Understanding Sun Allergy: Causes, Symptoms & What to Wear
The radiant heat of the sun, combined with the perfect atmosphere to wear lighter and more comfortable clothes, gives the perfect excuse to frolic outdoors. However, just like any other life's pleasures, enjoying summertime should be done in moderation.
Sun allergy, also known as sun rash, is a term used to describe several related conditions involving an allergic reaction to sunlight exposure. The reaction ranges from mild to severe, possibly causing more serious symptoms that may limit everyday activities.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF SUN ALLERGIES?
According to ClevelandClinic, there are four common types of sun allergies that may vary depending on the rash type, cause, and race:
- ACTINIC PRURIGO
Characterized by raised papules or nodules on the skin, actinic prurigo has a tendency to affect additional areas of skin that haven’t been exposed to the sun. It’s more common among Latin American and American Indian populations with darker skin.
- PHOTOALLERGIC REACTION
This type of sun allergy occurs when a chemical applied to your skin reacts with sunlight. Examples include medications, sunscreens, makeup, and fragrances. Symptoms may show up a few hours or days after sun exposure.
- POLYMORPHOUS LIGHT ERUPTION (PMLE)
Often appearing as small bumps, patches, or blisters after a few hours of exposure to the sun, PLME is a more common type of sun allergy in women, people with lighter skin, teenagers, and young adults.
- SOLAR URTICARIA
This type of sun allergy causes hives after just a few minutes of sun exposure. Symptoms can be mild to severe.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Although scientists aren't sure what causes sun allergies, some research has found that genetic patterns play a significant role in their development. Sun allergy is frequently caused by the immune system's hypersensitivity to sunlight, but some people have a family history of sun allergy.
Others, on the other hand, only show signs and symptoms when triggered by external factors such as certain medications, chemicals, plant exposure, and other medical conditions.
Some risk factors include race and exposure to common substances like fragrances, substances, and chemicals. Also, if you have an underlying skin condition like contact dermatitis, your risk of developing a sun allergy is increased.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SUN ALLERGY?
Sun allergy symptoms can develop minutes, hours, or days after exposure to the sun. They can range from mild to severe, depending on the following factors:
- Amount of skin surface exposed
- Amount of time in the sun
- Intensity of light
- Type of sun allergy
The rash usually only appears in areas that have been exposed to the sun. However, it can sometimes appear elsewhere on your body. Sun allergy skin can take on many different forms, according to MayoClinic. Among them are:
- Raised skin, merging into red patches
- Watery blisters
While mild cases of sun allergy can subside on their own and may clear up without treatment, we believe the most effective treatment for sun allergy is to avoid sun exposure. As we approach summertime, Cottonique reminds you to practice these steps to help prevent a reaction if you have a sun allergy or an increased sensitivity to sun.
1. AVOID LONG EXPOSURE TO SUN
This is the most practical form of sun protection. Experts from the Huntsman Cancer Institute recommend avoiding the sun when its rays are the strongest, which usually happen between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
During those hours, stay indoors as much as possible. But if you're doing outdoor activities, you may need to get some natural shade from the trees, shrubs, or shadows. Whatever you're doing, always remind yourself to protect yourself from direct sunlight.
2. WEAR SUNSCREEN
UV rays are strongest during the summer. To block these rays and reduce your risks of acquiring sunburn when under the sun, certain cancer care groups recommend applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
"Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Make sure it is water-resistant and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Other sunscreens may help keep you from getting sunburned, but they won’t protect against skin cancer," Cancer.Net said. Look for these features when buying sunscreen:
- SPF 30 or higher
- Broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
- Contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both
- Lotion rather than spray (lotion provides better coverage)
For extended outdoor activities, reapply sunscreen every two hours. You should also reapply every hour if you're swimming or sweating too much. And more importantly, use sunscreen even on cloudy days.
3. WEAR SUN-PROTECTIVE & SKIN-FRIENDLY CLOTHING
Although applying sunscreen repeatedly will help protect your skin from the sun, the clothes that you wear are still your best defense against extreme heat. Wearing clothes, especially if they're comfortable, is an effective sun protection tool that provides a physical block against the sun's harmful rays.
According to SkinCancer.org, the composition of the clothes you're wearing matters since fabrics can block some of the sun’s harmful rays. Good thing, unbleached cotton contains natural lignins that act as UV absorbers.
Also, take note that the sweat brought by the extreme heat can sometimes get in the way, so it's crucial to invest in the right fabrics to help you stay comfortable and itch-free. If you’re having a hard time looking for comfortable and 100% organic cotton clothes that won’t irritate your skin and help protect your skin from the sun, try our hypoallergenic picks:
This piece feels relaxing and gentle on the skin, giving that much-needed ease in movement, perfect for outdoor meals, attending parades, or get-togethers with loved ones in the backyard.
This is a hypoallergenic long sleeve ribbed tee that feels warm, lightweight, and comfortable inside and out.
Hypoallergenic lounge pants that provide warmth, ease of movement, and chafe-free comfort, perfect for men with allergies and sensitive skin.
This pair of hypoallergenic pants allows easy adjustment by comfortably hugging the waist, equipped patch pockets provide adequate space to hold small belongings — perfect for lounging at home or running errands without causing flare-ups.
TAKEAWAY: The primary treatment for sun allergy is prevention. Aside from wearing protective clothes and putting on the right sunscreen for your skin, you may also use hats and sunglasses.