Why does the skin peel or turn red after sunbathing?

Why does the skin peel or turn red after sunbathing?

After a summer day at the beach or pool, some people may have red skin from unprotected sun exposure—basically, skipping sunscreen. As a result of sunburn, probably first degree, the most exposed areas will peel in a few days. The phenomenon is more common in people with white, fairly light skin.

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Both reddened skin and peeling are part of the organ’s regeneration process, as different types of cells in the epidermis, such as keratinocytes, have been destroyed by exposure to ultraviolet light, especially type B (UVB).

Why does the skin turn red after exposure to the sun?

With prolonged exposure to sunlight, in an unprotected way, the cells of the epidermis detect the first damages in the DNA, while they dry out. The process is marked by a type of inflammatory reaction and, with that, signals are emitted that attract defense cells to the region.

To bring the immune system cells to the site, blood flow intensifies, giving the sensation of heat and causing redness at the site. These effects tend to start when the person is still in the sun and can last for up to 48 hours after exposure.

After this period, the immune cells promote the destruction of the remaining epidermis cells, which initially generates an itch at the site of greatest unprotected exposure. Blisters then form from the dead tissue, and the area begins to peel—or flake off.

The process of cell renewal and healing is completed when the new cells take the place of the old ones. Here, it is worth mentioning that the “little skins” should not be removed to speed up the process, because the new skin is still being formed. Scrubs on the affected area are also not recommended.

How to stop the skin from “peeling”

If the idea is to sunbathe, the person should always opt for lower incidence times, such as early morning or late afternoon. Regardless of the period, the use of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) equal to or greater than 30 is always recommended, remembering that sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer.

In case the person has forgotten to use sunscreen or when he does not reapply the product after going into the water, for example, the only alternative is to reduce the damage caused by redness and exposure, since the skin will probably peel off.

Here, it is indicated the use of moisturizing cream and after-sun lotions, cold baths, staying away from new sun rays and keeping the body hydrated in its entirety – which involves drinking plenty of water. In case of major complications or doubts, a dermatologist should be consulted.

Source: Medical News Today, Cancer Council Australia and Skin Cancer Foundation