Sun and acne

A little bit of sun is good for your spirits and your skin. Even though in the past sunlamps were recommended as a treatment for acne, scientists now know that too much sun is not a good thing for any skin type or condition. Individuals with breakouts believe that sun exposure can help relieve acne symptoms, but unfortunately, the combination of sun and acne can result in worsened breakouts. Sun exposure can make breakouts more severe.

The positive effects
Sunlight in moderation is good for our bodies and our minds. It’s an important source of Vitamin D which is essential for many of the vital processes in our body such as the development of healthy bones. After sun exposure, skin can sometimes look better because it provokes the production of melanin which gives the skin a tan. This tan not only reduces the appearance of spots but also makes our complexion look healthier. But the acne is still present. Even if the sun might dry out the skin and reduce sebum production, the effect is only a temporary one.

The sun’s rays can lift our mood too. Our body’s ability to produce serotonin (named the ‘happy hormone’) is in a direct connection with sunlight and research has shown that a lack of sunlight can lead to depression.

The negative effects
We’re all individuals, and our skin is as different as we are. For every acne patient who says their skin improves in the sun, you’ll meet another who says their skin condition is worse during the warmer months. Tanning simply covers up redness but only temporarily. While this will make some blemishes disappear for a day or two, they’ll come back more painful and noticeable than before the next days.

The sun causes the skin to dry out and even oily skin needs moisture because UV rays from the sun can irreparably damage the skin, which can weaken your skin’s natural barrier and result in the loss of moisture. When overexposure to the sun dries the skin out, the sebaceous glands (which produce the sebum) go into overdrive, so in the long run, it can actually increase sebum production and this excess sebum production is one of the key stages in the formation of blemishes.  While your skin may lose its oily feeling immediately after a session in the sun, it turns out the oils will come back in an excessive way just days later. The more sebum, the more likely it is that your pores will become clogged and also this creates an environment in which P.acnes – the bacteria associated with acne – can thrive and spread.

Sun damage can cause your skin to both thin and thicken in different areas over time. When your skin peels, especially after a sunburn, these excess layers of skin can have a hard time sloughing off.

Another result of skin drying out is that it cornifies or keritanises so the skin cells on the surface harden. This interferes with the natural process by which dead skin cells are shed and prevents sebum from being able to drain from the pores in this way are developed comedones, popular called blackheads.

Sunlight can also trigger a particular variety of acne known as Acne Aestivallis or Acne Mallorca. This happens when UVA rays combine with the chemicals in certain skin care and sun protection products and trigger an allergic reaction. Acne Aestivallis mostly affects women between 25 and 40, many of whom had a history of acne in puberty.

Excessive sun exposure can damage the collagen found within the epidermis. When our skin loses its collagen, it also loses its elasticity. This can result in wrinkles and sagging skin, leading your skin to age at a faster rate. Worse, free radicals can lead to the development of cancer.

Excessive sun exposure and/or inappropriate sun protection can also cause pigmentation issues because the UV radiation from the sun causes melanin to build up in an overexposed area of skin and people with acne blemishes or acne scars are particularly prone to hyperpigmentation. This means excess sun exposure can result in more frequent and more noticeable dark marks on the skin.

Does the sun cause acne?
While sun exposure doesn’t directly cause acne, tanning can worsen breakouts for those with acne-prone skin. Excess time in the sun can dry out your skin and increase your risk of developing melanoma and other types of cancer.

Sun protection
Regardless of skin type, it’s important to wear sunscreen, and skins prone to blemishes and acne are no exception. However, skin types can affect how you react to the application of these products.  In fact, choosing the right sun protection can be even more important for acne-prone skin as it is particularly prone to hyperpigmentation.

You should choose products that have been specially formulated for acne-prone skin and that have been clinically and dermatologically proven to give skin the protection it needs without blocking pores, adding sheen, or triggering and exacerbating acne. Sunscreens labeled non-comedogenic mean they don’t contain ingredients that might block pores and trigger blemishes. Oil-free sunscreens will provide a non-greasy finish and help prevent excess shine that those with these skin types often deal with.

The active ingredients in some medical acne treatments can heighten skin sensitivity to UVA and UVB rays and because of this if you are undergoing medical treatment, it’s important that you limit the time you spend outdoors, avoid the sun during its most intense hours, wear protective clothing whenever possible.

Those with dry skin need to use a daily moisturizer that incorporates SPF and find a liquid sunscreen that can spread easily and evenly over the skin. Is good to choose light creams, fluids, or gels.

For persons with sensitive skin is important to look for fragrance-free sunscreen, as chemical additions can cause irritation. Try a hypoallergenic sunscreen, and be sure to reapply accordingly.

dr. anca minca
Dr. Anca Mincă, dermatologist
Spitalul Clinic Colentina, Bucharest

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