The cold temperatures and shorter days aren’t the only reasons winter can feel like such a drag -- in many areas across the U.S., the winter months also see far less sunshine than other seasons. Of course, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation still poses a threat to your skin regardless of its visibility -- but considering that most people spend more time indoors during the winter and bundle up when braving the cold weather, you’re less likely to experience sun damaged skin in the winter than the warmer months. Now that springtime is on the horizon, it’s time to prepare your skin for sun-related problems.
In addition to causing sunburns and increasing your risk of developing skin cancer, sun exposure can leave you with a skin rash in susceptible areas. If you have a sun allergy, this might come in the form of an allergy rash. Certain products and medications may also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight (i.e. photosensitivity). Plus, the nicer weather might inspire you to get out and exercise, which can lead to exercise-induced rashes and hives. Whatever the direct cause of your rashes, you won’t be able to enjoy springtime to its fullest extent if your skin is regularly irritated. Here’s how you can enjoy the sun without the rash this spring and beyond.
Most of the advice here is no different than that for avoiding sunburn or other forms of sun damaged skin, but it’s worth reiterating. In order to prevent or at least mitigate sun-related rashes, you must limit your time in the sun. Experts recommend that you only expose your skin to sunlight between 20-30 minutes per day. This might not seem like much time, but if you plan on staying out longer, you can do your skin a favor by choosing the right time to enjoy the outdoors. For instance, the sun is at its highest and strongest point between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. If you want to limit the sun’s negative effects on your skin, try to enjoy your outdoor time outside of this zone (i.e. morning and late afternoon).
Even if you only anticipate spending a half hour in the sun on a given spring day, make sure your skin is protected in some way from direct UV rays. One way to steer clear of sun rashes and burns is to wear clothing that covers most of your body (i.e. long-sleeved shirts, pants, hat, sunglasses, etc.) -- just make sure these clothes aren’t too tight, as these can lead to friction- or sweat-induced rashes. Additionally, cover your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. And, whenever possible, seek a shady spot when enjoying your time outdoors.
As briefly mentioned earlier, certain substances such as cosmetic products and medications can actually make your skin more vulnerable to the sun’s rays. These photosensitizing materials (which include certain antibiotics, retinoids, diuretics, anti-inflammatories, psoralens, and much more) essentially weaken the skin’s defenses against UV rays by either constricting blood vessels, suppressing the immune system, inhibiting sweat gland function, or triggering an allergic response when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Whatever the case, it’s important to take stock of what products might be leading to a phototoxic or photoallergic response. Your dermatologist can help you narrow down the field so you can stop using these products and opt for alternatives that don’t leave your skin so vulnerable.
If your skin is naturally sensitive to the sun, your best efforts to protect your skin might not be enough to keep you from developing rashes and other issues. Fortunately, there are certain procedures and medications that can further protect your skin and help you get rid of any rashes you currently have. Phototherapy, for instance, involves exposing your skin to safe levels of UV radiation prior to getting out in the sun, which can reduce eczema, psoriasis, and other inflammatory symptoms in certain patients. Most sun rashes disappear on their own within 10 days or so, but you can relieve symptoms with anti-itch creams, antihistamines, cold compresses, and pain relievers. As always, talk to your dermatologist about which treatments are best for your skin.
Sunnier days are on the way -- make the most out of them by keeping your skin safe and rash-free. If your skin is susceptible to sun rashes and other sun-related issues, the experts at Premier Dermatology Partners can provide you with the advice, resources, and options you need. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.