Medications & Sun Sensitivity: How Can You Protect Your Skin?

Pacific Dermatology Specialists sun skin protection Medications & Sun Sensitivity: How Can You Protect Your Skin?

The sun’s UV rays can cause premature aging and skin cancer, so sun protection is a key part of any skin care routine. But what if your skin is more sensitive than you realize? Certain medications can actually make your skin more prone to sun damage and other adverse reactions. Here’s what you should know to protect yourself.

How Can Medications Affect Sun Sensitivity?

You should always protect your skin from the sun. However, you might need to be extra careful if you’re taking certain medications. Some prescriptions can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, potentially causing a severe reaction and sun damaged skin.

Sun-sensitizing drug reactions are categorized as either photoallergic or phototoxic reactions. Photoallergic reactions occur if you’re using a sun-sensitizing topical medication, such as a topical antibiotic. You might notice a rash on the skin after sun exposure, which may include bumps, blisters, or oozing. While the rash will first appear in the sun-exposed area, it can also spread to other areas of the body.

Phototoxic reactions are more common than photoallergic. These types of reactions can occur if you’re taking an oral or topical medication that’s activated by UV light. The reaction results in a sunburn-like rash on the exposed area.

There are many drugs that can increase sun sensitivity. Some of the most common are antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, oral contraceptives, and cholesterol drugs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and skin products like retinoids can also cause photosensitivity. If you have any concerns about a prescription or over-the-counter medication you’re using, be sure to ask your doctor.

How Can You Prevent Sun Damage?

If you know that you’re taking a medication that may increase photosensitivity, it’s essential to take extra sun protection measures. The right routine will keep your skin looking healthy and help with skin cancer prevention. Your dermatologist will likely recommend sun protection measures like:

  • Stay out of the sun. The best way to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays is to stay out of the sun altogether. Hang in the shade whenever possible, and be sure to be extra careful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Protect your skin. Since it’s not always possible to stay out of the sun, be sure to slather on sunscreen whenever you spend time outdoors. Look for a product with at least SPF 30. Wearing protective clothing, a wide-brim hat, and sunglasses can also help keep the sun off your skin.
  • Know the signs of a reaction. When taking a medication that could cause sun sensitivity, it’s important to know what to look for. Talk to your doctor about what reactions may occur and recommendations for skin care for sun damage.
  • Schedule regular screenings. Skin cancer screenings should be part of any preventative care regimen. A dermatologist can check your skin for signs of skin cancer and discuss your personal skin cancer risks.

If you have questions about photosensitivity or skin cancer prevention, contact the team at Pacific Dermatology Specialists. Our knowledgeable team is proud to offer skin cancer dermatology services among our medical, surgical, and cosmetic offerings. We have offices in Carson, CA and around the Greater Los Angeles area, so contact us today to book an appointment at one of our convenient locations.

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