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So there I am driving down the road, on my way to a lovely dinner with my girlfriend, when all of a sudden, along the skin of my shoulders, I start to feel what seems like a pinprick? A single red ant bite? Maybe a bee sting? Regardless, it’s unpleasant. The little stinging sensation moves from my shoulder, up my neck, down to my back, traveling like a nomad, lost in a sandstorm, poking its head out, appearing randomly and unexpected. Then there are hundreds of pinpricks, little ant bites. I press my back against the driver’s seat, trying to itch the feeling out of existence, yet it only grows worse, so much so, I have to pull over.

Two days prior I went swimming with a friend. I didn’t wear sunscreen, but we were only outside for a half-hour, right? “No dude,” he says after I call him. “We were only going to be there for like ten minutes, but ended staying for over an hour,” I tell him what I’m feeling. He says he’s a little red, a little sore. “Sounds like you’ve got something else,” he says. “I think you’re right, “I reply.

Back home, in the mirror I stare at my naked bright red shoulders, thinking, “But I’ve been this red before, haven’t I?” I try aloe, make a weird bath using oatmeal. Nothing works. No. This is worse than a sunburn. “What’s wrong with me?” I think. I’m in such pain, scratching here and there, the feeling coming and going, reappearing but with more force, only to then vanish at the snap of a finger. Sleep is impossible, so I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, jerking spastically each time the sensation returns.

The next day, my girlfriend sends me a link, something called Hell’s Itch…and I read the symptoms. According to health.clevelandclinic.org, “Hell’s Itch is a deep, painful, almost throbbing itch that happens one to three days after a sunburn, [which can feel] ‘like fire ants are biting you under your skin,’ ‘wanting to rip your skin off,’ or ‘…a stabbing pain.’” Just my luck, only a few people experience it. Yeah, lucky me.

I ended up spending almost 24 hours feeling the full intensity of Hell’s Itch. Oddly enough, the remedy was a simple one. About an hour after my wonderful co-worker gave me some Benadryl…well that’s all it took, and every time the itching sensation reared its ugly head, I just popped another Benadryl, until another 48 hours past. So many people talk about sunscreen, and I use sunscreen all the time, but believe me, when I say I will never ever not wear sunscreen again, especially since now that I’ve experienced Hell’s Itch, I’m more susceptible to experiencing it all over again – a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Yeah, yeah. It was pretty dumb of me, to begin with, but I learned a few lessons about the sun and my skin, of which otherwise I would’ve remained ignorant. For instance, while I occasionally moisturized, I didn’t realize how important it is to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized in relation to sun damage and being outside. Simply put, the sun dries out your skin, and this can lead to irreparable damage, faster aging, cancer, etc. Needless to say, sunscreen is important. Again, according to health.clevelandclinic.org, we should be wearing sunscreen, “…whenever you’re outdoors for any length of time,” or at least something, “…as simple as a light moisturizer with added SPF.” There are also supplements out there, such as Sunsafe Rx, which provide additional benefits to sun protection, supporting the skin – anti-aging, diminishing wrinkles and sunspot damage as well. Just make sure to keep using sunscreen along with the supplement. The supplement is not a substitute!

So don’t be like me. Wear sunscreen and pray you never have to deal with Hell’s Itch. Anyways, there’s a whole bunch of sunscreen’s we love at SHEEN magazine. Check out our top five below.

  1. Black Girl Sunscreen
  2. Sun Bum Face Lotion
  3. The Honest Company’s Sunscreen Spray
  4. Coola’s Classic Face Organic Sunscreen Lotion
  5. Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen