Wanna soak up the sun, but are afraid it’ll mess with your eczema? While sunny days can help some skin probs, too much sun exposure can make an eczema flare worse.
Eczema is a common skin condition that causes dry or inflamed patches of skin that are often super itchy — and sometimes painful. While we’re not exactly sure why eczema happens, we do know certain triggers can cause a flare-up — including environmental factors like the sun.
But how much sun is good for eczema, and when will sunlight cause you to cross the line from eczema relief into eczema woes? Here are the deets.
Sunlight won’t directly cause eczema. But overexposure may trigger symptoms — or make an existing flare-up worse — if you have eczema.
Getting too much sun can cause inflammation, irritation, or dryness, which can have a negative effect on already itchy or sensitive skin. Sweat and heat caused by fun in the sun can also make eczema itchier or more painful than usual.
On the flip side, some researchers have found that not getting enough sunny rays may also affect eczema. While more research is still needed, a 2015 research review suggested that not getting enough vitamin D, which sunlight naturally provides, is linked to developing eczema.
While too much sun can trigger a flare-up, getting juuuust enough sunshine may provide sweet relief for eczema-prone skin.
Sunlight can help boost your skin’s production of vitamin D, a nutrient that’s linked to skin health. Research shows that vitamin D plays a vital role in helping to regulate the immune system and improve the function of the skin barrier.
So, getting enough vitamin D through sun exposure may help keep your skin happy and healthy — and potentially itch-free. Just note that moderation is key, here. Spending time in the great outdoors will give you a sweet infusion of vitamin D, but don’t overdo the direct sun exposure.
Phototherapy — aka ultraviolet (UV) light therapy — is also sometimes used to treat eczema that doesn’t respond to topicals or other treatments. This treatment mimics the effects of the sun by providing concentrated exposure to skin-helping wavelengths of UV light. But phototherapy can come with some gnarly side effects like sunburn, premature skin aging, and nonmelanoma skin cancers.
Mineral-based sunscreens seem to be the most effective for folks with eczema, as they don’t contain as many harsh chemicals that can trigger a flare-up.
For best results, choose products that:
- are fragrance-free
- contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (and no other active ingredients!)
- block both UVA and UVB rays
- provide a higher SPF (SPF 30+ for the win!)
- don’t contain a lot of “extra” ingredients
- isn’t super greasy or oily
Be sure to apply your sunscreen liberally, so that your skin is totally covered. And don’t rub it in too vigorously, to avoid irritating your skin more.
It can also take time to find the right product for your sun-protection needs, and you may have to slather on several sunscreens before you find your match.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Sunburn sucks. And if you’re dealing with eczema, sunburn can be an even bigger bummer by causing or worsening flare-ups.
Sunburns damage your skin and cause raw, red or discolored, painful skin that may swell and itch. This extra dose of inflammation can make dry, itchy, and irritated skin even worse, or trigger an eczema flare-up.
If you do get a sunburn, proceed with care! Use gentle moisturizers to soothe irritation, steer clear of further sun exposure, and keep showers or baths cool (not hot!). Talk with your doc if your condition doesn’t heal or the affected area becomes worse.
You don’t have to hide from the sun just because you have eczema. You can still enjoy plenty of fun in the sun!
To help protect yourself from the eczema-inducing effects of the sun, follow these tips:
- Keep cool when the weather’s hot (a fan or even air conditioning are your BFFs!).
- Avoid direct sunlight and stay shady with umbrellas, hats, and sunglasses.
- Apply SPF 30+ 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside, and reapply every 2 hours.
- Cover up by wearing breathable, loose-fitting clothing.
- Change out of sweaty clothes right away.
- Drink plenty of body and skin hydrating water.
It’s also helpful to check with your dermatologist about any medications or treatments you’re using that might make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Enjoying some fun in the sun can be great for your mood, but getting too much or too little sunlight can have a direct impact on your skin — especially if you have eczema.
The sun provides a skin-soothing dose of vitamin D that might help heal or reduce flare-ups. But too much sun exposure can lead to irritation, inflammation, and dryness that makes existing eczema flares worse or triggers a flare-up.
Using a mineral-based sunscreen, limiting your time in the sun, and wearing loose, breathable clothing can help protect your eczema-prone skin from the sun’s harsh effects.