The Sunburn Saga lives on. First, let me set the scene.
I'm in Kyrgyzstan, still on break in between semesters in China. After a few days in Bishkek, I took some time off while my Kazakh visa is being processed to go to Karakol. So yesterday I went for an easy hike in Karakol National Park, met some Kyrgyz boys and had fun with them, and then came back to my room exhausted since I was recovering from the flu. I go to take a shower, but the water wasn't getting hot, so I go back to my room ready to sit there until hot water is available. I notice that my left arm has started to peel (surprisingly late--I was sunburned more than a week ago), so I help it along and skin comes off in rather big strips. I didn't want to just throw it on the floor, and there wasn't a trashcan within reach, so I rolled up the first piece.
Once I had a little ball, it was natural to add the next piece on, and the piece after that, and the piece after that. It was a little addictive: the edge of dead skin was just begging to be pulled off.
My skin ball became larger and larger until it was full-grown:
This is a picture of the ball I made from the skin of my left forearm (approximately 10 sq. inches). I'd estimate it to be about the size of a large spitwad, but as straws are scarce here, I couldn't test this hypothesis.
I know what you're all wondering: how do I make a skin ball of my own? Be patient, and I'll give you some tips.
First, it's important to have a large area of skin to work with. If you've only sunburned the back of your neck, for instance, you likely won't have enough skin to make a satisfying ball. I found that my arm skin works the best because the arm is less sensitive than other areas. When my face peeled, the exposed skin underneath really hurt, but when skin came off my arm, it didn't even sting (despite the horrified looks of the Kyrgyz boys as I patiently peeled the skin off my right arm earlier in the day).
Second, the size of the strips of skin is important. This is what was lacking when my face peeled: the skin came off in flecks, and slowly. It took a whole day or two for my face skin to come off, and a lot of that came from just rubbing my forehead in the shower. Water is a killer for skin balls.
Here is an example of the ideal size for adding to your skin ball:
You'll notice in the picture that the extracted skin is directed toward my (apparently emaciated) wrist; this is common. Skin peels forward from the elbow to the wrist and inward from the pinky to the thumb.
Now that I've explained how to harvest the skin, let me give some advice on actually making the ball.
It's important to touch the newly gathered skin as little as possible: hold the strip by the edge with one hand and bring the skin ball to it, wrapping the ball with the skin as evenly as possible. As you roll the strip onto the ball, feel free to press the ball to give it added firmness. Small pieces of skin (ones that don't cover the whole surface area of the ball) can be difficult to add.
When your skin ball is finished, you can sit back and admire your handiwork. Sell it on eBay to help fund cancer research--that's what I'm going to do with mine.
Good luck, and send me pictures of your efforts. You might have to provide a link, since I don't think pictures are allowed in the comments.