It is not uncommon for the skin to peel after a tanning session. This phenomenon indicates a malfunction in cellular renewal due to severe skin dehydration. Between the desire to remove scales and feelings of itchiness, peeling skin is not comfortable. Here are some steps to take to soothe it.
Skin peeling after a tanning session: what actions should be taken?
- Why does the skin peel after tanning?
- Step No. 1: Hydrate and nourish your skin
- Step No. 2: Drink plenty of water
- Step No. 3: Avoid exposure in the following days
- Step No. 4: Apply cold compresses
- Step No. 5: Moderate the temperature of your shower
- Step No. 6: Resist the urge to peel off dead skin
- Step No. 7: Avoid exfoliations
Why does the skin peel after tanning?
Desquamation is a natural skin regeneration phenomenon that typically occurs every 28 days. It involves the skin shedding dead cells (corneocytes) from its surface, which fall off in the form of scales. This process occurs on all areas of the skin and is invisible to the naked eye. However, it is not uncommon to observe excessive desquamation after a tanning session. This is a defensive and regenerative process of the skin, whose hydration has been significantly disrupted following sun exposure.
Indeed, UV rays can damage the hydrolipidic film of the epidermis. This is primarily composed of sebum and sweat, forming a protective barrier on the skin's surface, which helps to maintain its hydration and protect it from external aggressions. However, when they penetrate the skin, UV rays generate free radicals in the cells, which damage them through various oxidative processes. This also affects the cells of the sebaceous glands, which produce sebum, thereby weakening the hydrolipidic film.
Free radicals can also attack the lipids of the stratum corneum by oxidising the unsaturated fatty acids that make them up, as the double bond of these types of molecules is a vulnerable site to oxidation. This leads to the formation of lipid peroxides, unstable compounds causing additional damage to the skin. The integrity of the stratum corneum is then compromised and the lipids lose fluidity, which increases skin permeability and water loss.
Step No. 1: Hydrate and nourish your skin.
The first step to take when one's skin is peeling is to hydrate it intensely. Applying a cream daily that contains humectants and emollients will help the skin to replenish its hydrolipidic film and reduce insensible water loss. You can also turn to nourishing treatments, acting at the level of the horny layer to promote the relipidation of the epidermis. Shea butter or avocado oil are excellent ingredients for this, and will also help to alleviate feelings of dryness and skin tightness.
At Typology, we offer a range of moisturising treatments for the face, such as our 9-ingredient moisturising cream, and for the body, like our 10-ingredient cream. These minimalist formulas respect all skin types, even the most sensitive. You will also find several nourishing creams for the face and body, rich in shea butter (INCI: Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter) , providing softness and comfort to the skin.
Step No. 2: Drink plenty of water.
When one's skin is peeling, it is crucial to drink an adequate amount of water each day to assist the skin in rehydrating and promoting its regeneration. This will also help to offset the water loss experienced due to sun exposure. It is generally recommended to drink 1 L to 1.5 L of water per day.
Step No. 3: Avoid exposure in the following days.
If your skin is peeling following a tanning session, allow it to regenerate in the following days and avoid exposing yourself to the sun. It is advisable to favour long-sleeved shirts, lightweight long trousers, and the wearing of a hat. Also, don't forget to apply a broad-spectrum sun care product. Far from being harmful to peeling skin, it will help to protect it and prevent it from flaking further.
Step No. 4: Apply cold compresses.
Applying cold compresses can be a solution if you experience sensations of heat or itching following a tanning session. The cold has a soothing effect on the skin and reduces irritation. However, do not apply the compress directly to peeling skin. Instead, wrap it in a clean cloth beforehand, this will be more pleasant and less aggressive for the skin.
Step No. 5: Moderate the temperature of your shower.
When one's skin is peeling following a tanning session, it is advised not to take a shower that is too hot. Indeed, opting for a high water temperature is aggressive towards the skin's hydrolipidic film. This could potentially dry out the skin even more and exacerbate peeling issues.
Step No. 6: Resist the urge to peel off dead skin.
A peeling skin often tempts one to manually remove the dead skin. However, it is better to refrain from doing so, at the risk of ending up with a red and irritated skin which will take more time to heal. The small scales present on the surface of the epidermis will fall off by themselves in a few days to make way for new and healthy skin.
Step No. 7: Avoid exfoliations.
It is often recommended to exfoliate your skin once or twice a week to promote its natural regeneration. However, if you have peeling skin, take a short break from this routine. Scrubbing peeling skin would indeed be irritating and could cause it to turn red. Far from allowing a gentle removal of scales, this type of treatment would leave the skin raw.
RICHTER K. & al. Oxidative stress in aging human skin. Biomolecules (2015).
TFAYLI A. & al. Studying the effects of suberythemal UV doses on human stratum corneum by in vivo confocal Raman spectroscopy. European Journal of Dermatology (2022).