What It Really Means When Your Sunburn Itches

A day outside in the sun often ends with happy memories. But without properly applying and reapplying sunscreen, all that sunshine can also lead to a sunburn. A sunburn occurs when the skin is damaged by UV rays. This often leads to itching several days after the burn develops (via Healthline). While some itching is common for moderate sunburns while the skin heals, people with particularly itchy burns may experience what is referred to as "hell's itch."

This itchiness shows up one to three days after being in the sun and is reported to be extremely painful and irritating. While this itchiness can affect any type of sunburn, it is more common in people with light skin who spent a lot of time in the sun without sunscreen. Taking hot showers, using peppermint oil, and applying aloe vera to the affected region may help it go away more quickly. Itchiness from a sunburn will go away after a few days as the skin repairs or replaces its damaged layers. You can also avoid this symptom entirely by using sunscreen before going out in the sun and reapplying it every two hours.

What it means when your sunburn peels

Sunburns that itch often peel as well. A peeling sunburn means that the skin has been so damaged that it has died. "The sun has essentially destroyed the top layers of skin, and now your body needs to remove the damaged cells and replace them with newer, healthier cells," dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, told Refinery29. Peeling can last for as long as two weeks after developing a sunburn. However, bad sunburns cause damage to many layers of skin and may take months to heal completely.

There isn't anything you can do to prevent damaged skin from peeling, but you can make the process more comfortable when it happens. Many drugstores sell topical sunburn treatments that contain ingredients like ceramides that will soothe damaged skin. You should also moisturize your sunburn with an unscented moisturizer several times a day to keep the skin from getting dry. Avoid using harsh soaps or lotions while your burn heals because these can cause irritation.