Your sunburn is finally on its way out — until it becomes a peeling, flakey mess. Yuck. While you might feel the urge to pull at dead skin, stop right there. Any over-zealous methods to speed things up can backfire in the long run.
"Peeling sunburned skin can increase the risk for scarring because the skin does not always peel at the same rate," explains , a New York City-based dermatologist who is board-certified with the (AAD). "It's best to let the dead skin exfoliate on its own."
That process can last two to four more days after the redness goes away, or even another week depending on the severity of the burn. Unfortunately there's no way to prevent peeling altogether. Your best bet remains using plenty of sunscreen and avoiding a sunburn in the first place.
That subsequent shedding has an important purpose though; it's how your body removes the skin cells damaged by ultraviolet light in the sun's rays. More good news: You can speed up the healing process with a few remedies you likely already have on hand.
While the peeling skin may gross you out a little, take it as a sign to remain more diligent about remembering sunscreen next time. Besides the immediate consequences of a sunburn, frequent UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds cause the majority of melanoma cases, according to the .
Protecting yourself with a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and wearing clothing can literally save your skin in the long run.