Is Your Lifestyle Making You Susceptible to Sunburns?

Have you ever had a day when your skin felt particularly sensitive? Maybe it was after an afternoon at the beach, a facial, or a new skincare treatment. When skin becomes extra sensitive to light, it's called photosensitivity.

Photosensitivity can be either acute or chronic, and some individuals are naturally more photosensitive. However, there are lifestyle factors that influence how well the skin can handle UV light. This condition may cause the skin to peel, blister, become irritated, or be sunburned more easily than normal. Individuals with chronic health issues may also experience flare-ups, pain, and fatigue in addition to skin symptoms. Here are some of the factors to watch out for that could influence your sensitivity to the sun.

Oral and Topical Medications

Some oral medications absorb UV light, which can cause damage and inflammation to the skin.

Many medications are known to cause photosensitivity, including:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Aleve and Ibuprofen)
  • Antihistamines (like Benadryl)
  • Antibiotics (like sulfa drugs and tetracyclines)
  • Birth control and compounds of estrogen
  • Diuretics
  • Cholesterol drugs (like statins)

Taking your medications as directed by your medical provider is important. If you spend a lot of time outdoors for work or recreation, consider discussing with your doctor how you can limit photosensitivity. This can prevent the risk of irritation, side effects, and skin cancer.

Body Care

Body care products also interact with UV light, including:

  • Perfumes
  • Lotions
  • Exfoliants
  • Skin brighteners (like Vitamin C serums)
  • Glycolic acids
  • Retinoids

Retinoids are a classic example of a topical ingredient that causes sensitivity. When possible, use sensitizing ingredients at night, rinse your face when waking up in the morning, and always follow up with sunscreen. Skincare in conjunction with sunscreen is the safest and most effective way to maintain an anti-aging routine.

Health Conditions

Health conditions can cause photosensitivity due to a variety of reactions between the skin, the body's proteins, and UV light. With autoimmune conditions like Lupus, photosensitivity is a highly reported symptom. Dermatological conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea are also known to sensitize the skin.

The elderly are also at risk for photosensitivity due to the increased effects of medications. A 2019 study stated that nearly 20% of the most common medications prescribed to the elderly population were shown to cause photosensitivity reactions, especially when not followed with sunscreen.

For individuals with comorbid conditions, it's important to take extra precautions when enjoying the sunshine. Establishing care with a dermatologist for regular appointments will ensure that you have a routine that is not putting you at risk for unnecessary skin damage. For severe and ongoing photosensitivity, a dermatologist will provide you with a plan to treat acute reactions.

Protect Yourself From Sun Damage

Although it feels like a lot of elements can make you more photosensitive, there are protective actions to take to resist skin damage. Reading medication and product inserts, speaking with your medical provider, and making an appointment with a dermatologist are ways to make you more sun safe.

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