People may apply an over-the-counter or prescription cream for burns to:

  • Soothe the wound
  • Keep the tissue moist
  • Provide pain relief
  • Prevent infection

The best cream for your burn will depend on a lot of different factors, including the severity of your burn, your health, other medications you are taking, any allergies, and more.

Do not apply any cream to a burn wound without first consulting a doctor. Applying certain creams or ointments may be detrimental to the patient’s health or the healing process. Further, finding a good cream for your burn is far from the only treatment. Your doctor can recommend full treatment and care instructions based on the severity and cause of your burn.

Do doctors recommend patients use over-the-counter creams or ointments for burns?

Some doctors may recommend applying only a mild ointment to burns, while others may recommend a broader range of burn cream products.

Over-the-counter ointments may provide some relief to minor first-degree burns. Doctors may recommend applying an ointment like Aloe vera or petroleum jelly to provide some pain relief and to keep the wound moist. Vitamin E cream may promote healing for minor burns.

Some patients use Sudocrem on minor burns, which produces a protective barrier over the wound to guard it from irritants. The manufacturer also says it may reduce the risk of infection and has a mild anesthetic to soothe the wound.

Antibiotic creams are available over the counter, though patients should consult their doctor before using any of them. Some may cause allergic reactions, for example, and first-degree burns are typically not at risk for infection. Over-the-counter antibiotic ointments include Neosporin, Polysporin, Unguentine, or bacitracin.

Patients with more severe burns (second-degree or higher) should see a doctor, in which case they can discuss whether to use over-the-counter ointments, or the doctor may prescribe a stronger antibiotic cream.

Will a doctor prescribe an antibiotic burn ointment?

For more serious burns, doctors may prescribe an antibiotic burn cream like silver sulfadiazine or mupirocin to reduce the risk of infection. Silver sulfadiazine may kill bacteria in second-, third-, and fourth-degree burns, which are susceptible to infection.

But topical application of antibiotics is just one possible delivery mechanism. Doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics or may treat patients with antibiotics intravenously during their hospital stay.

Antibiotics are just one means of fighting infection after a burn injury. Patients should follow their doctor’s orders to keep their wound clean and change dressings regularly. Doctors may also perform debridement (removing dead skin and debris from the wound) to promote healing and prevent infection.

Should I use a burn cream?

You should check with your doctor before using a burn cream to make sure it is safe to do so, and to consult him or her regarding the best cream for your burn. For minor first-degree burns, your doctor may recommend mild ointments, while more serious burns may require antibiotics, whether applied topically, orally, or intravenously.

Your doctor will also consider your allergies, other medications you are taking (including supplements and herbal medicines), and your medical history when recommending a burn ointment.

Learn more about treating a burn on our Burn Injury Treatment & Recovery page, and learn about burn severity and appropriate care for each degree of burn: