Even the most delightful day of fun in the sun can soon come to a lobster-y ending. If you're prone to burning — or if you've lost track of time with your nose buried in a beach read — then your skin may be in desperate need of some TLC.
Luckily, there are several effective ways to calm down a bad sunburn so that you can live to (safely) sun another day:
If you notice your skin start to peel, the first thing you should do is take a cold shower or bath. The cold water will help your skin cool down and slow the peeling process. When you are drying your skin, be sure to pat it dry with a clean, soft towel and avoid rubbing. By rubbing your skin, you can actually speed up and spread the peeling of your skin — and you definitely don't want to do that.
At all costs, you should avoid scratching your skin when it's peeling. You can actually do permanent damage to your skin in the form of scars. If you get the urge to scratch, the best thing to do is to use ice to dull the sensation. Put ice in a piece of soft cloth and gently place the cloth on top of the area of your skin that itches. The itch should subside once the ice begins to cool down the skin.
Once you get out of the shower and dry your skin, apply a moisturizing lotion. Look for a moisturizer that is specifically designed to work on sunburn or peeling skin. Generally, the lotion should contain aloe vera, which will cool your skin, reduce inflammation and slow the peeling. Aloe vera is a natural cactus extract that has long been hailed for its soothing properties. You can actually buy pure aloe vera gel (or break open the plant, if you have it) and apply it directly to peeling skin to aid healing, fight pain and avoid infection.
Now that you have cooled your skin from the outside, it's time to start working on your skin from the inside. Truth be told, nothing helps your skin as much as a tall glass of water. Healthy skin needs to stay hydrated. When your skin is damaged — like after a sunburn — water becomes even more important. Drink a lot of water to give your skin all the fuel it needs to repair and revive itself. If you notice your skin beginning to peel, be sure to drink eight to 10 glasses of water per day.
Flaky, peeling skin is more than just irritating and unattractive — it can also lead to an infection. Peeling skin can become infected if you scratch or try to forcefully peel the skin. If there is a segment of dead skin that is hanging off and you want to remove it, don't pull on it, no matter how temping it is. Instead, get a small pair of scissors and carefully cut away just that section of skin. Be sure you are only cutting away dead skin and you don't tear skin that is trying to heal. Once you cut away the dead skin, apply an antibacterial ointment like Neosporin to the area.
Reduce the itch associated with peeling (and moisturize your skin) by taking a cool bath containing colloidal oatmeal. You can find this fine oatmeal in most pharmacies. To help prevent scarring, promote healing and reduce long-term skin damage, take antioxidant supplements — vitamin C and vitamin E. Also apply a topical vitamin E cream to reduce the chances of scarring.
Prevention is the best cure for peeling. Plan ahead and don't get sunburned in the first place. By the time your skin starts peeling, that means that the damage has already been done. Before you go out into the sun, always wear sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. If you are going into the water, be sure to reapply sunscreen each time you get out. When applying sunscreen, don't forget about hidden areas, such as behind your ears, which are often forgotten and end up burned.
Updated by Bethany Ramos on 4/18/2016
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