When we speak of ” sun allergy ” we mention a colloquial collective term to highlight the reactions of the skin to excess sun, often in combination with chemical ingredients of cosmetics, its medical name is polymorphous photodermatosis and it is a series of skin disorders that are aggravated by ultraviolet light a. In the rarest cases, the different skin lesions are a true allergy in the medical sense, also called solar urticaria .
Sunlight is an ultraviolet light that has it all
Sunlight consists of ultraviolet light in different wavelengths. UV radiation stimulates the release of the body’s own messenger histamine, causing the dermal vessels to expand.
If the body receives too large a dose of solar radiation, the skin reacts after a few hours with redness, small itchy nodules or pustules. In the long term, prolonged exposure to the sun damages the skin. Too much UV light leads to premature aging of the skin and can cause skin cancer.
sun allergy is considered a primary idiopathic photodermatosis. Typical is the local limitation of the allergy to the sun: the symptoms appear mainly in the neck, décolleté, arms, back of the hand, legs and on the face.
Polymorphous photodermatosis and sensitivity to the sun
What is often referred to as a sun allergy is also called polymorphic photodermatosis or solar eczema . The symptoms of skin allergy: redness of the skin, itchy blisters or hives after long exposure to the sun, are manifestations that in the medical sense are not considered a real allergy, such as hay fever.
Especially areas of the skin such as the neckline, shoulders, upper arms or abdomen , which are covered most of the year with clothing, are very sensitive to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun .
Causes of sun allergy
The causes of allergy to the sun are always based on high UV radiation, which is why sensitive and easily irritated skin can be affected more frequently, especially during vacations in southern countries or at sea, and especially women they are the ones that suffer the most.
Not infrequently, creams or lotions, perfumes or other cosmetics can contribute to the development of skin irritation. To avoid allergy to the sun and to reduce the risk of skin irritation, it is not advisable to apply scented creams or sun creams of inferior quality and of doubtful effectiveness when you sunbathe.
If the allergy to the sun is very severe and the affected areas of the skin do not improve, even if you avoid UV rays, you should consult your doctor so that a reliable diagnosis can be made.
It is easy to diagnose sun allergy by consulting with a specialist who irradiates a sensitive area of the skin with UV light, and in a short time the effect of the radiation can be evaluated.
If the skin turns red and the irradiated area begins to itch or burn, even if bubbles form, the diagnosis can be made and treatment can be started.
Types of sun allergy
The lesions are allergic always produced in the parts of the body exposed to the sun. Sun allergy symptoms generally disappear within a few days, as long as the affected areas of the body are protected from the sun.
Mallorca acne a form of sun allergy
It gets its name from the Spanish island of Mallorca, and it is another disease in which the sun plays a crucial role.
Majorcan acne affects travelers in southern European resorts who want to tan their skin and causes them to itch on skin lesions after taking intense sunbathing.
This form of acne is often associated with cosmetics that are not tolerated by the skin . The combination of UV radiation, oily sunscreen, endogenous fat, or emulsifiers causes the typical redness and pustules. A good tip here would be to use products without fat and without emulsifiers.
Photoallergic reaction: several substances cause this form of allergy to the sun
In contrast to the diseases mentioned above, the photoallergic reaction is a true allergy that affects the immune system, which forms antibodies against the allergenic substance.
Some people’s skin develops clammy, red, or itchy skin when certain chemicals or fragrances in care products react to sunlight.
Also medications and contact with certain plants are the trigger for these skin symptoms.
Since the symptoms are very similar to those of polymorphous photodermatosis, only the dermatologist can decide whether or not the affected person has a hereditary allergic predisposition . However, the photoallergic reaction occurs less frequently.
Phototoxic reaction: foreign substances that interact with the sun can be toxic
Some substances in drugs or plants can be completely poisonous (toxic) in interaction with sunlight. This is where the dermatologist talks about phototoxic reactions.
Foreign substances, for example from perfumes, medicines or plants, settle on the surface of the skin and increase photosensitivity. The skin is becoming more and more irritated, which is why it deals with reactions such as redness, blisters, burning, color changes and itching.
