If you buy something through a link on this page, we may earn a small commission. How this works.
Peeling is the body’s way of repairing damaged cells. Peeling skin is harmless and helps the healing process, but it can be itchy and uncomfortable.
Peeling skin is a common problem after a sunburn. In this article, we look at some simple steps that people can try to prevent or treat peeling skin.
People can try the following methods to stop their skin from peeling:
1. Aloe vera and moisturizer
Many people find that aloe vera is an effective moisturizer that helps to soothe irritated skin. It is particularly helpful after a sunburn when the skin is feeling hot and painful. Aloe vera gels or lotions can:
- cool the skin
- reduce inflammation
- slow or reduce the skin’s peeling process
Gently apply the lotion with the fingertips. Leave the lotion on top of the sunburn instead of rubbing it in all the way into the skin. This will maximize moisturizing effects and minimize irritation.
Sunburn can dry the skin, and drier skin makes the peeling more intense. Anyone who wishes to stop their skin from peeling after a sunburn should apply moisturizer.
A study published in the International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry recommend using an unscented moisturizer and applying as often as needed to protect the skin following a sunburn.
Some moisturizers may contain ingredients that are not suitable for sunburn. People who are unsure should check with a pharmacist or doctor.
Creams and lotions that contain aloe vera provide the benefits of both aloe vera and moisturizer.
People can find aloe vera gel in many health stores or online.
2. Stay hydrated
Moisturizing is essential for the outside of the body and hydration is important for the inside.
People should aim to drink eight, 8-ounce (oz) glasses of water (64 oz total, or about half a gallon) each day.
3. Use anti-inflammatories
Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help with peeling skin that is sore or painful.
OTC anti-inflammatory creams, such as cortisone, can help reduce inflammation caused by sunburn. Low-dose cortisone creams are available in most drug stores or supermarkets, and also online.
4. Avoid irritation
Avoid anything that could irritate the burn. Irritation disrupts the healing process and increases damage from the burn.
Avoid the following sources of irritation for sunburn:
- overly hot or cold water
- vigorous rubbing or scrubbing
Staying out of the sun for a while keeps the burn from getting worse.
5. Try these home remedies
There is not a great deal of scientific evidence to back up any home or natural remedies for sunburn. But most home or natural remedies are safe to try unless someone misuses them or is allergic.
- applying menthol shaving cream to the skin
- adding baking soda to a cool bath
- putting honey on the skin
Preventing sunburn in the first place is the best way to prevent the skin from peeling due to sunburn.
One of the simplest ways to prevent sunburn is to apply an appropriate sunscreen before going outside, even on overcast days. Other tips include limiting the time spent in the sun and wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants.
If it is already too late, however, head indoors as soon as possible and grab the aloe vera. Apply liberally to any part of the skin that may be affected. Aloe vera not only slows but also helps prevent peeling.
If possible, take a cool shower and apply the aloe vera or another suitable moisturizer immediately after. Skin absorbs maximum moisture when it is damp.
A mild-to-moderate burn heals in anywhere from 3 to 5 days. Peeling lasts up to a week, but small amounts of skin can continue to peel for days or even weeks after.
People should avoid pulling off any peeling skin after a sunburn, as the cells underneath may still be vulnerable to infection.
Recent evidence published in JAMA Dermatology found that sunburn remains a widespread problem. The problem persists despite greater public awareness of the serious conditions, such as skin cancer, that sunburn can cause.
Anyone can get sunburnt. But, according to the study, younger adults, non-Hispanic white people, and those with sensitive skin are at highest risk of sunburn. People who use, tanning salons, spend lots of time in the sun, or have obesity are also at elevated risk.
Peeling is a natural part of the healing process after a sunburn. There are ways to minimize it or prevent it altogether.
The only surefire prevention method, however, is to avoid getting sunburnt in the first place.
If the pain is severe or there is sickness along with the sunburn, consult a doctor.