Medical Mythbuster: Does Peeling a Sunburn Makes it Heal Faster?

Aug 10, 2020 / Dermatology

By Cathleen Case, NP
Reliant Dermatology

The correct answer is “no.” If you are unlucky enough to have a sunburn that peels, you should resist the urge to peel off pieces of your skin as it heals. Although peeling may seem harmless, it can actually further damage your skin and make it more vulnerable to infection.

Keep in mind that the reason your skin is peeling is that it has been badly damaged by ultraviolet light. Peeling is part of the healing process, where the damaged skin is shed and your body regenerates a new top layer of skin to protect you. While this is happening, your sunburned skin is exposed and vulnerable. So avoid harsh scrubs, coarse washcloths, scratching, or anything else that will accelerate the peeling. (If you have a dead piece of skin that is hanging off and bothering you, it’s best to remove it gently with a pair of small scissors.)

You should treat your skin with a moisturizer after a sunburn. A moisturizer will help speed the healing process, replace lost moisture, and make your skin feel better too. If you are in pain from the sunburn, cool compresses and over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen can help. To avoid sunburns in the future, always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply approximately every two hours.

Medical Mythbuster: Does Peeling a Sunburn Makes it Heal Faster?

About Cathleen Case, NP

Nurse Practitioner Cathleen Case works in Reliant Medical Group’s Division of Dermatology in Worcester and in Leominster. Cathleen enjoys educating people on their dermatology problems and helping them with their care. Focusing on all aspects of medical dermatology, she takes great pride in helping patients overcome difficult dermatology problems. Cathleen also enjoys working with other members of the Dermatology team in treating...

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3 Responses

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  1. Posted by mario

    Thank you very much

    August 12, 2021 2:39 am Reply
  2. Posted by Emily

    What should I do if I have started peeling off skin from a sunburn that HASNT started peeling? I have a sun burn on my forehead,nose, and under eyes. My sunburn was brownish and it wasn’t really peeling but I started peeling the skin off my nose and forehead anyway. After I started peeling the skin off my nose it started to burn and get red. I heard of I peel to early it can leave scars. Is there anyway I can prevent scarring??

    June 21, 2021 11:28 pm Reply
    • Posted by Reliant Medical Group

      Hi Emily. Mild sunburns rarely cause any scarring. You want to avoid peeling skin off from sun burns and avoid aggressively scrubbing skin in sunburned areas. This can cause pigmentary changes that look like scarring, especially if you have a darker skin type, but these pigmentary changes will fade over time. You should focus on keeping the skin well-hydrated and protected as it heals and allow the skin to peel off on its own.

      June 22, 2021 1:27 pm Reply

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