On Thursday, March 22nd, I came back from our homeschool campus with the kids and started to make dinner. I had a lovely hunk of grass fed chuck roast in the fridge, a half-bottle of old red wine, and a jar of tomato sauce from 2016. I had braised beef on my mind.
As everyone knows, a nice braise starts with a nice sear. I popped my dutch oven on the stove, clicked the burner onto high, and glugged in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of my Le Creuset. I have done this exact move probably a thousand times.
When the oil was nice and hot I gently lowered my well-seasoned chuck roast into the dutch oven and let the bottom sear to a nice crisp. I was busy, multitasking as one does, the kids running around, Oliver calling out for me to look at or answer or do something about every 45 seconds.
It was time to turn the chuck roast, to sear the other side. I had my tongs around the beef, the meat was up off the bottom of the pot, twisting in mid-flip, Oliver said something, I turned my head to look at him, and the roast slipped from my tongs, dropping some minor but crucial height back into the pan.
I felt the oil hit the my cheek first, then my lip.
Somehow, as I spun towards the sink, I turned off the burner. I don’t remember doing this, but I must have because the burner was off when I turned back. I shoved my face under a full stream of water, but the faucet was set to warm, and it took a few moments to hit ice cold. Face half in the sink I started barking orders to Oliver, who went from mild distraction to action hero serious as soon as he saw mama really needed him.
Oliver brought me a wash cloth. I grabbed a boo-boo ice pack out of the freezer. As I dabbed the water off my face with the towel, a piece of opaque white skin about the size of a dime came off. The oil had blistered my cheek, but was so hot there wasn’t time for any fluid to build up – the skin just immediately fell off. I pressed the ice pack against my face and whimpered.
Oliver brought my husband down from his home office. At least I think he did. Nick was there, in any event, asking how he could help. I was out of my DIY comfrey cubes, my favorite burn remedy. Sunburn season was months away when I ran out, so I hadn’t bothered to make more.
I sent the boys out with instructions to dig up some comfrey root.
While I was waiting for Nick and Oliver to return from the yard with comfrey, I returned one-handed to my chuck roast – the other hand was still pressing an ice pack to my face. With exaggerated care I added the wine and tomato sauce to the dutch oven, covered the pot and popped everything in the oven.
The guys brought in a few pinkie-thick roots, and I scrubbed and chopped them, then tipped them into a small saucepan and covered the root pieces with water. I brought the roots in the water to a simmer and let them cook for about a half-hour, then strained the brownish gel into a small metal bowl and popped everything in the freezer.
The metal helped the gel freeze quickly, and within an hour or so, I had a bowl-sized disk of frozen comfrey gel. I wrapped half the disk in a paper towel to give me a handle of sorts, and pressed the other half against the burn on my face.
By this point I’d looked in the mirror. The dime-sized spot on my cheek where the blistered skin had immediately fallen off was the worst of several spatters of burn that flecked my lower cheek.
There was one contiguous raw triangle of burn between the bottom of my nostril and the top edge of my lip, and a large spot of burn right at the corner of my lips. These two burns basically blurred together as they scabbed over and began to heal, and in the days ahead I would cry out at my own stupidity for talking or eating or in some way moving my mouth so that the hardening scabs in this area were torn apart and began to bleed anew.
But that frustration was still a few days away. In the immediate aftermath of hot-oil burns to my face, that disk of frozen comfrey gel was my best friend. I rubbed it on the burned parts of my face until it started to melt, then popped it back in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm it back up. When the comfrey gel was in the freezer, the icepack was on my face and vis versa. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
That Thursday evening, I also texted a friend who is a naturopath and runs a wellness clinic with her husband, a doctor of Chinese medicine. “Help! I burned my face! I have comfrey – what essential oils should I rub on the burn to help healing?”
My friend made me a roller-applicator blend of frankincense, helichrysum, lavender, and melaleuca (tea tree) diluted in fractionated coconut oil and I picked it up on Friday. Through the weekend I alternated applications of comfrey gel and the essential oil blend.
Right after the oil splashed me the full extent of the burn wasn’t really visible, although I could feel it. The spots that had blistered and peeled were an odd yellow-ish color, and tacky. (1) After a day or two, the visible portion of the burn had spread, as more of my upper lip turned red and weepy. (2) Slowly, the burn began to dry and, eventually, scab over. (3) This brought its own problems – as I mentioned the thick scab was not in an area that was easy to keep still, and the scab itself cracked and bled with the stress of the movement.
At this point I made a proper salve with dried comfrey root and coconut oil, and began to dab the comfrey salve on the scabbed-over burn several times a day, being careful not to get it on my lips where I might accidentally ingest it.
The time immediately after the burn was the most painful, but the scab-portion of the healing was the most annoying. I looked awful – the photo (3) doesn’t really show how bad the scabbing got as it progressed. At one point everything from the edge of my nose to the burn at the corner of my lip was a contiguous, thick raised scab and chunks of scab would dry and fall off. It was not pretty.
People would glance at me and not know if they should ask what happened and I would volunteer, “I got burned with oil. I was cranky and irritated and my face hurt and itched. That lasted a little over a week – probably 9 days.
This past week I’ve seen real healing. The burned area is still pinker than my normal skin, but the scabbing has all fallen away and the texture of my skin is mostly normal (4). The spots that were hardest hit and blistered immediately are still quite obvious because of their darker pink color and because they are a little different thickness than the surrounding skin – like a slightly shallow depression.
