Why Peeling Sunburn Feels So Satisfying


I am the linear definition of pale.

Put me in the sun unprotected and I'll roast, and even with sunscreen liberally applied, there's a good chance I'll return with rosy cheeks.

My skin's level of melanin is so low that I burn and go back to pale within a matter of days, but not without some serious peeling to simultaneously annoy and entertain me.

I'm one of those people who, like a child, can't resist popping bubblewrap the second it falls into my hands.

I'll use my fingers, my palms, and stomp on the air-infused wrapping until it's completely deflated because, for some reason, it just feels so good.

I pop bubble wrap, others peel sunburn.

What Does It Mean For Your Skin When Sunburn Starts To Peel?

As a direct result of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays), skin begins to flake, signaling that a significant amount of skin damage has occurred.

To compensate for the destruction of cells, a new layer of skin develops in place of the compromised coating, causing old skin to shed.

It's nothing to seek medical attention about, unless blisters form and the burn becomes really irritated.

So What's The Appeal?

I personally find the veiny white splotches and vines spun around my arms and body during this period to be an annoyance, but some people find peeling off sunburn eerily satisfying.

Similar to that kind of grotesque sense of achievement when you've finally positioned your fingertips just right to pop that heinous pimple mocking you from the mirror, stripping off these stringy patches of white can trigger a (kind of sick) sense of achievement.

Irvine Jessica Borelli, Ph.D., who's an associate professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, spoke with Elite Daily about the real psychological basis for the satisfaction you feel from this experience.

Entertainment Value

Peeling off flecks or large portions of burnt skin can also provide you with a convenient form of entertainment amidst snooze-worthy situations (i.e. something to do during a summer class lecture, business meeting, or under the dinner table while Mom and Dad go on some weird tangent).

Borelli explains,

Think of these vices like an itch you have to scratch. It feels so good, mentally and physically, that you just have to.

But Please, Take Precaution

There's peeling, and then there's problematic blisters.

To reiterate what you should already know, there's nothing natural about a sunburn or tan. Both are a form of skin damage that need to be nursed properly in order to heal.

So while I won't judge you for peeling for pleasure, seek medical attention when peeling becomes too painful for comfort.