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Why does my skin peel after it gets tanned?

Sun exposure impedes the regular cell turnover process known as keratinization. When skin is exposed to UV rays, skin cells in the outermost layer of skin are damaged, and die. Damaged DNA cells also die so as to prevent the formation of cancerous cells(known as apoptosis).

The tanned skin peels off after a few days. On the one hand, skin peels to remove dead skin cells from the body. On the other, immature skin cells take over in the epidermis to make up for the skin that has been peeled off. When new, mature skin cells take over, they produce ceramide to retain moisture. However, after skin is tanned, immature skin cells cannot produce ceramide. Therefore, people with sensitive skin need to avoid being exposed to UV rays as they already have insufficient ceramide in their skin. Exposure to sun can worsen their skin condition.

・What is keratinization? (cell turnover)
Cells in our epidermis are mainly composed of keratin cells. They start to grow from stratum basale (skin’s inner layer) underneath the epidermis. Cells formed in the stratum basale will be pushed up to the skin surface by new cells growing underneath, eventually becoming stratum corneum (skin’s outer layer). By the time they emerge from the skin surface, the skin cells are dead and form a flaky layer which will peel off naturally.

This entire process is known as cell turnover or keratinization. Moisturizing components within the stratum corneum such as ceramide or amino acids are formed during the keratinizaton process. When skin maintains a normal cycle of keratinization, high levels of moisturizing components are produced in the stratum corneum, and skin is moisturized and beautiful.