How to Know Whether a Sunburn Will Peel

While good for acne, vitamin D and numerous psychological benefits, the sun can also be a harbinger of peeling, blistering and premature aging in skin. The peeling process that follows a sunburn is considered the body's safeguard against cancer: allowing damaged cells to literally break off from the epidermis and be replaced by the tender skin underneath. While most cases of sunburn will cause immediate peeling of the skin, individuals who experienced a partial burn or have resilient skin may be able to detect and repair their skin before it peels.

Skin peeling following a sunburn is often an inevitable condition. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Step 1

Place the mirror so that you are clearly able to see all of your body from the front in the reflection. Remove all clothes covering the burned areas and closely inspect every part of the affected area. Note any reddened or heavily tanned sections of skin. Know that it can up to 24 hours after exposure for sunburn symptoms to fully develop.

Step 2

Rub your finger along the affected area and feel for flakes, cracking or other evidence of irritated skin. If you feel the urge to itch the burned area, the area may begin peeling soon.

Step 3

Use the magnifying glass to inspect the burned regions for red rashes or dry skin, using the mirror to help you inspect out-of-reach areas. If the skin appears sufficiently moist and resilient and does not show signs of cracking or flaking, it is possible the skin will not begin peeling.

Step 4

Compare the texture of the affected area to the non-burned skin and notice if you feel any swelling, bumps or interruptions in the skin layer when rubbing the sunburn. Note any areas where the skin feels scaled or suddenly dry and hard. These areas will likely begin peeling very soon.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass

  • Full-body mirror


While it is generally inevitable for burned skin to peel, it is possible to delay the skin flaking by applying a moisturizer such as aloe vera gel or other sunburn lotions. Aside from slowing the peeling skin for cosmetic purposes, these lotions have the added benefit of moisturizing the skin underneath so that it is more resilient when it emerges over the dead skin. If you suspect that a sunburned area might not be damaged enough to peel, apply aloe vera gel or a sunburn lotion to repair the skin cells of the effected skin.

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