People taking antibiotics or medications for high blood pressure, rheumatism, or diabetes may find clues in the drug’s directions for possible interactions. You can also get advice from your doctor.
How We Can Prevent Sun Allergy
The best protection against sun allergy is to avoid sunbathing at certain times of the day and direct exposure, as well as the use of sunscreens are also a form of prevention, especially against the possible damage that the sun can produce. like skin cancer .
Protect yourself with a hat and light clothing
Even light cotton clothing protects against the harsh rays of the sun and sun allergies. A sun hat, long shirts, or loose pants will retain at least some of the UV radiation.
Meanwhile, there are also UV sun protection clothing with special weaving technique or UV repellent material. The tighter the special clothing is woven, the greater the protection.
However, it is difficult to say whether garments knitted from different materials really provide safe sun protection. It is worth paying attention to the quality seal “UV Standard 801”.
Variety of sunscreen options
A must for sun lovers is sunscreen with a high sun protection factor, which are available in the form of creams, sprays or lotions. We recommend products that protect against both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
The most compatible with the skin are the preparations without fragrances or preservatives. All areas exposed to the sun should be thoroughly protected with a sunscreen. It is best to apply it for at least half an hour before sunbathing. And don’t forget this: put on cream over and over again. In this way you can avoid an allergy to the sun.
An acute allergy to the sun is easy to treat. However, the most complex thing is knowing how to take effective preventive measures against polymorphic photodermatosis.
Gradually increase the dose of sun
Gradually accustom your skin to UV radiation, this is also an effective protection against sunburn or sun allergies . Anyone who extends their sunbathing for a few minutes each day on a long beach vacation helps the skin to develop its natural protection mechanisms.
It produces more and more the pigment melanin, which tans the skin and protects it from UV radiation.
Antihistamines and cortisone agents
Anyone who frequently has severe symptoms, such as severe skin reactions and excruciating itching, can take antihistamines. These substances block the release of histamine from the body, which is the main messenger for itching. Antihistamines are available, for example, in tablets, juice, or drops. They should be taken about three days before the start of your vacation. Cortisone-containing agents help against inflammation. Talk to your doctor about this.
Protective films in case of sun allergies
Ultraviolet light also penetrates through windows. Sellers often offer films or screens for cars or windows, through which UV radiation cannot penetrate.
Sunscreen films consist of different layers, some of which are extremely thin, that steam together with the metal. As a result, they reflect a large part of the solar radiation. However, not everyone likes the mirror effects of these. From the outside, they prevent the penetration of the sun almost completely.
People who are extremely sensitive to solar radiation can perform phototherapy before a planned trip to southern countries after consulting with their doctor. Here, the skin is irradiated with artificial UV light dosed a few weeks before the start of the holidays and is reinforced in its protective mechanisms.
Wet gels and compresses help prevent itching
Cooling gels with cortisone or wet compresses help relieve itching and inflammation in the case of a sun allergy . Under no circumstances should you scratch the itch. As a result of this, the symptoms will only be aggravated or infections caused by germs will occur, since bacteria, viruses or fungi can easily penetrate the skin.
Mix herbs and make your own creams
Mother nature also helps with sun allergies: medicinal plants such as calendula or oak bark relieve symptoms. This is how it is done: prepare a broth with the plants that you will use and, after cooling, soak a clean cotton cloth and place it on the affected areas of the skin.
Or make your own calendula salve. For this, pour 20 g of calendula leaves with 200 ml of olive oil and let the mixture rest in a warm place. Melt 5g of beeswax and cocoa butter and stir together with the oil mixture.
Quark wraps relieve discomfort and refresh
Quark casings have also been proven effective in the event of a bothersome sun allergy. Simply place the cold quark on a clean cotton cloth and place it on the affected skin areas. The wrap should remain in the area until the quark has warmed up and dried. If necessary, this application can also be repeated several times a day.
Avoiding too much sun is the best protection against a sun allergy. Whether skin problems caused by UV radiation are a real allergy in the medical sense or not, only a doctor can determine, and recommend the best treatment.