How to Help Dry Skin After a Sunburn

Moisturize frequently to prevent dry skin from peeling.
... Hemera Technologies/ Images

If that afternoon nap in the hammock turned into an afternoon sleep fest in the sun, a nasty sunburn is the likely result. If your dehydrated skin feels tight and peels like an onion, some major moisture therapy is in order. Intensive hydrating -- both inside and outside your skin -- is just the thing to make your skin feel and look better. Grab a few household ingredients and take some time to pamper your dry, delicate skin.

Fill a bathtub with cool or lukewarm water and add 1 cup of a bath soak containing oatmeal. Get into the tub and soak for at least 10 minutes to allow the oatmeal to soothe and hydrate your skin.

Apply a dime-size amount of a gentle body wash, not soap, to a washcloth. Wash the peeling areas of your skin very gently using circular motions to remove the dead skin.

Dry your skin by gently patting it with a soft towel. Don’t rub the skin harshly, as this can cause further damage.

Apply a quarter-size amount of after-sun lotion to your palm and spread it liberally over all sunburned areas. Look for a lotion that contains aloe or cucumber, which both hydrate the skin and help prevent additional peeling.

Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to replace the moisture lost due to the burn.

Squeeze a quarter-size amount of a broad-spectrum sunscreen into your hand and spread it over your entire body before going outside. Better yet, stay indoors as much as possible until your skin begins to heal.

  • Avoid washing with soap until your skin heals fully, as it is too drying.
  • Do not use a loofah, body scrub or other abrasive item on peeling skin, as these products can damage the new skin underneath it.
  • If you have a fever, chills or excessive pain, see a physician immediately; this indicates a more severe medical issue.
  • Don’t peel off your skin if it does not come off with gentle exfoliation. This can lead to infection or scarring.
  • Once your skin is no longer red or feels sensitive to the touch, switch to using a lotion containing alpha-hydroxy acid. This acid will speed the skin cell turnover and eliminate the residual peeling.

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.