Is it true that the sun dries out pimples improving the appearance of the skin? The issue has long been debated but unfortunately we have to dispel the old popular myth. In fact, some people are “allergic” to the sun and incorrect exposure does nothing more than induce what is commonly called summer acne. However, there are various ways in which photodermatosis can manifest itself. Often it occurs in a mild form and resolves by decreasing or moderating the times of exposure to the sun, taking care to wash with fresh water after swimming in the sea and before exposing yourself again.
The most common photodermatosis is solar erythema, even of a minor entity, which affects almost all people in the first days of the sea, i.e. until the melanocytes synthesize more melatonin which will darken our skin by defending it from the sun’s rays.
Less known but quite common is the so-called “sun allergy” which occurs with summer acne, which usually has two triggering causes: a predisposition induced by the consumption of foods, medicines and cosmetics not suitable for sun exposure and a predisposition genetics.
The first case is often associated with the use of medicines – such as antibiotics, sulphonamides and pain relievers – or perfumes, disinfectants and cosmetics that may contain photosensitizing substances such as citrus derivatives, calendula, verbena, rue, fig, hypericum and centella. More rarely the allergy to the sun is triggered by particular foods, which however can accentuate the sensitization of an individual. These foods are all citrus fruits, especially lime and shellfish.
The second case of sun allergy is due to a genetic predisposition. It generally affects women between the ages of 20 and 40, especially if they use the birth control pill, even if today the estrogen load is much less important than 20 years ago. Allergy to the sun is often manifested by the same initial symptoms as other allergies: itching, thickening of the skin and the appearance of small rashes. These small rashes are the so-called “summer acne” that occurs due to the response of our immune system to sun exposure.
Obviously, as in all allergies, there are much more important cases and reactions that must be treated with steroid drugs, local or by oral intake, antihistamines or, even in the most serious cases, immunosuppressants.
The phenomenon of summer acne can be prevented and alleviated with very simple precautions. If we are subject to this type of annoyance, often more aesthetic than physical, we begin to prepare in advance by following these simple tips:
- expose yourself to the sun even outside the summer months, in order to get used to the skin;
- limit exposure to the sun, avoid sunbathing especially during the most intense hours of radiation (between 10 and 16);
- use sunscreen with a high protection factor (at least 30), above all to block the action of ultraviolet rays A and B. The products must be applied generously on the skin every two hours or more often if you get wet or sweat;
- use protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats and specific fabrics to cover the arms and legs, avoiding thin fabrics that allow ultraviolet rays to pass;
- use creams after sun with a very mild fat fraction and that do not contain alcohol or alcohol derivatives. If possible, use aloe vera juice fresh from the fridge as after sun.
If our face is affected by summer acne, instead of using anti-acne creams that still contain a fat base, we can make compresses of water and bicarbonate, suitably cooled. We will get a double benefit: the fresh pack will surely be soothing after sun exposure and the astringent properties of the bicarbonate will greatly reduce the unsightly effect of summer acne. We try to sweat as little as possible by staying in fresh and ventilated environments and we take foods that contain Beta-Carotene.
Finally we remember that our body needs time to get used to the rhythms and stresses of a beach holiday: often while we are lying in the sun resting the mind, we ask our skin for a remarkable job because, after being covered for a long time from clothing, we expose it a whole day in the sun. We also give our skin time to prepare and defend itself from the aggression of the sun.