Why Sunburns Itch (And How To Soothe Them)

by Gio
why sunburns itch + how to soothe them

The worst thing about sunburns? The itch.

Like, it’s non-stop. You just want to scratch the whole damn thing off, but that just makes things worse. *sighs*

What’s a girl to do?

Why Do Surnburns Itch?

An itch is a sensation that arises from an irritation. It’s your skin’s way of letting you know that your skin is under attack so you can do something about it.

In the case of sunburn, UV rays are attacking your skin. They made it past your skin’s defences, irritating your skin and doing a lot of damage in the process.

A lot of this damage happened to the surface of your skin, which is full of c-fibres. C-fibres are special nerves that respond to mechanical stimulus such as pressure, certain chemicals, or heat and make your skin itch.

In other words, C-fibres protect you by letting us know that something is wrong. An example? When you have an insect crawling on your skin (eww!), C-fibres make your skin itch to let you know to get the little bugger off.

But getting rid of the itch from sunburns ain’t that easy.

How effective is your sunscreen? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Sunscreen Audit” Worksheet and find out if your sunscreen is really up to the job:

How Do You Soothe An Itchy Sunburn?

Two ways:

  1. Colloidal oatmeal baths: colloidal oatmeal is rich in different types of phenols that give it both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Add some of the powder to your bath and you’ll relive the itch instantly.
  2. Soothing lotions: apply a gentle and soothing moisturizer with anti-inflammatory ingredients like colloidal oatmeal (yes, again!), aloe vera or allantoin. For an even more soothing effect, keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours before application.

Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Colloidal Oatmeal

What Are The Best Products To Stop An Itchy Sunburn?

  • Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment With Natural Colloidal Oatmeal ($6.97): available at iHerb and Walmart
  • Niod Modulating Glucosides (£21.00): available at Escentuals
  • Skinfood Aloe Vera 93% Soothing Gel ($8.00): available at Ulta and Yes Style

How do you soothe an itchy sunburn? Let me know in the comments below.



Janessa September 13, 2014 - 11:45 pm

My favorite product to use for sunburns or sun-hurt skin is Korres’ Yoghurt Cooling Gel. It saved me and my friends from any peeling skin and I like to keep it in the fridge as a cool mask.

Gio September 14, 2014 - 4:02 pm

Janessa, sounds great. Glad it helped you. 🙂

H January 12, 2016 - 4:13 am

I have heard that Noxima is really good for sunburned skin. Aloe Vera Gel is great too!

Gio January 12, 2016 - 6:44 pm

H, thanks for your suggestions. I like aloe vera too.

audrey March 8, 2017 - 4:33 am

Guys, try products from French pharmacie for your sunburns. They are so gentle, moisturizing and healing! If you get a sunburn, spray with Avene thermal spring water to soother the itch and pain, and then cover your burned skin with thick coat of Biafine cream. Overnight you’ll see such an amazing result. Of course, a bit Paracetamol/Ibuprofen will help with the pain too if you’re a crybaby like me.

Gio March 9, 2017 - 6:36 pm

Audrey, that’s a great tip, thanks! And I’m totally a crybaby too. 🙂

audrey March 10, 2017 - 4:26 am

You’re very welcome! 🙂 I had recently tried products from French pharmacie and I fell in love. They’re pretty hard to get here in Indonesia but I went all the way to finding suppliers that brings stuffs from EU. Real love for French pharamacie!

Gio March 18, 2017 - 4:20 pm

Wow, I admire your persistence, Audrey! But I hope that one day soon French brands will go to Indonesia too so you won’t have to struggle so much to get your hands on them.

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