Why does putting oil/butter on burns make them feel better?

Disclaimer- Do not try this, as I’ve heard multiple times it’s one the worst possible thing you can do.

Anyways, whenever I’d get a burn when i was little, my dad would lament how his mom used to rub butter/oil on it, and the pain would go away almost immediately.

He said it wasn’t until he was grown up that it was discovered this was about the worst possible thing you could do. The oil/butter traps the heat building near the burn, and usually makes the burn last a couple of days longer than it should have, with the bonus risk of increase chance at infection.

So if rubbing a fatty substance over a burn traps the heat and actually makes the burn worse, why did it work so well at quelling the pain?

It didn’t. He only thought it did. Or – the butter was cold.

Butter is cold, that would help.
Butter as a fatty thing would sink some heat away from the burn for a little while.

Plus, if the burn is bad enough…makes it taste better.

I think it’s the same reason fat (both butter and oil are essentially fat) makes a good cooking medium: it’s dense. Dense things make good heat sinks.

Good point.


Anything mother does to comfort you will distract you from the pain.

Remember, water is denser than fat. It’s also got a higher specific heat.

EEW! :eek:

Water, however, is notoriously difficult to get to stay all in one place. I should have pointed out that as part of my original answer.

I did not know that.

:confused: (looking in ice cube tray) :confused: