Now that summer has finally arrived, millions will take advantage of the great weather and head out to the beaches and parks to soak up the sun.
Every year about this time you read about the dangers of extensive sun exposure and the need for sunblock. But did you know that acne or antiwrinkle cream, even allergy medications and antidepressants, may make you especially sensitive to the sun's harmful rays?
Photosensitivity, a condition in which the skin becomes more susceptible to the sun's adverse affects, can be brought on by certain medications, according to New York City dermatologist Dr. Alan Kling. The more you're exposed to the sun, the greater your chance of developing these reactions.
They can range from a sunburn with redness and swelling to a more general allergic reaction which may include blisters and scaling. Kling recalls one of his patients who had been given a popular antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection and was advised not to stay outside for long periods of time. That advice didn't exactly match the patient's plan for a long weekend on his boat. When he returned soon after to Kling's office, his body was covered in red splotches and blisters.
So which medications require you to watch your sun exposure? The first class of medications is antidepressants, which include popular brands such as Paxil and Zoloft. You should also check any antihistamines that you might be taking to relieve itching or other allergic symptoms. These products include Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec.
Simple over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen-containing drugs such as Motrin or other anti-inflammatories such as Anaprox may also induce photosensitivity. The other category that many, like Kling's patient, largely ignore is antibiotics. These include Cipro (the anthrax-fighting drug), tetracycline and doxycycline.
Another popular compound you must be careful with is tretinoin-a vitamin A derivative. You may not know the name offhand, but you're probably familiar with many of the products in which it appears. Tretinoin works by keeping the skin pores clear. It's an important ingredient in many facial creams, including Renova, which is used to reduce fine facial wrinkles associated with sun exposure and natural aging. Tretinoin can also be found in the popular Retin-A, which is used to treat acne. When using any of these products, it's imperative that you monitor how much time you spend in the sun as they also can increase your photosensitivity.
But that doesn't mean you have to put away that wrinkle cream until fall or stay indoors all summer. Experts aren't recommending that you not use any of these products during the sunny months. Doctors simply want patients who use these products to limit the continuous sun exposure. Doing something as simple as rotating between indoors and outdoors every 45 minutes can be a big help. And there's always the old standby-sunblock-that can reduce the potential damage of the sun. Make sure you use an SPF of 30 or more and don't be stingy with your application. Spread generous amounts not only on your face, but on other parts of the body that are directly exposed to the sun. Enjoy the sunshine, but do it responsibly.