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Photosensitivity of the skin | UVA light matters too

Updated: Jul 8, 2023

Photosensitivity is a term applied to the set of symptoms or diseases that can be triggered, caused, or worsened by light exposure. Read more...



Photo: Techei

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What is photosensitivity?

Photosensitivity is a term applied to the set of symptoms or diseases that can be triggered, caused, or worsened by light exposure. There are several reasons for an individual to experience photosensitivity and different types of light that can serve as a trigger.

What are the different types of symptoms or diseases that can be affected by light?

There are several categories of photosensitivity. This is not an exclusively autoimmune process.

The categories of photosensitivity include:

  • Autoimmune conditions

  • Medication or supplement-induced dermatoses

  • Photoaggravated dermatoses

  • Dermatosis triggered by metabolic disorders

  • Genetic triggers for photosensitivity



Video: Techei

Is there a particular type of light that can trigger photosensitivity?

Photosensitivities of the skin are most commonly triggered by UVA light. There are some that may be triggered by UVB And even visible light as well.

Can regular sunscreen protect my skin from photosensitivity?

Regular sunscreens may or may not protect you from photosensitivity. The reason why it is not a straightforward yes or no answer is simply that sunscreens are not created to do so. Sunscreens are tested and labeled for their ability to block UVB light that is linked to sunburns and the risk of skin cancer. Although some photosensitivities may be linked to UVB exposure, the majority are not.

What about broad-spectrum sunscreens? Can a broad-spectrum sunscreen protect our skin from photosensitivity?

Broad-spectrum sunscreens do give an indication of the inclusion of ingredients that have the ability to block UVA light. The challenge is that we simply do not know based on the labeling how much UVA is blocked by these products. The other problem with the term broad spectrum is that it does not tell us how much blue light or other visible wavelengths of light are blocked by the product.

Is photosensitivity just a skin thing or are there other health problems related to it?

Think of photosensitivity as your skin’s response to light exposure that can trigger other internal symptoms. Some photo exposure can trigger rashes and/or discoloration limited to the skin. For others, photosensitivity can actually be the first step in a cascade of events that sets off joint pains, fatigue, muscle pains, and other organ involvement such as in lupus.

What can I do to protect my skin and health from photosensitive triggers?

When it comes to protecting your skin and health from photosensitive conditions a comprehensive approach is important.

Let’s first discuss how to protect the majority of your body's surface area. Clothing is the simplest way to protect most of your cutaneous surface. Look for UPF-rated clothing. The benefit of UPF-rated clothing over SPF-related sunscreen products is that UPF does tell us about UVA coverage.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are important to seek. Even better- tinted broad-spectrum sunscreens. If there is a tint, there is a good chance that some of the ingredients may also offer blue light protection.

Hats are a simple way to offer shade. Remember to look for UPF-rated hats with a brim to maximize your protection.

Sunglasses that specify UV blockage are another way to protect your skin as well.


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