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Many people enjoy sitting in the sun as it is warm, relaxing, and helps to provide us with all-important vitamin D. Adequate sun exposure is also known to help improve a number of skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis in some people. It is, however, important to be aware that in summer months, the sun should be enjoyed with a little caution.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause skin damage in as little as 15 minutes. Prolonged exposure and damage can lead to various forms of skin cancer, many of which, thankfully, are preventable. The sun isn’t the only skin-damaging predator — tanning beds, smoking and unhealthy diet can also have ill effects on the body’s outer layer.
The key is to be sun savvy and know how to keep your skin healthy.
What is sun sensitivity?
For starters, “skin type and genetics play a role in how sensitive you may be to sun exposure,” says Dr. Susan Massick, a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
Fair skin and (light or) red hair make you more susceptible to damaging ultraviolet rays and put you at higher risk for sunburn, sun damage and skin cancer.
But any skin type can be photosensitive.
How to Protect Yourself From the Sun
If you have sun sensitivity, there are steps you can take to better manage your symptoms and protect your skin. But most people, even those without sun sensitivity, can benefit from similar measures.
We need to sort of start with the fact that sun protection is something that the whole world should be thinking about.
Wearing sunscreen can lower your risk of developing cancer and slow premature aging in the skin.
We all should be compelled to wear sunscreen regardless, and then for people that are more sensitive, that level of paying attention to avoiding sun exposure and getting protective should be more to the forefront.
You should apply sunscreen before you go in the sun, as opposed to wait until you’re outside and apply sunscreen. It is also important for people to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.
It’s important to get a sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Both types of rays can trigger reactions in people who live with lupus.4
In addition to sunscreen, Prather says you can try sun supplements. She specifically recommends Helioplex’s sun supplements.
Sun supplements are a combination of antioxidants that have been shown to provide some level of systemic SPF protection and decreases the inflammatory response caused by this setting by giving you this element of photoprotection.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises against solely relying on sun supplements, though. So it may be best to combine this tactic with other measures like sunscreen.
A May 2018 statement from then-commissioner of food and drugs Scott Gottlieb, MD, says that some companies give “consumers a false sense of security that a dietary supplement could prevent sunburn, reduce early skin aging caused by the sun, or protect from the risks of skin cancer.”5
3. Be Cautious When You Go Outside
If you have moderate to severe photosensitivity you may want to avoid going outside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which is when UVB light is especially strong.
Isabela Wieczorek, MD, and Horatio F. Wildman, MD, wrote in an article for the Hospital for Special Surgery that people should still be cautious on cloudy days. Remember that, even on cloudy days, we still are exposed to about 80% of the ultraviolet light present on a sunny day. Recreational activities near water require additional caution as water reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays.
4. Invest In UV-Protected Clothing
The experts who spoke to Verywell all agree that it may be a good idea to invest in UV-protected clothing. The Lupus Foundation of America recommends that you buy clothing from sporting goods stores and from sun protective clothing companies online.
Clothes and hats which offer sun protection should be labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number. However, no federal agencies regulate the effectiveness of UPF products. Sunglasses labeled with a label of “UVA/UVB rating of 100%” can also help protect your eyes.
5. Check Out Your Windows
If you realize that you experience sun sensitivity while working inside too, check out whether your windows are UV-protected. Window glass blocks UVB rays, but UVA rays can still penetrate.
Some people, they’re very photosensitive, even being by a window that is not to be protected can be a problem. Buying and setting up protective window films applied to window panes can offer additional protection.