10 Examples of Second-Degree Burns

The severity of a burn is classified by the so-called degree of the burn. Second-degree burns are commonly referred to as partial-thickness burns. Their appearance can vary, depending on how deep the burn actually goes.

With a second-degree, the injury will compromise the outermost layer of skin (epidermis) and extend to the middle skin layer below (dermis).

If the burn extends beyond the dermis to the fatty tissues of the subcutaneous layer, it is deemed a third-degree burn. Those that only affect the epidermis and leave the dermis untouched are considered first-degree burns. Here are 10 examples of how second-degree burns can happen and what they will look like comparatively.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 350,000 Americans are treated for burns in emergency rooms each year, while over 40,000 are hospitalized as a result of their injuries.



This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Scalding hot water spilled onto this reader's hand, causing blisters consistent with 2nd degree burns


This second-degree burn was caused by scalding with hot water. The woman involved was carrying a pot of boiling water and lost grip of one handle, spilling the water on her left hand.

Scalds are burns from hot liquids. They almost never cause full-thickness (third-degree) burns, but they do blister extensively and quickly.

A second-degree burn that affects less than 10% of the skin's surface can usually be treated on an outpatient basis with antibiotic ointments and twice—or thrice-daily changes in sterile dressing (depending on the severity of the burn).


Potato Gun Burn

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Partial thickness burn from an unloaded potato gun


An unloaded potato gun gave this person a second-degree burn. A potato gun is a novelty device that uses hairspray as the explosive agent to propel a potato into the air. In this instance, the flaming hairspray caused the skin damage and not the potato.

Symptoms of a second-degree burn include pain, deep redness, blistering, and areas of exposed tissue that are moist and shiny.


Chemical Heat Pack Burn

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Second degree burn from a reusable heat pack


A reusable chemical heat pack caused this burn to the neck. In this case, the individual placed the pack in the microwave for 60 seconds, even though the instructions said to heat it for 30 seconds.

Unlike other second-degree burns, there is no evidence of blistering here. Blisters indicate that the epidermis is damaged and not obliterated. In this instance, the destruction of the outer layer causes areas of whiteness and discoloration common with many second-degree burns.


Chemical Heat Pack Burn (Five Weeks Later)

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Healing 2nd degree burn


After sustaining a burn from a chemical heat pack, the individual was treated with topical anesthetics to numb the skin. This picture shows how the burn looks five weeks after the injury.

Even after significant healing, burns this severe tend to have significant pain for weeks. Oral analgesics like Tylenol (acetaminophen) can usually help.


Candle Wax Burn

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Hot wax under a faucet exploded, causing these burns


Hot candle wax is a common cause of second-degree burns. In this case, the candle wax exploded and splattered wax onto the hand of the woman.

When water comes into contact with the pool of hot wax near the burning wick, it causes the wax to explode outward rather than melding into the cooler wax at the edges. The type of candle and/or wax can make a big difference in the severity of the injury you sustain.

Paraffin wax melts at around 120° F, votive candles at around 135° F, and taper candles at 140° F or higher. The most serious burns come from beeswax which melts at 145° F or higher. To avoid burns, the wax temperature should be well below 125° F (such as that used for body waxing).


Steam Iron Burn

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Steam and hot water from an iron caused this large blister

Cheryl H.

After burning herself with the steam from a household iron, this woman developed a relatively small but painful second-degree blister on her pinky finger.

People often underestimate the dangers of hot steam. When your car overheats, for example, the steam escaping from the radiator will be between 190° F and 220° F, enough to cause a severe burn in less than a second.

If the jet of hot steam hits your eye, you can sustain severe corneal damage, including scarring, perforation of the eye tissue, and, in extreme cases, blindness.


Hot Oil Burn

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Hot Oil Burn


Hot oil burns are common among people who use deep fryers. Any water that spills into a deep fryer can cause a massive splatter. Even fat splattering from a hot frying pan can cause significant and sometimes serious burns. In this instance, a woman dropped hot oil onto her knee from a campfire frying pan.

Cooking oil can easily exceed 375° F, but it is not the only source of non-water liquid burns. Motor oil can reach 275° F and cause injury if you try to change the oil soon after the car engine has stopped running. Even worse is molten sugar used for making candy, which can easily exceed 340° F.



This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.


Shelley Saunders

Once a second-degree blister has popped or is torn, the epidermis will begin to fall away in sheets. This is a normal process referred to as sloughing. This example of sloughing was caused when the woman spilled hot water from a pot of pasta onto her foot.

Depending on the severity of the burn, sloughing may start several days after the injury. Those occurring soon after an injury are usually severe since the underlying tissue will not have begun to heal. In such cases, oral antibiotics may be needed to reduce the risk of a secondary infection.



This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Second Degree Sunburn


Sunburns are usually thought to cause redness, stinging, and the eventual peeling of the skin. However, if you stay out long enough or fall asleep under the sun without UV protection, you can easily get a severe second-degree burn.

The problem with second-degree sunburns is that large areas of skin are involved. The blistering can be extensive and cause excruciating pain.

Moreover, the vast area of exposed tissue can cause rapid dehydration, fever, chills, and weakness while increasing the likelihood of a secondary infection. In rare cases, people with sunburn can go into shock.

Second-degree sunburns take longer to heal and increase the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma


Friction Burn

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Friction Burn

Dawn H.

A friction burn is a type of abrasion that causes the loss of the epidermis and the damage to the dermis below. Despite the fact this doesn't involve heat, it is still considered a second-degree burn and is treated in the same way as a thermal burn. The most common types of friction burn are road rash and rug burns.

While topical antibiotic ointments and twice-daily changes of dressing can usually help prevent infection, oral antibiotics may be prescribed for more severe cases.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vloemans AF, Hermans MH, van der Wal MB, Liebregts J, Middelkoop E. Optimal treatment of partial thickness burns in children: a systematic reviewBurns. 2014;40(2):177-90. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2013.09.016

  2. Bittner EA, Shank E, Woodson L, Martyn JA. Acute and perioperative care of the burn-injured patientAnesthesiology. 2015;122(2):448-464. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000559

  3. Warby R, Maani CV. Burns classification. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing. Updated March 16, 2019.

  4. Grosu-Bularda A, Andrei MC, Mladin AD, et al. Periorbital lesions in severely burned patientsRom J Ophthalmol. 2019;63(1):38-55.

  5. Allen SR, Kagan RJ. Grease fryers: a significant danger to childrenJ Burn Care Rehabil. 2004;25(5):456-460. doi:10.1097/01.bcr.0000138291.95544.aa

  6. Norman G, Christie J, Liu Z, et al. Antiseptics for burnsCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;7(7):CD011821. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011821.pub2

  7. Sánchez-Pérez JF, Vicente-Agullo D, Barberá M, Castro-Rodríguez E, Cánovas M. Relationship between ultraviolet index (UVI) and first-, second- and third-degree sunburn using the Probit methodologySci Rep. 2019;9(1):733. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-36850-x

Additional Reading