week ago, I burned my arm against my clothing iron. It had been off for a while, and as I put it away in my cupboard, arranging the chord neatly so it doesn’t touch the hot metal, I pulled my arm out, and it caught against the tippy top of the iron.
Of course, I was very busy with something else, so I held it under cold water for a while, but not wanting to waste water (and also wanting to get on with my life), I ignored it for a while. It had been a quick burn and the iron hadn’t been so hot anyway, so no big deal.
Wrong! When I finally sat down to pay attention to it, it was stinging and white hot. So I got an ice cube and held it against the burn as I Googled the best essential oils for a burn wound. Normally, I would immediately grab for Germolene, an all-in-one antiseptic ointment for cuts, abrasions, minor burns, and bites and stings, slap on a thick layer, and bandage it up. But, as you know, I’ve been trying to live more naturally. And this time nature bit me in the butt.
I know my essential oils pretty well. I mostly use tea tree oil, which is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-other-bad-stuff. I apply it to the breakouts on my face (go away pimples!) and have also used it to fight the onset of bladder infection. So far it’s always done its job. I’ve built up my collection to include a number of other oils: lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon grass, and niaouli. I bought the lavender for aromatherapy purposes, but I’ve found it also works well for preventing razor bumps. The peppermint and lemon grass I mix with vodka for an ant-away kitchen top cleaner. I used the eucalyptus when I had a cold, although I do find it a bit strong, so I prefer to use niaouli to clear my chest instead. Essential oils work, and I’ve experienced it.
Usually, it’s best to apply an essential oil with a carrier oil. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, it’s to prevent skin irritation. Natural does not equal safe, and these pure oils can have an adverse effect on the skin. Secondly, it’s to give it some staying power. The oil tends to evaporate or absorb quickly, so mixing it with a carrier oil helps it stay put and work its magic a little longer, which is useful if you’re using it for aromatherapy. When I use oils for skin conditions, I tend to just apply it straight. I haven’t seen any irritation occurring, but I know it can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, so I wear sunscreen and take all the precautions I find necessary.
So, armed with my knowledge and experience of essential oils, I scavenged the internet for what I could use on the burn. It’s important to note here that knowledge is not, “Oh, naturalmom1284 said lavender works, so let’s use it!” I do look for suggestions of what other people have used, but then I look at the properties of those oils. The knowledge then is based on what the oils do in themselves, instead of what other people say they are good for. After researching the oils, I ask myself what I need. In this case, I needed something to soothe the burn, prevent infection, and encourage healing. The chosen ones thus were lavender and peppermint essential oil. Lavender for its antiseptic properties, and peppermint for its soothing, tingling properties. I would use niaouli later on, as I know that it promotes tissue regeneration.
I went to my handy cupboard of miracle cures and applied a drop of lavender and peppermint essential oil each. I wrapped it in a bandage and waited for natural healing to overcome me. It didn’t happen. I got a headache from the lavender being way too strong (I’m not super into the smell of pure lavender), and the peppermint wasn’t soothing at all. It just made me think of chocolate (and then I ate chocolate, which didn’t really help either). It hurt quite a bit, and by evening the burn had turned brown and bubbly, and was no longer as un-serious as I thought before. So I broke and just applied a blob of Germolene. Easy peasy, no thoughts required, even if it broke the natural living rules. At least this was working.
I continued with a pattern of Germolene and a plaster (which I had to use since the bandage kept slipping). By the third day, the burn had formed one huge blister. The plaster was starting to irritate my sensitive skin, so I decided to drain the blister and leave the wound open. I tried to go back to my essential oil method, and applied some peppermint essential oil mixed with grapeseed carrier oil. I chose this for its soothing, non-lavender smell, and the oil to nourish my skin. I decided to go back to the natural route because I really want it to work, and also because I can’t apply Germolene if I want to keep it open, since the burn is in the exact position where I would smudge it against my clothes all the time.
That day I picked a little at the loose skin (bad, I know!) and for the most part I could ignore the burn, although my watch did start irritating the edge of it by the end of the day. I went to bed with some peppermint oil and a plaster so it wouldn’t chaff , and the next morning I woke up with a super itchy, swollen arm. Infection, yay!
In retrospect, I should’ve used something antiseptic and anti-inflammatory on my “open day”. Like lavender, but not lavender. Like my good old friend, tea tree oil.
I went back to the Germolene AGAIN. I was done with just about everything. It hurt to move my arm, it was itchy, and my skin was irritated from the adhesive plaster. I went with a plaster again that night, because the bandage had a mind of it’s own, and that mind said, “Let’s be everywhere except where we’re covering the burn. Go me!” The next day I wiped it with some tea tree oil, and things started looking up again! By that evening the swelling had gone down and the infection was clearing.
Today the burn looks loads better and the infection seems to be gone completely. I think the infection came from me draining the blister but not getting enough good stuff under my skin to keep it from festering, especially since I’m a scratch-o-maniac. From today I’ll keep it open, mostly because I’m so done with the skin irritation caused by the plaster. I think the tea tree oil was really good at disinfecting it, and I realised when I was using it that I don’t actually own any other disinfectant. What I really want is some aloe gel to nourish my skin, but apparently niaouli prevents scarring so I’ll give that a go along with some grapeseed carrier oil so it doesn’t dry out.
All in all, I think this was a fail-fail-win for nature and my journey in living with less chemicals in and on my body. Half-a-hoozah!