sun sensitivity
sun sensitivity

Watch Out For Sun Sensitivity - Avoid Using These Products In The Sun

Posted on June 27, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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As the weather heats up and the sun peeks through the clouds, getting outdoors may be your top priority. And while the sun brings fun, play and immune-boosting vitamin D, it can also be problematic, particularly if you use certain products.

"Photosensitivity happens when chemicals in drugs or other products react with ultraviolent light from the sun,” says Alysse Ashkar, D.O., a primary care specialist at Henry Ford Health. “With these products, your skin may burn more easily and you’re more susceptible to sun damage.”

 

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What Is Photosensitivity?

Many things we eat, drink and use on our skin can increase the risk of a phototoxic reaction—a chemically induced change in the skin that makes it ultra-sensitive to UV rays. In the short term, you may get a bad sunburn, blisters or other signs of sun damage. But in the long term, the damage could be more significant, Dr. Ashkar says. “Over time, photosensitive reactions can increase the risk of skin damage, skin cancer and premature aging.”

People who have certain conditions, particularly autoimmune diseases such as lupus, may be more likely to have photosensitive reactions, in part because of the medications required to treat the disease.

Which Products Increase The Risk Of Sun Damage?

Many products, medications and even foods can impact how your skin reacts to the sun. The following substances are among the most likely to cause a reaction:

  • Skin care products: Products that contain anti-aging ingredients such as retinol, alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids such as benzoyl peroxide and other exfoliants increase skin cell turnover, increasing your odds of a serious sunburn. To avoid a reaction, Dr. Ashkar recommends using skin care products at night and slathering on sunscreen during the day.
  • Essential oils: Essential oils such as lemon, lavender and sandalwood can cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun.
  • Certain medications: A wide variety of medications—both prescription and over-the-counter—can increase photosensitivity. Among the drugs you need to watch out for:
    • Antibiotics, including doxycycline, tetracycline and ciprofloxacin
    • Antihistamines
    • Oral contraceptives
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen
    • Diabetes drugs
    • Tricyclic antidepressants
    • Herbal remedies such as St. John’s Wort
  • Foods: A variety of foods from dill and fennel to figs, lime, parsley and wild carrots can make your skin more vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays.

Tips To Protect Your Skin From The Sun

Not everyone who uses the drugs or products that trigger photoreactions will experience adverse effects—and even if you do get burned once, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same reaction every time.

Nevertheless, if you use or consume any photosensitizing products, it’s important to take extra precautions before you venture out in the sun to protect your skin from damage:

  • Watch the clock. Your best bet to avoid phototoxic reactions is to stay out of the sun between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Cover up. If you’ll be spending time outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants and don a broad-brimmed hat.
  • Wear sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Choose one with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 or above—and reapply frequently. For sensitive skin, look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the ingredient list.
  • Consider sun-protective clothing. Clothing with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is available online and in many retail chains. UPF shirts, swimsuits, rash guard shirts, full body suits, scarves and hats can add an extra layer of protection. 

Reviewed by Dr. Alysse Ashkar, a primary care physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Wyandotte Family Medicine in Allen Park.

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