What are the causes and remedies for sun sensitivity?

Symptom Database

Have you ever experienced redness, itching, or a rash after spending time in the sun? If so, you may be suffering from sun sensitivity, also known as photosensitivity. This condition can be caused by various factors and can lead to discomfort and even sunburn. In this article, we will explore the causes of sun sensitivity and provide remedies and tips for sun protection to help you enjoy the sun safely.

Sun Sensitivity: Understanding the Condition

Sun sensitivity refers to an increased sensitivity of the skin to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) rays. It can manifest in different ways, such as sunburn, sun allergy, or a sun rash. People with sensitive skin are more prone to developing these symptoms, but anyone can experience sun sensitivity under certain circumstances.

Causes of Sun Sensitivity

There are several factors that can contribute to sun sensitivity:

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and some acne treatments, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
  • Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, like lupus and polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), can cause sun sensitivity as a symptom.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to sun sensitivity.
  • Chemicals: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as fragrances or dyes in skincare products, can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Remedies for Sun Sensitivity

If you experience sun sensitivity, there are several remedies and precautions you can take to alleviate the symptoms and protect your skin:

  • Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) before going outside. Reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Seek shade: Limit your sun exposure during peak hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing: Cover your skin with lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun.
  • Use sunglasses: Protect your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds emit UV radiation, which can worsen sun sensitivity and increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and help prevent dryness and irritation.

Sunburn Relief: Soothing the Pain

If you do end up with a sunburn despite your best efforts, there are several remedies that can help alleviate the pain and promote healing:

Cool compresses

Apply a cool compress or take a cool bath to soothe the burned skin. Avoid using ice directly on the skin, as it can cause further damage.


Apply a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to help hydrate the skin and reduce peeling. Look for products containing aloe vera or chamomile, known for their soothing properties.

Over-the-counter remedies

Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or aloe vera gels can provide relief from itching and inflammation. Be sure to follow the instructions and consult a healthcare professional if needed.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, which can worsen the symptoms of sunburn.

Sun Safety: Prevention is Key

Preventing sun sensitivity and sunburn is crucial for maintaining healthy skin and reducing the risk of long-term damage. Here are some additional tips for sun safety:

Check medication labels

If you are taking any medications, check the labels for warnings about sun sensitivity. If in doubt, consult your healthcare provider.

Choose the right sunscreen

Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Consider your skin type and any specific needs, such as water resistance or sensitivity.

Protect your lips

Apply a lip balm with SPF to protect your lips from sunburn and dryness.

Be mindful of reflective surfaces

Remember that sand, water, and snow can reflect UV rays, increasing your exposure. Take extra precautions in these environments.

Regular skin checks

Perform regular self-examinations of your skin to monitor any changes or abnormalities. If you notice any concerning moles or spots, consult a dermatologist.

By following these tips and taking necessary precautions, you can enjoy the sun safely and minimize the risk of sun sensitivity and sunburn. Remember, prevention is key, and protecting your skin should be a priority all year round.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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