What is sunburn?
Almost all of us have suffered a sunburn at one time or another - and many of us probably weren't wearing sunscreen at the time. (Oops.) If we really knew what happens to our skin while we're casually lying in the sun for "just 10 more minutes," we might not be so careless.
A sunburn is the skin's reaction to extreme UV radiation and indicates severe damage. After just 10 minutes of intense UV exposure, the skin sets up a defense system against this enemy.
The first sign of damage is redness. This is the body's inflammatory response in situations that require repair, and is a result of the blood vessels dilating. The skin then begins to lose moisture and hydration, which is noticeable by a feeling of tightness. Slowly, the skin cells thicken and melanin (pigment) is produced (tanning) to prevent the UV rays from penetrating the deeper layers and damaging the DNA of the cells.
If the skin is exposed to strong sunlight, hypo- or hyperpigmentation can occur, which manifests itself as irregular light or dark spots. The body is able to deal with minimal damage, but if the exposure is greater than the body's ability to repair and compensate, it can have more serious consequences. When DNA is damaged and its repair mechanisms are inhibited, skin cancer can develop.
Why does skin peel?
Peeling after a sunburn is your body's way of getting rid of the damaged cells that are at risk of "losing control" and becoming cancerous. Because of this danger, all the damaged cells are instructed to sacrifice themselves through repair mechanisms within those cells. This mass death of cells causes entire layers of damaged skin to peel off to be replaced by other cells underneath.
I have a sunburn, what should I do now?
First, you should take care of the cause of your problem: Get out of the sun immediately. Drink plenty of water, as you may be dehydrated. If your skin is severely blistered, you should see a doctor. Otherwise, it's important to contain the inflammation and try to reduce the damage in the deeper layers of your skin.
Take a cool bath (without added products) and then pat the skin dry. Avoid greasy creams as these can prevent the skin from cooling down and make the situation worse. Instead, apply a generous amount of soothing after-sun gel to reddened areas and then stay out of the sun and heat. Look for ingredients like clove, licorice, lavender, cucumber, and yucca to soothe irritation, pain, and redness. Also look out for an incredible ingredient called Japanese Alder, which speeds up the repair of UV-induced DNA damage. Combined with ingredients like seaweed and hyaluronic acid that hydrate the skin, you'll be well on your way to calmer skin.
And no, it's not okay to go out in the sun again the next day! Remember that your skin is still healing, so it needs to be protected from direct sunlight for a few days. Remember that the skin is a good chronicler. Even with a good after-sun product, irreparable damage may have occurred in the form of premature aging or skin cancer that may not show up until later. Think twice the next time you decide to "just 10 more minutes" - your immune system is listening!