If you often spend long days at the beach, exposing your skin to the Sun, you may have experienced a case of sunburn before, and it often comes with a very painful peeling effect, when your skin essentially flakes off where it has been burnt. Does this remove your suntan?
How is sunburn caused?
Firstly, it’s useful to know exactly how sunburn is caused to begin with, as that can give us a lot of information about other potential damage that may come with it, as well as revealing some possible responses as to whether peeling your sunburn removes your suntan. There are a few things you may not already know about your everyday sunburn, and it goes further than some redness on the surface of your skin.
As you may already know, there are two different types of UV light emitted by the Sun that penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere, and these are UVA and UVB. Each of these types of rays comes with its own damage, and UVA rays are generally associated with more long-term damage, such as aging and skin concerns that may develop in the future.
However, UVB, on the other hand, is responsible for more of the immediate damage, which can have an effect in the future, too. Often, this damage also comes along with some sort of signal sent out by the body, and this is where a sunburn comes in. Essentially, what we see as sunburn, the red, usually slightly painful, rash-like mark you get is your skin’s way of indicating that damage has taken place deeper in your skin cells.
When you’re exposed to the Sun’s light whilst at the beach, in your garden or even just out and about – anytime you’re in the Sun – it’s important to make sure your skin is thoroughly shielded using some sort of lotion or other form of sun protection. If it isn’t, or the level isn’t high enough, that’s when the damage starts to take place, and the UVB rays penetrate into the top few layers of your skin. Once here, they cause DNA damage to your cells and, at some point, you’ll probably notice the visible reaction to this, which comes in the form of sunburn, as mentioned.
A suntan, on the other hand, is actually caused in a very similar way to a sunburn, and you could even consider it as a stop on the way to sunburnt skin. This is why, for most people, you’ll tan at least a little before burning.
This is because, once the UV rays have made their way into your skin cells, your body’s first defence or way of alerting you of potential harm is to produce a pigment known as melanin. Melanin is what makes your skin darker and its production is the cause of a suntan, which is actually your body’s defence against harm, rather than for aesthetics.
Does peeling sunburn remove a suntan?
So, we know what both a suntan and a sunburn are caused by, but it may still be a little difficult for you to answer the question, as the idea of your sunburn peeling doesn’t seem to have much to do with your suntan. Nevertheless, there is a link between the two, and there is still some information you should know, first.
In case you aren’t already aware, ‘peeling’ your sunburn is a term used to describe removing the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin which have become dry and flaky as a result of your sunburn. If a sunburn isn’t as severe, you may not experience any peeling at all, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, you may find that your skin peels a considerable amount, and it doesn’t take long for this to start appearing, if your sunburn is more serious.
Peeling skin is yet another clever body defence that comes from your skin, and it is a form of protection, although you may not realise it. When you get sun burnt, there is a risk that, due to the DNA damage that your skin cells suffer, there is a chance of a certain type of skin cancer, melanoma, developing. In order to protect your body from this, your skin is repaired, and the damaged cells are replaced as quickly as possible, which is why the peeling occurs – those are the dead skin cells your body no longer wants, and they’ve just been replaced faster than usual.
The truth is that, when your sunburn starts to peel, as mentioned, it is a result of your skin quickly producing additional skin cells on top of the damaged ones. This essentially means that the other skin cells – the ones which were tanned from the Sun – will also be quickly replaced, as they are another type of damage, just less severe than a sunburn. So, if the sunburn is removed during this process, you can probably see that the suntan will also fade much faster, too, as your body is doing everything it can to protect you from the cells becoming cancerous.
How can I prevent my skin from peeling?
Of course, the best way to prevent any of this happening in the first place is to prevent the peeling from occurring. Whether you’re concerned about your suntan fading or not, you’re still probably not up for the idea of your skin peeling after it’s burnt, so how can you prevent this?
In all honesty, the only way you can definitely avoid any skin peeling from taking place is by avoiding getting sunburnt, too. Of course, this is something you should be trying to do anyway, but here are some tips in case you’re looking for a little extra help:
- Use an appropriate SPF: the SPF of your sunscreen is something you should be paying attention to, and you’ll need an SPF of at least 30 if you’re lout in the Sun during the day to protect you from burning. However, if you want to stay on the safe side, an SPF 50 (or higher) is the best option.
- Consider fake tanning methods instead: if you find that your sunburn is coming from your attempts to get that glowing, bronzed body for the summer, it may be more sensible for you to consider a fake tanning method, as this will save your skin and likely yield much more successful results.
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As you can see, the peeling of your skin after experiencing sunburn is completely natural and normal, but it is also a signal of damage, so it is wise to reconsider why this is happening and change something to avoid any more sunburn in the future. If you peel your sunburn, it will remove your suntan, but there are plenty of self-tanning options out there if you want to keep your bronzed skin.