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Why Does Skin Turn White When it Gets Burned?

By Alana Grelyak ; Updated July 27, 2017

Burning causes damage to various layers of your skin, depending on the severity of the burn. Whiteness at the burn site may indicate a severe burn that requires medical treatment.

Types

Burns are classified into three categories: first-degree (superficial), second-degree (the inner and outer layers of skin are affected) and third-degree (both layers of the skin and underlying tissues are damaged).

Reason

Skin pigmentation is caused by melanocytes in the epidermis, which produce melanin, the substance that gives skin its color. Burns destroy melanocytes, robbing the skin of its previous color.

Other Possible Causes

The heat from a burn can cause the blood vessels within the skin to dilate. Plasma from the blood fills the cells and causes a white appearance and blistering of the skin.

Severe Burns

If the burn is bad enough and the epidermis and dermis have been destroyed, the whiteness may be exposed fat layers that were underneath the skin.

Significance

White skin at the burn site may indicate damage to multiple layers of skin and can also involve damage to the muscle, bones, and tendons underneath.

Symptoms

If the skin is white and blistered but you still feel pain, you may have a second-degree burn. If the skin turns white immediately after the burn occurs and you feel no pain at the site, this may be a third-degree burn. In either case, seek medical attention immediately.

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