Summer is the perfect time to go out and soak up some sunshine, but what if your skin begins to itch, swell, or develop rashes upon sun exposure? You might just be experiencing an actual allergy to the sun called Polymorphous Light Eruption, or PMLE. You probably haven’t heard of this condition unless you’re one of the unlucky ones who has been diagnosed with it, but it’s more common than you think, and it’s acquired over time. A sun allergy can put a major damper on your summer fun and sometimes even throughout the year especially if you live in a place with year-round sunny weather.
In this blog post, we will delve into what a sun allergy is, its symptoms, causes, and how you can treat and overcome it.
What is a Sun Allergy?
A sun allergy, otherwise known as polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), is a skin reaction that occurs due to sun exposure. PMLE is particularly common in women with pale skin and those who live in temperate climates. It can appear anywhere on the body, but most often it affects the chest, arms, and legs. Symptoms usually appear within a few hours of sun exposure and last two weeks or so before fading away. In severe cases of sun allergy, it can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
PMLE, is the most prevalent light-induced skin disease according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology and NIH research. Shockingly, it affects between 10 to 20 percent of the population.
What Causes Sun Allergies?
Although skin allergy is more common in women in their 20s and 30s with lighter skin pigmentation, but it can affect anyone. The cause is unknown, but genetics may play a role. This rash, known as PMLE, typically occurs with the first intense sunlight exposure of the season, tanning bed use, or a vacation to a sunny location.
Doctors caution that PMLE may be mistaken for other autoimmune disorders, such as lupus erythematosus or dermatomyositis, both of which also cause sun sensitivity. However, these illnesses typically produce other indications of systemic involvement, such as exhaustion and joint pain, and are typically less itchy.
What Are the Symptoms of a Sun Allergy?
Sun allergy rashes can be polymorphous, meaning that they can occur in various forms. Symptoms of sun allergies vary, but the most common ones include the following:
– Redness and itching of the affected skin
– Small bumps or blisters on the affected skin
– The development of plaques on the skin
– A burning sensation in the affected area
– Swelling of the affected area
Distinguishing between PMLE and allergic contact dermatitis can prove challenging at times, particularly in cases concerning light exposure-based sunscreens. Patients experiencing rashes under these circumstances should keep in mind that oxybenzone, a prevalent ingredient in many sunscreens, is often responsible for photo-induced allergic reactions – it also goes by the names of benzophenone-3 or BP-3.
How to Treat Sun Allergies
Prevention is better than cure, right? Therefore, it’s best to avoid being in the sun when it’s at its strongest, usually between 10 am or 4 pm. To combat sun allergies, you can also try the following:
– Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 30 minutes before going outside and reapply as necessary
– Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses
– Avoid using perfumes or lotions that contain alcohol as they may heighten your sensitivity to sunlight
– Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds entirely as they can cause a severe reaction
– Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
In addition to the above preventive measures, if you have sun allergies, treatment may include over-the-counter antihistamines to relieve itching, corticosteroid creams, or prescription-strength mast cell stabilizers that can lessen the severity of symptoms.
For those with polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), treatment involves cool compresses, menthol lotions, and possibly prescription topical corticosteroids to ease symptoms and shorten the outbreak period. In more severe cases, oral steroids may be required for one to two weeks.
Vitamins and supplements for skin to prevent skin allergy
Apart from medication and preventive measures, vitamins and supplements can also be beneficial in preventing skin allergies. Vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe the skin from irritations and dryness. Similarly, Vitamin C can help prevent damage from sun exposure and can also promote collagen production which can improve skin’s elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce inflammation and help keep skin hydrated, healthy, and less prone to allergies.
A sun allergy can be an annoying, sometimes painful introduction to summer. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to prevent and treat a sun allergy without completely avoiding the outdoors. Polymorphous Light Eruption may not be curable, but it’s treatable. By taking preventive measures and seeking treatment, when necessary, those with sun allergies can enjoy sunny days without worrying about the negative effects. Don’t forget to take care of your skin all year round. Choose clinically proven skincare that was tested and evaluated by experts in this field, and with scientifically backed skin benefits. Remember, if you experience severe symptoms after being outside, it’s best to consult a physician before taking matters into your own hands. Enjoy your summer and stay protected!