Sun allergy: a burning sensation on the skin

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Summer clothes, tanned skin – as soon as summer arrives and the sun gets stronger, we are drawn to the outdoors. But while some of us can never tan enough, for others the sun’s rays can have adverse effects.

Itching, redness or blisters

The sun provides us not only with warmth, but also with the highly important vitamin D. However, if still unaccustomed to the sun, the skin can react to the UV-A and UV-B rays with itching, redness or blisters. This is when we commonly talk of a sun allergy, but in most cases the condition is actually «polymorphic light eruption» or «acne mallorca».

Not an allergy per se

According to aha! Allergy Centre Switzerland, the so-called sun allergy is not actually an allergy at all. This is because the immune system isn't involved in the physical reaction. Various diseases lie behind this term.

Polymorphic light eruption

The most common disease is polymorphic light eruption. Typical of this form of sun allergy is a skin reaction resulting from sunbathing for the first time after the winter months or after a longer break from the sun, when the skin is not yet accustomed to the UV rays.

It can take several hours or even days before the skin reacts to the increased sun exposure, but then the areas of the skin affected by the sun start to itch and a burning sensation develops. The skin turns reds and blisters form.

Acne mallorca

One particular form of sun allergy is acne mallorca, caused by the combination of sun and cosmetics or sunscreen containing oily substances. Painful, itchy spots form, which look like acne.

The right treatment

The skin irritations will disappear within a few days – but only if the skin isn't exposed to strong UV radiation again. It's also important to cool the itching and reddened areas. Ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice on the use of vinegar compresses, antihistamines and cortisone treatments in providing additional relief. If inflammation occurs, it’s advisable to consult a specialist.

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Sun allergy prevention

The following tips will help prevent the onset of a sun allergy:

  • Accustom the skin to sunlight slowly. Avoid long sunbathing sessions and the midday sun between 11 am and 3 pm.
  • Use a sunscreen product with a high sun protection factor. To avoid acne mallorca, use a product free of grease, fragrance and emulsifiers.
  • Clothing provides only limited protection against UV-A and UV-B rays, but the darker the clothing and the denser the fabric, the better.
  • We have a false sense of security in the shade. Our environment reflects sunlight even in places appearing to be in the shade – up to 70% of radiation intensity is reflected by sand, water, snow or buildings. Glass windows also don’t protect the skin from UV rays.

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