Can the Sun Help with Acne - or Does it Make Matters Worse?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

The positive effects of sunlight

Sunlight in moderation is good for our bodies and our minds. Its 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. You can find out more in How UVA, UVB and HEV Light rays affect skin. The suns rays can lift our mood too. Our bodys ability to produce serotonin (often called the `happy hormone`) is directly affected by sunlight and research has shown that a lack of sunlight can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (or S.A.D.) where people get depressed.

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Warm temperatures also stimulate circulation and perspiration, and increased perspiration, when well managed, can help to bring excess oil to the skins surface and clear pores. Find out how in Acne and sport. Some people with acne and/or blemish-prone skin report that their skin condition improves when they enjoy a little bit of sun. Living with acne can be stressful, so if a little bit of sun makes you happy about yourself and your skin then thats a good thing. You can read more about the psychological impact of living with acne here.

The negative effects of the sun

Were all individuals, and our skin is as different as we are, so what works for one, doesnt necessarily work for the next. For every acne patient who says their skin improves in the sun youll meet another who says their skin condition in worse during the warmer months. There are a number of possible reasons for this:

- The sun causes skin to dry out and even oily skin (excess oil production typifies acne-prone skin) needs moisture. When over exposure to the sun dries skin out, the sebaceous glands (which produce the sebum that gives skin the oils it needs) go into overdrive and this excess sebum production - known as seborrhea - is one of the key stages in the formation of blemishes. - Another result of skin drying out is that it cornifys or keritanises. This means that 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. Comedones develop as a result. - Sweat production increases in warm weather, as does the rate at which it degrades on skins surface. This creates an environment in which P.acnes - the bacteria associated with acne - can thrive and spread.

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You can find out more about how each of these processes contribute to the formation and spread of blemishes in the development of acne.

- Sunlight can also trigger a particular variety of acne known as Acne Aestivalis (or, more commonly, as Mallorcan Acne). This happens when UVA rays combine with the chemicals in certain skincare and sun protection products and trigger an allergic reaction. Acne Aestivalis mostly effects women between 25 and 40, many of whom had a history of acne in puberty and you can read more about it in the different types of acne. - Excessive sun exposure and/or inappropriate sun protection can also cause pigmentation issues and people with acne blemishes or acne scars are particularly prone to hyperpigmentation. You can find out more in Acne and hyperpigmentation. - And, as we all know, the sun presents other risks for all skin types - not just for those with acne-prone skin. These include sunburn (and, ultimately, cancer), sun allergies (such as Polymorphic Light Eruption or PLE for short) and premature ageing1. You can read more about these in How UVA, UVB and HEV Light rays affect skin.

What sun protection should I use if I have acne?

Some people with acne-prone skin do their best to avoid sun protection products fearing that the oils and chemicals in the creams will block their pores and make skin worse. Others dont like the fact that some sun protection products make their skin look shiny.

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Effective sun protection is essential for all skin types and skins prone to blemishes and acne are no exception. In fact, choosing the right sun protection can be even more important for acne-prone skin as it is particularly prone to hyperpigmentation.

The trick is to 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.

Choose light creams, fluids or gels. A lighter texture doesnt mean you need to compromise on high protection. Look out also for products labelled non- comedogenic - this means they dont contain ingredients that might block pores and trigger blemishes.

What sun protection is most compatible with acne treatment?

Read more on: skin, acne


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