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Wellness > Health

The “Devil’s Itch” Is A Real Thing, So I Asked 2 Dermatologists All About It

Ah, summer, the season of beach trips, pool parties, and soaking up all the sunshine you can get. But as much as we love the sunny vibes, there’s a downside that can sneak upon all of us: the sunburn. We’ve all been there — red, painful skin that peels off like some snake scales. But there’s another sunburn side effect that’s not as well-known but just as dreadful: the “Devil’s Itch.”

This maddening itch often hits a few days after you’ve spent too much time in the sun. And dealing with post-sunburn itch is more than just a minor inconvenience — it can seriously turn your summer dream into a scratchy nightmare. TikTok sensation Jake Shane recently highlighted his experience with the Devil’s Itch, which can make even the toughest of us squirm in discomfort. Imagine trying to enjoy a GNO with your besties, only to be constantly distracted by an uncontrollable urge to scratch. 

Bestie, believe me. While it sounds like something straight out of a horror flick, trust me when I say that it’s real, and it has this name for a reason. Because it can be a mega mood ruiner, understanding it and knowing how to manage it can help you stay comfortable and keep your summer vibes intact.

To make sure your summer is still fun and itch-free, I spoke to dermatologists Dr. Brendan Camp and Dr. Lauren Penzi about spilling all the sunscreen secrets and how to really handle the Devil’s Itch this year.

@octopusslover8

I remember it like it was yesterday

♬ original sound – Jake Shane

What Is The Devil’s Itch?

The Devil’s Itch, AKA Hell’s Itch, refers to the intense pruritus, or itch, that occurs after a sunburn. “While sunburns are often associated with a mild itch sensation, more severe itch that significantly affects one’s quality of life in a negative way may be associated with Devil’s Itch,” Dr. Camp tells Her Campus. 

Sunburn itself is caused by soaking up too much UV radiation from the sun, leading to not only inflammation but also damage to the skin, but the Devil’s Itch is a secondary, delayed response that sneaks up a few days after catching those rays. And it loves to show up right when you thought your sunburn was getting better. “The cause is unknown, but it is thought to be related to an intense inflammatory response and histamine release and/or damage to nerve endings from a sunburn,” Dr. Penzi tells Her Campus. “It often lasts longer and is not as responsive to traditional over-the-counter treatments.”

Even though the exact cause of Devil’s Itch is not entirely understood, it seems to happen when your skin is healing after a sunburn. As the damaged skin starts fixing itself, it can get really itchy. This might be because new skin cells are growing and old ones are falling off, which can bother the nerves in your skin. Also, when your skin is healing, it releases stuff that makes it inflamed and itchy, like histamines.

What Are the Devil’s Itch Symptoms?

So, if you’re feeling this crazy itch after a sunburn or feeling those pins and needles sensation, you’re not alone. While the Devil’s Itch is actually pretty rare and tends to more commonly affect people with more fair skin, it is a real thing, and it can make you feel totally frustrated and uncomfortable. 

Signs of the Devil’s Itch obviously include that really strong itch that just won’t quit and can stick around for days. “It can also be associated with redness, tenderness, and warmth, as one might see in a typical sunburn,” Camp says. “Dry skin and peeling are also possible symptoms.” As a result, it can be difficult to sleep or perform daily activities, and the persistent sensation can be mentally taxing.

Can You Heal the Devil’s Itch?

Tackling the pesky Devil’s Itch can feel like a battle, especially when the usual go-to remedies don’t quite do the trick. But don’t stress! There are several ways to soothe it and get back to feeling like yourself again. “Very cold showers, antihistamines, topical steroid creams, over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol, and staying hydrated are some of the most effective remedies to help alleviate it,” says Penzi. 

@joiebaoz

Replying to @𝓐 it’s called hell’s itch for a reason. STAY SAFE YALL SPF #sunburn #hellsitch #firstdegreeburn #spf #sunscreen

♬ original sound – Joie Tan – Joie Tan

Reach for an ice pack and let that cool sensation work its magic, or indulge in a refreshing cool bath that will absolutely soothe your skin. And let’s not forget about our trusty friend, aloe vera gel – a lifesaver for calming that relentless itch and even restoring your skin’s radiance. 

When Should Someone Start Seeking Medical Attention For The Devil’s Itch?

If you’re really feeling the burn, it might be time to chat with a healthcare professional about a stronger prescription treatment. “See a dermatologist if over-the-counter treatments are not working, if it is starting to interfere with your life (like if you cannot work or sleep),” Penzi says. “If the itching is associated with worsening redness, swelling, blisters/, skin breakdown, and if you are having associated systemic symptoms like fever or chills.”

But hey, let’s not get burnt in the first place, right? Rocking some sunscreen and cute protective clothing isn’t just about avoiding the dreaded sunburn — it’s about keeping that glow without the itch. According to Camp, “The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using sunscreen that provides a minimum SPF of 30, broad-spectrum coverage, and that is water-resistant. Reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors for extended periods and after swimming and sweating.” 

So, whether you’re chilling at the quad or hitting up the beach, make sure you’re best covered to avoid the Devil’s Itch. You’ll thank me later.

Lily Brown

Emerson '25

Lily Brown is the Wellness Intern for Her Campus Media. She writes for the Culture, Style, and Wellness verticals on the site, including Beauty, Decor, Digital, Entertainment, Experiences, Fashion, Mental Health, and Sex + Relationships coverage. Beyond Her Campus, Lily is a rising senior at Emerson College in Boston, MA, majoring in Journalism with a Publishing minor. She works as the Creative Director for the on-campus lifestyle publication, Your Magazine, where she establishes and curates the conceptual design and content for the entire publication ranging from style, romance, music, pop culture, personal identity, and college experiences. She has written and photographed for Your Mag along with several other on-campus magazines. Lily was recently recognized for her work on YM and awarded two EVVYs for Outstanding Print Publication. In her free time, Lily maybe spends a little too much time keeping a close eye on captivating red carpet and runway fashion, and binge-watching her favorite shows. She also enjoys expressing her thoughts through creative writing, exploring new destinations, and blasting ABBA, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, and Lady Gaga on Spotify. Additionally, she actively contributes to fostering a sense of community among college residents as a dedicated Residential Assistant.