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Treating skin peel after a sunburn means paying attention to the full healing process and immune system response. Removing heat and controlling inflammation and pain with over-the-counter medications are the first steps. From there, a person can use moisturizing creams or lotions, with plant-based products being among the best options. Once the redness and irritation have gone down and peeling has started, exfoliation can speed up the process of getting rid of the dead cells. From start to finish, wearing breathable, loose clothes is a must, because tight garments can rub against the body and cause additional discomfort.
What Happens After Sunburn
Treating these types of burns the right way requires understanding how the skin heals and where it is in this process. Turnover—how quickly cells die and are replaced—is always going on, but when a person stays in the sun too long, a very high number of cells get damaged and need to be replaced. The body’s response is to kick the immune system into overdrive.
The immune system responds to skin damage not only by signaling growth, but also by allowing the inflammatory response, a complex sequence that brings leukocytes, or white blood cells, to injured areas. These fight off infection, keeping the body protected. Even though this is beneficial, the inflammation causes redness and sensitivity, which eventually goes away. Peeling usually starts not long after the response slows and indicates that some healing already has happened.
People sometimes treat this problem as being not very serious because it’s so common, but the reality is, it is a burn, and as such, one of the first steps to take care of it is to try to take some of the heat from the skin to prevent further damage. A clean, damp cloth placed on the hurt area is a no-fuss method for doing this, as the moisture will have a cooling effect as it evaporates. Simple compresses of ice wrapped in a towel are another way to go, but putting ice directly on the skin can cause additional damage. A cool bath or shower works for some people.
Taking an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen is a good idea for skin peel after a sunburn, because it will relieve the pain and inflammation of the injury. Although this works, aspirin shouldn’t be used with very young children due to the fact the drug has been linked to a potentially fatal disease called Reye’s Syndrome. No matter how bad the injury is, dosing instructions should be followed.
Moisturizing Botanical Lotions and Creams
Many plants have anti-bacterial or anti-fungal properties, or they contain substances like Vitamin E that help skin heal. Companies therefore use them as a base for lotions and creams, which people apply topically. In some cases, people make their own tinctures and pastes from them, which they use in the same way they would a manufactured product.
One of the best options for addressing skin peel after a sunburn is aloe vera gel, which is very good for keeping the skin moisturized and soothing pain. Sometimes mixed with a cucumber paste, it has been used for centuries and is so effective that burn units in hospitals even turn to it to help patients. Other good products might include calendula, green tea, dandelion, menthol or camphor. When looking for something that might work, experts recommend staying away from anything with petroleum, with can lock heat in and make the injury worse. Perfumes, dyes and anesthetics such as benzocaine usually also are out, because they can further irritate the skin.
In general, most plant-based lotions and creams are perfectly fine to apply as often as needed. That’s good news, because the heat of the injury causes the skin to lose moisture very quickly. It is always important to read the directions on the bottle for recommended use, however, and because even “natural” products can cause reactions in some people, it’s best to test out the product on a small area first. Although how often a person uses one might vary, the purpose of these types of creams is always to reduce inflammation and get the level of pain down.
Once the skin begins to peel, it’s still appropriate to use moisturizing creams and lotions. It’s also time to move on to very gentle exfoliation. An easy way to do this is to soak in a comfortable bath and then go over the burned area lightly with a loofah, soft cloth or body brush. It’s important not to rub too hard, because it can cause more irritation and pain. Some people also like to exfoliate using natural products such as oatmeal and green tea scrubs.
If the damage is bad enough, blisters and scabs might form. These should be left alone, because popped or open ones invite infection. A person can go ahead with exfoliating once these are healed. When they aren’t present, it’s sometimes possible to simply peel away the dead layer of skin, but this never should be forced because the new growth underneath is very sensitive to the environment.
When the skin is still red and inflamed, wearing loose clothing is best because it doesn’t press against the body and cause more irritation. Cotton material works well because it breathes and doesn’t hold in heat. It also is easy to wash if lotion or cream soaks into it, or if a lot of dead skin rubs off.