I have continued to apply my comfrey salve and essential oil blend to the area a few times a day. I really think both have helped.
So what did I learn?
- No one is really ever so experienced in the kitchen that they are immune from accidents – be careful!
- Keep Comfrey Cubes in the freezer at all times.
- Roller applicators for diluted essential oil blends are the best. I’m now hooked.
- If you can’t open your mouth without tearing open a scab and making your face bleed, don’t attempt to shove a piece of spicy tuna sushi roll in your gob, no matter how hungry you might be.
Oh, and about the braised beef….it was absolutely delicious.
Ouch! Sorry to hear this happened, but glad you’re healing.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday last year, I touched a very, very hot stove. Instant pain, redness, swelling, typical burn symptoms (although no peeling skin like yours). My poor fingers. I had some plantain salve I slathered on my fingers—literally and liberally coated the area—and let it set. Within a few hours, it was all gone. No swelling, no readness, no blisters. Nothing. I make plantain salve every year and use it for nearly everything skin related.
The homeopathic remedy for burns is Cantharis 200 and it really works to take the pain away. I’ve used it several times from sunburns to cooking burns and the pain goes away very very quickly. I always keep it nearby.
Annie Frostenson says
I’m so happy it healed up nicely! I will definitely be keeping some comfrey cubes on hand. And thanks for sharing your friends EO mixture. It sounds like a great one to have on hand. Burns happen!
So sorry this happened!!! It must be the season for dropping chuck roast… a month or so ago, my husband was prepping a frozen chuck roast to go in the sous vide and it slipped out of his hands. A frozen 5 lb roast dropped from 12” high is in fact forceful enough to shatter an induction cooktop. So… no physical pain, but quite a bit of financial pain. I’m living with a single hot plate to cook on until July—when we’re replacing the broken induction with gas. Pulling gas to the house from the street and having it brought to the kitchen is non-trivial in terms of time, permits, expense, etc… but the new range should be dropped-roast-proof! At least from breaking. Burning from splashing oil, I’ll just have to take my chances and learn from your experience. Heal well!!!
Glad you’re ok!
It’s not homeopathic, but on the advice of a friend I picked up a bottle of Water Jel (http://www.waterjel.com/professional-products/emergency-burn-care/pain-relieving-gels/burn-jel/ though I bought it on Amazon) a while back. I wasn’t hoping for much, I’ve probably tried most of the over the counter burn gels and while they help they aren’t awesome. Then over the winter I managed to splash hot cooking oil all over my right hand (in a very similar mishap). I handed the cooking to my husband and ran for the Water Jel. For the first few hours it was a bit annoying, you have to keep a fairly heavy layer of it on the burns, and with it on my hands I kept accidentally wiping it off. But once it had sat on the burns for a bit it was amazing. The minor burn spots were completely gone 24hrs later. The really bad one on my palm definitely blistered, but it was far smaller than the original spot, and FAR less painful than any other oil burn I’ve had in the past (and I’ve had a few, apparently I’m a distracted cook). I’m stocking up on Water Jel. And I’m going to pick up some of their alternatives too, the burn dressing form might have worked better for my hands than the gel.
I haven’t read you in a while. (It’s not you, it’s me.). But I read this and realized that yes, it’s true: you’re still awesome. Keep writing!! Your stuff helps people. Thanks!
P.S. My name is Nick. All Nicks have a special namebond. I feel a smidgeon of brotherly jealousy of your Nick. He’s a lucky Nick!
Ooof owww! So sorry this happened to you. Glad it’s healing so nicely, hopefully no scarring will be visible in a year.
Thanks for sharing your story and especially for all you do!
This happens! Slightly different was the day I set my open liquid laundry detergent bottle down on the dryer. Some small bubble of detergent wafted up from it and landed in my eye. Raced up to a faucet and began profuse flushing. Then more flushing. And more and more. Redness and burning caused me to grab my car keys and head to the local ER. They did a long, massive, professional flushing of the eye. Damage was done to the cornea but it would heal in time but at great expense. One little tiny bubble. I feel for you!
Oh my goodness. so sorry, but you are so right, it can happen in the blink of an eye to the most experiences person. I really was interested in your remedies .. thanks so much for sharing with us, I will make some and put in the freezer. I assume that Comfrey is specific for burns.
Personally I also use Manuka Honey (wound grade or infused bandages that CVS makes) and have had amazing healing of small burns and cuts with it. It is antibacterial and also assists healing/soothing.
Inger @ Art of Natural Living says
Ages ago I burned my chin on a curling iron. A layer of skin immediately sizzled off and soon the area was scabbed over. Your burn looks like it’s healing better than mine did (though it’s pretty much gone today). Guess I’ve got to search out some comfrey this summer!
So much sympathy! I splattered hot oil on my hand a year ago, and I still have a scar from the worst of the blisters. It’s faded a lot, but it still shows. I used a comfrey-based anti-scar balm, which seemed to help. I was so embarrassed by the multiple burns. 🙁
What a story! That must have hurt so bad.
I make a balm with comfrey and plantain. Stops bleeding like THAT on small cuts and abrasions. So I’m thinking I would probably like to have some comfrey gel cubes on hand. And wouldn’t you know it, a surprise comfrey plant is growing in the yard at our new place!
Did your burn marks completely go away?