Sun Allergy 101: How to Prevent (And Care For) A Sun Rash
Being outdoors in the sun is warm and inviting…that is, until parts of your skin begins to break out in a red, itchy rash. If you’ve ever dealt with a sun rash or sun allergy before, you know it’s anything but a good time. Whether you’re dealing with a sun rash right now or simply want tips on how to prevent it from happening to you, we tapped an expert to share everything there is to know about sun rashes below.
WHAT IS A SUN RASH?
If you have an itchy red rash on your skin after being exposed to the sun, it’s possible you’re experiencing a sun rash or sun allergy. According to board-certified dermatologist and skincare.com consultant, Joshua Zeichner, MD, “the sun can cause a variety of rashes to appear on the skin.” One of the most common forms of sun rash is polymorphic light eruption, also known as sun poisoning. “Sun poisoning typically occurs in spring or early summer and occurs in areas of skin exposed to the sun,” Zeichner says.
WHAT DOES A SUN RASH LOOK LIKE?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the appearance of a sun rash can vary from person to person. Common signs and symptoms may include redness, itching, pain, tiny bumps, scaling, crusting, hives, and more. These symptoms typically develop within minutes to hours after sun exposure.
HOW TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF GETTING A SUN RASH
The bad news? Anyone can experience a sun allergy. The good news? You don’t have to stay permanently indoors to steer clear from sun rashes. They can be prevented, just as long as you adequately protect yourself. If you experience severe sun sensitivity, follow these four steps to help prevent sun rashes from occurring.
Use broad-spectrum sunscreen
Regardless of your level of sun sensitivity, you should always apply broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher day in and day out prior to heading outdoors. But don’t just apply it once and throw your bottle to the wayside. Follow up with frequent applications of sunscreen, at least every two hours, as needed. If you anticipate participating in outdoor or water activities, make sure your sunscreen is water-resistant and reapply liberally throughout the day.
Limit your sun exposure
This isn’t always an option, but if you can avoid spending time in the sun, it can help protect your skin from harm. The sun’s rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s best to seek shade or shelter during those hours.
Wear protective clothing
Sun rashes only occur on exposed areas of skin, so a quick and easy solution is to cover up when outdoors. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, pants, and closed-toe shoes to help reduce the amount of direct sun exposure on your skin.
Avoid sudden exposure to plenty of sunlight
Do you spend all of winter hidden indoors and all of spring and summer basking in the sun’s rays? That drastic and sudden exposure to plenty of sunlight can kick start your sun allergy symptoms. To help prevent this, gradually increase the amount of time you spend outdoors so your skin has a chance to adapt to the change.
HOW TO CARE FOR A SUN RASH
Sun rashes are undoubtedly one of the most uncomfortable skin conditions you can experience, but luckily they are fairly easy to address. In fact, mild cases of sun rash may resolve on their own after a few days of avoiding the sun. We asked Dr. Zeichner to share a few tips for caring for a mild sun rash, and here’s what he suggests:
- Move to a cool location: Stay inside, away from any sun exposure, and apply a cool, dampened towel to the affected areas.
- Calm the skin down with a light moisturizer: Moisturizing skin lotions can help the skin from drying out. Try: Kiehl’s Deluxe Hand & Body Lotion with Aloe Vera & Oatmeal.
- Apply an over-the-counter cortisone cream: Sun rashes can be itchy. To help ease the itchiness and calm any inflammation, reach for a cortisone cream.
- If symptoms don’t improve with at-home care, pay a visit to your dermatologist for additional suggestions on how to care for your sun rash.