Redness, pain and peeling skin are unmistakable signs that you have spent too much time in the sun. Peeling after a sunburn is the body's attempt to rid itself of sun-damaged cells according to the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, peeling skin is also itchy and unsightly. While peeling cannot always be avoided with severe sunburns, you can reduce the likelihood that your skin will peel by taking proper care of your mild sunburn immediately after sun exposure.
How to Keep Your Sunburn From Peeling
Step 1: Cool The Skin
Take a cold bath or shower to cool your skin down, recommends the Skin Cancer Foundation. Do not wash your sunburned skin with harsh soaps and avoid rubbing your skin dry after bathing, as these may increase the likelihood of peeling. Even though that cold shower may feel great, don't stay in too long, as this can dry your skin out and increase the likelihood of peeling.
Step 2: Reduce Inflammation
Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication after the sunburn. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) post sunburn to relieve discomfort and help with inflammation. Examples of NSAIDs are ibuprofen and naproxen. Do not take NSAIDs to prevent a sunburn, warns the Mayo Clinic. Taking ibuprofen before sun exposure can increase the likelihood of a sunburn.
Step 3: Moisturize Skin From the Outside
Apply moisturizer to sunburned areas. Do this immediately after stepping out of the shower. Moisturizers that are specifically designed for use on sunburned skin are available in most drugstores. Do not use oil or petroleum-based moisturizers that can trap the heat. Most sunburn lotions contain aloe vera to soothe the skin, reduce inflammation, and help prevent peeling.
Moisturizing will help prevent the urge to scratch your skin. Burned skin is often itchy, but scratching it will only increase tissue damage and increase the risk of peeling. If you get the urge to scratch, apply some cool aloe directly to the itchy areas.
Step 4: Moisturize Skin From the Inside
Drink extra water and stay hydrated to encourage skin healing and prevent peeling. The Skin Cancer Foundation indicates that sunburns can cause fluid inside the body to be drawn to the skin's surface. In addition, the Mayo Clinic states that sun exposure can cause increased fluid loss and dehydration, which makes drinking a lot of water especially important in the few first days after getting burned.
Step 5: Eat for Healing
Sunburned skin is damaged skin. According to 2017 research published in Nutrients, vitamin C can not only help protect the skin from UV exposure, but it can help reduce the inflammation after a sunburn. It seems to work best when combined with a dietary source of vitamin E. Vitamin C is found in foods such as bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, and potatoes. You can get vitamin E from foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanut butter.
Step 6: Get Out of the Sun
The Mayo Clinic suggests that sunburns usually appear within a few hours of sun exposure. To prevent your skin from peeling and becoming more damaged, get out of the sun immediately. Stanford University recommends staying out of the sun until the burn fully heals. This means wearing light and loose clothing to reduce any pain or rubbing on the burned skin.
Things You'll Need
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication
Moisturizer with aloe
Sunscreen, SPF 30 or greater
Keep Sunburned Skin Healthy
The best way to prevent a sunburn from peeling is to reduce the amount of skin exposure to the sun. Apply a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or greater, recommends the National Institutes of Health, to reduce the risk of a sunburn. However, as soon as you start to notice a red tint to your skin, cover the exposed skin to prevent it from getting worse and increasing the chance for peeling. The Skin Cancer Foundation claims your skin cancer risk is doubled with 5 sunburns, so prevention is imperative.