A day out at the beach is a great way to spend time with your family and catch up on some relaxation, but failing to wear sunscreen for extended periods outdoors can lead to consequences like sunburn.

While this is a common problem many people experience, you may have concerns about itchy sunburn. Let’s look more closely at what this term means, whether it’s an issue you should worry about, and how you can get relief.

What is Sunburn Itch?

Anyone can experience an itchy sunburn, and it usually shows up about two days after you spend time in the sun without protection. Sometimes the itch is mild and not cause for concern, but the condition can also become more severe and progress to Hell’s Itch [1]. This is a much more profound itchiness, and most people describe it as a consistent, throbbing discomfort that can last for as long as two days.

Common Causes of Itchy Sunburn

If you’ve had a sunburn, you already know the classic symptoms, like the warm, inflamed sensation and peeling skin. You may sometimes ask, “Why is my sunburn itchy?” so it’s important to understand the main causes.

  • UV Radiation Exposure: The most common cause of itchy sunburn is excess exposure to UV rays. If you spend a long time in the sun in a single session, it can cause severe skin damage and increase the risk of itchiness.

  • Skin Inflammation: Your itchiness can result from inflammation, as your immune system naturally triggers an inflammatory response to help the skin heal.

  • Dehydration: Another possible answer to the question, “Why do sunburns itch?” is dehydration. If you don’t drink enough water every day, your skin can become dry, which increases the risk of experiencing itchiness.

  • Damage to the Skin Barrier: Severe sunburn can cause skin barrier damage, which makes you more prone to irritation. You may even find that rough clothing exacerbates the symptoms.

  • Chemical Irritants: If you use products with chemical additives on your skin, you may experience itchiness, irritation, and additional inflammation after a sunburn.

ACE Ferulic serum

The Symptoms of Itchy Sunburn

You should know the signs to look out for to identify itchy sunburn early so you can take steps to get relief before it worsens. These are the primary symptoms:

  • Redness and Inflammation: The area where you have a burn usually turns red shortly after you spend time in the sun, and you may also notice swelling.

  • Hot or Warm Skin: Another common symptom of sunburn is a warm sensation when you touch your skin, which can occur with or without itchiness.

  • Itching Sensation: The most noticeable symptom is itchiness, although the severity differs from one person to another. It also depends on whether you develop Hell’s Itch or just regular symptoms of the healing process.

  • Peeling Skin: As your sunburn heals it usually begins to peel, which helps remove the damaged skin to reveal a new layer.

  • Dryness and Tightness: The healing process often causes the skin to feel tight and dry in the areas where you have sunburn.

9 Tips for Sunburn Itch Relief

We’ve discussed why sunburn sometimes causes itching, and answered the question, “How long does sunburn itch last?” However, it’s also important to note that you can get fast relief with several home remedies. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to reduce itching and other sunburn symptoms.

  • Avoid Scratching: When it comes to sunburn itch relief, it’s important to stress that you should NOT scratch your skin. The itching makes it tempting to scratch, but it will only worsen the symptoms. Scratching can damage the skin barrier and may lead to a burning sensation. If you scratch too hard, you also risk causing permanent scarring.

  • Apply a Cool Compress: Apart from itching, sunburn can also cause your skin to feel warm to the touch, adding to the discomfort. Get an ice pack or another type of cool compress and place it on the area affected to soothe and cool the skin.

  • Take An Oatmeal Bath: While oatmeal is usually something you eat for breakfast, it can also do wonders for your skin. If you have an itchy sunburn, an oatmeal bath might be just what you need for relief. Mix ground oatmeal, milk, honey, almond oil, and other essential oils in a blender [2]. Draw a bath, pour the final mixture into the tub, and soak.

  • Apply Moisturizer: When you have a sunburn, the last thing you may think of applying to your skin is a moisturizer, but it’s an important step. After you’ve had your oatmeal bath, use a natural hydrating formula free of harsh chemicals or irritants like Infusoderm Deep Hydration Daily Moisturizer. This cream not only keeps your skin moisturized, it also boosts hydration significantly.

  • Hydrate Frequently: Staying hydrated can prevent your skin from becoming too dry and significantly worsening sunburn symptoms. Make sure you drink enough fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration.

  • Take an Antihistamine: Some people find that taking an antihistamine helps reduce sunburn itching, especially during the peeling stage. Researchers have discovered that histamine levels increase following sunburn [3].

  • Apply a Serum: A sunburn damages your skin, so using a serum that offers restorative properties can help minimize the harm. However, you have to choose the right product, as some serums can worsen the irritation and itching. We recommend Ace-Ferulic Skin Damage Restoration & Photo Aging Defense Serum as a gentle and very effective formula.

  • Wear a Hat, Sunglasses, and Loose Clothing: The clothing you wear while your skin is healing from sunburn also matters, and you should opt for items that fit loosely. Slim-fitting clothes can press against your skin and irritate it, worsening the itching. In addition, protect your skin from further damage by wearing a hat and sunglasses when you’re in the sun.

  • Use a High SPF Sunscreen: If you’ve had a sunburn, you likely want to do everything you can to prevent it from happening in the future and learn how to stop sunburn itching if it does occur. We strongly recommend that you use sunscreen with at least 30 SPF daily in every season.

Should you Use Cleanser if You Have an Itchy Sunburn?

When you have an itchy sunburn it’s really important to take care of your skin, but using harsh soaps or cleansers will only worsen the problem. That’s why it’s important to be careful if you decide to use a cleanser when you have a sunburn.

Choose a gentle formula like Dermpura Skin Balancing Cleanser on your face. Alternatively, you can use only clean water to wash your skin until symptoms like itchiness go away.



When is a sunburn most itchy?

Itching is quite normal when you have a sunburn, however, a potential complication called Hell’s Itch has more severe symptoms including itchiness that goes deep into your skin.

Is it OK to scratch an itchy sunburn?

No, it’s never a good idea to scratch a sunburn no matter how much it itches, as this can cause long-lasting damage to your skin.

Is it normal for a sunburn to itch?

Yes, it’s normal to feel some itching when you have a sunburn. The itching usually begins about two days after you get the burn and lasts for approximately 48 hours.

Should I worry if my sunburn itches?

Usually, an itchy sunburn is not a serious health concern. However, if the itching is unbearable, you may have a more severe condition called Hell’s Itch, and you should see a doctor.

How long does an itchy sunburn last?

In most cases, itchy sunburn goes away in a day or two. However, the symptoms could last longer, especially if you have a severe condition.

You may also like to read - Sunburned Lips - Why it happens and How to Avoid It


Spending too much time in the sun can lead to a burn, and in some cases, you may experience itchy sunburn, flaking skin, and other symptoms. While the itching itself is usually not a serious health concern, there are cases where it can become intense or even unbearable. If the itching gets severe, you should see a physician, but in most cases, the home remedies suggested can help significantly.


1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37874633/
2] https://www.powerofpositivity.com/oatmeal-bath-soothe-chapped-skin-sunburn/
3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534837/

Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Zayed, has years of experience in the field and has been contributing to public health awareness. Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. Egypt. Dr. Zayed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. His articles were featured on many websites like HuffingtonPost, Chicagotribune . Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Zayed spends his time outside the hospital, either reading or at the gym.

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayad

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