Your Sunburn Is Peeling — Now What?

And while it may be tempting, do not try to move it along by peeling your skin manually. “[Peeling your skin] can you set up for a poor or prolonged healing, increased irritation and inflammation and even possible infection,” Miami-based board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, MD, has told Allure regarding treating a sunburn, adding that sometimes healthy skin inevitably comes off with the damaged skin.

What happens to the burnt skin that doesn’t peel?

So what does that mean for the skin that didn’t shed? “In some cases, if skin cells do live despite significant damage to their DNA, they can become cancerous,” says Dr. Zeichner. The chance of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma — the “big three” skin cancers —  go up with increased sun exposure.

That’s why it’s so (emphasis on so) important to slather on sunscreen (at least SPF 30) every day — before heading outdoors or if you’re staying inside anywhere near a window — and then re-apply every few hours, as the American Academy of Dermatology recommends. We’re fans of the Best of Beauty Award-winning EltaMD UV Restore Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 for the face and Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sheer Lotion SPF 50 for the body. Also awesome — and affordable — are Burt’s Bees Renewal Firming Day Lotion SPF 30 and Hawaiian Tropic Antioxidant Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50.

“Skin cancer is largely preventable,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Even a single sunburn increases your risk of developing skin cancer later in life. This risk doubles if you develop a blistering burn.” (Which is what unfortunately happened to this guy.)

How can you prevent sunburn peeling?

Your best bet in skipping the scaling sensation, as well as decreasing your risk of skin cancer, is to be sun smart: Don’t get burnt. It’s really as simple as it sounds. 

“It’s like car accidents — don’t put yourself in harm’s way, and wear a seatbelt,” Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD, tells Allure. Along with slathering on sunscreen, Shamban recommends wearing a hat, sitting in the shade, and opting for UV-protected sunglasses when you’re outdoors.