First… you should always wear sunscreen and avoid getting a sunburn at all costs. But we are realistic and understand that sometimes it happens. Here are the best ways to treat peeling sunburn.
The burn itself – that sore red or pink tinge to your skin – can show up just a couple of hours after you’ve been exposed to the sun. The sun sparks a cascade of chemical reactions starting in the pigment-forming cells called melanocytes. They produce more pigment and that sits like an umbrella over your skin cells to protect the DNA from further sun damage.
The color and sting of sunburn go away in three to 10 days, sometimes to be replaced by peeling. Skin cells are always dying and coming off without you noticing, but a sunburn speeds up that process which leads to visible peeling.
Even though you might be tempted to peel off that flaky skin, it’s not a great idea. The worst thing
to do is pull of dead skin, because it exposed skin cells that weren’t ready to be exposed and increases the risk of infection and scarring. It’s even worse to pop post-sunburn blisters, which can appear after an even more serious burn.
Instead, try exfoliating very gently a week or so after the sunburn with a gentle body scrub or brush. You’ll also want to rehydrate your dry skin. The skin gets thirsty for water. If you hydrate very well, your skin will still peel, but it won’t be so obvious. Rather than thin lotion, go for one of the thicker, occlusive ones to moisturize and calm itching. The best time to apply is right after a bath or shower.
Ibuprofen can help easy any sunburn-related pain and inflammation, as can aloe vera gel. See a doctor if your sunburn is accompanied by blistering over large parts of your body, fever, headache or vomiting.