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5 Surprising Things That Could Increase Sun Sensitivity

Has this ever happened to you? You dutifully slap on the sunscreen and wear a big floppy hat because you know you’ll be spending some extended time in the sun. But your skin gets scorched anyway--succumbing to an all-out sunburn or turning super itchy or splotchy. What’s going on?

It might be worth taking a closer look at your meds and what you might be putting on your skin. The truth is, certain ingredients can increase sun sensitivity  -- making skin more prone to burning when exposed to ultraviolet rays. If any of the below describes your situation, be extra-diligent--seek the shade and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30.

  1. If you’re taking antibiotics. Certain types can cause sun sensitivity—tetracycline derivatives (such as doxycycline and, to a lesser extent, minocycline) are perhaps the most common. So if you’re taking antibiotics (for urinary tract infection, control severe acne, or anything else) ask your doctor about whether photosensitivity is a side effect.
  2. If you’re using acne medication. Besides antibiotics, other types of acne medications can make you more sensitive to the sun. Check out the tiny print in the ingredients label. Does it have benzoyl peroxide or alpha hydroxy acid? If so, you might find skin more prone to sunburn
  3. If you’re on a wrinkle cream regimen.  Products that smooth fine lines or brighten skin tend to have ingredients that can make skin sensitive to the sun. Be especially careful of alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, and retinoids.
  4. If you’re taking pain medicine. That pill you took to treat your headache pain can lead to an entirely different kind of discomfort—sunburn. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (like ibuprofen and naproxen) are common culprits.
  5. If you’ve been exposed to essential oils. Photosensitivity depends on the type of essential oil and also how it’s extracted.  For instance, bergamot, lime, lemon, ginger, and mandarin—depending on whether it’s cold pressed or steam distilled--can leave skin vulnerable to UV. How much it’s diluted also makes a difference. Read instructions (if any) carefully, or when in doubt ask your doctor.

Prevention is the best way to avoid the sting of a burn. But If it catches you by surprise, soothe it with a cool compress and infuse into it the nourishing ingredients of a healing balm. (We like Calendula Repair of course.)

Photo by Jordan Stewart on Unsplash

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