Sunlight can be a friend — or foe — for those living with psoriasis. Make sure you choose the right sunblock for your sensitive skin.
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For many people, warm weather means outdoor activities like swimming and backyard barbecues.
Proper sun protection during outdoor activities is important for everyone. But people with psoriasis need to be particularly careful.
If you have psoriasis, you may have heard that exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays has actually been shown to help with the autoimmune skin condition.
“UVB rays are actually good for people with psoriasis,” says Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, founder of Schique Skincare. UVB rays help slow the skin growth and shedding that happens with psoriasis.
But too much sun exposure — of both UVA and UVB rays — can be a problem. “If people with psoriasis are overexposed, it can actually worsen the skin,” Schaffer says. “They’re extra sensitive versus someone who doesn’t have psoriasis.”
Psoriasis also mostly affects people with lighter skin tones who are already more prone to sunburn.
Plus, certain medications used to treat psoriasis can cause increased photosensitivity. This makes a person sunburn more easily.
For all these reasons, wearing sunblock when you have psoriasis is crucial. It’s important to choose wisely since skin may already be irritated and sensitive.
Make sure there are no parabens, no formaldehyde, and no other really strong preservatives.
—Jacqueline Schaffer, MD
Follow these expert tips next time you’re shopping for sunblock.
1. Make sure you’re buying sunblock, not sunscreen
“Sunscreen is known to be absorbed into your skin, whereas sunblock actually sits on top of your skin and reflects the UV rays,” Schaffer says.
Many products are a mixture of both, so a product labeled “sunscreen” can still have enough protection if it also contains sunblock. Common sunblock ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
2. Avoid preservatives and chemicals
“Make sure there are no parabens, no formaldehyde, and no other really strong preservatives that can be damaging to the skin,” Schaffer says. These ingredients can irritate psoriasis patches.
3. If you’re shopping for a child, don’t buy sunblock with added color
Some companies now offer colored or “disappearing color” sunblocks. Parents should avoid buying these for children with psoriasis, Schaffer says, as they can irritate skin.
4. Don’t buy sunblocks with added scents
Added fragrances can aggravate the skin in people with psoriasis.
5. Buy SPF 30 or above
People with psoriasis need just as much sun protection as everybody else. This is especially true if they’re on medications that can increase their sensitivity to the sun.
SPF 15 doesn’t provide enough protection throughout the day. “A lot of studies from the American Academy of Dermatology have shown that SPF 30 is more effective for longer use as a sunblock,” Schaffer notes.
6. Look for the label “broad-spectrum”
This meansthe product will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Even though UVB rays can be beneficial in treating psoriasis, people with the condition should still have sunblock on to protect against too much exposure to both types of rays.
If you have psoriasis, try one of the following products that made it through the above checklist and past the experts.
Badger Sunscreen Cream
Schaffer recommends this SPF 30 mineral-based cream because it’s unscented and doesn’t have dyes or chemicals.
Cost: Starting at $14
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid
This water-resistant product is free of dyes, fragrances, and chemicals, and is another of Schaffer’s go-to recommendations.
Cost: Starting at $34
Derma E Oil-Free Natural Mineral Sunscreen
This broad spectrum, oil-free sunblock is chemical-free and contains vitamin C and green tea, which can help skin recover after sun exposure.
Cost: Starting at $13
Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense
This SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen contains 20 percent zinc oxide, as well as algae and sunflower sprout extracts for additional antioxidant protection.
Cost: Starting at $34
Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Natural Sunscreen
This broad-spectrum sunscreen offers water-resistant sun protection for up to 40 minutes. It also comes in stick form for easy on-the-go application.
Cost: Starting at $12
Title: Takeaway People with psoriasis should wear sunblock in the sun, even when using the sun as treatment for their condition. Look for broad-spectrum, fragrance- and preservative-free sunblocks that are at least SPF 30.
If you have psoriasis and are planning on being in the sun, experts recommend starting with 10 minutes of exposure at noon, then increasing exposure by 30 seconds to one minute each day.
Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer and editor with a particular interest in health-related content. Her work has appeared in The Cut, the Chicago Tribune, Racked, Business Insider, and SUCCESS Magazine. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found traveling, drinking copious amounts of green tea, or surfing Etsy. You can see more samples of her work at www.jamiegfriedlander.com and follow her on social media.