Sunlight can reduce symptoms of psoriasis in some people, but it’s still important to take precautions to protect your skin from the sun. Here is a breakdown of how to take this important step.

Some people living with psoriasis report that their symptoms lessen in the summer or when they are in sunny environments. UVB rays in the sun can have an anti-inflammatory effect and lower the rate of skin cell turnover.

In fact, UVB light is used as phototherapy, which dermatologists prescribe to some people with psoriasis. In this treatment, you either stand in a lightbox with UVB light or a health professional passes a light source over your skin.

For other people with psoriasis, though, too much sun exposure can trigger a flare. Sunlight also contains UVA rays, which can harm the skin. For this reason, it’s important that you take precautions when in the sun.

Learn more about steps you can take to protect your skin from the sun.

Choosing a good quality sunscreen is important for everyone, including people with psoriasis.

When buying sunscreen, look for the term “broad spectrum” somewhere on the packaging. This means that the sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, which can be harmful to the skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) advises that the best sunscreen is SPF 30 or higher.

Consider using a water-resistant sunscreen for swimming or sweat-inducing activities. It’s important to reapply it every 40–80 minutes, depending on what the label recommends.

The AAD recommends that people with psoriasis choose a fragrance-free sunscreen designed for sensitive skin. It also advises looking for a sunscreen that contains titanium oxide or zinc oxide.

Always make sure to check the bottle to see whether the sunscreen has expired. Expired sunscreen can lose its effectiveness, putting you at risk of sunburn.

People with psoriasis can follow the general recommendations for applying sunscreen. UV damage can occur all year round, so it is important to wear sunscreen even in the winter.

To apply sunscreen properly, put it on at least 15 minutes before going outside. This will allow time for proper absorption and provide the best protection.

The majority of adults will need to use about 1 ounce of sunscreen to completely cover their body. This is about the equivalent of a full shot glass.

Sunscreen should be applied to any area of skin that is not underneath clothing. It is important to remember to apply sunscreen to areas like your ears and neck. It is also a good idea to apply a lip balm with SPF.

Applying sunscreen to the scalp is an important step, especially for people with scalp psoriasis. Sunburn to the scalp may worsen symptoms of psoriasis in this area. If you don’t want to apply sunscreen on your scalp, consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat instead.

People with psoriasis should apply sunscreen all over their body but should avoid applying sunscreen to skin that is open or actively inflamed.

If plaques from psoriasis are cracked or open, it is best to avoid applying sunscreen to that area. Consider wearing sun-protective clothing instead to protect the open skin.

You can safely apply sunscreen to plaques if they are exposed to the sun and aren’t open.

When outside in the sun, it is very important to remember to reapply sunscreen. Forgetting this important step can lead to sunburn, which could make psoriasis symptoms worse.

These days, sunscreens typically provide 40–80 minutes of protection. A good rule of thumb is to reapply every 2 hours, but you might need to reapply more often, depending on the instructions on the sunscreen bottle.

It’s also important to reapply sunscreen immediately after going for a swim or if you have been sweating. Even if it’s cloudy outside, you still need to wear sunscreen.

Some people with psoriasis may notice an improvement in their symptoms when they spend time in the sun. For others, too much time in the sun may make symptoms worse. For this reason, it’s important to get the balance right between sun exposure and sun safety.

You may want to try increasing your sun exposure gradually by starting with 5 minutes of exposure around noon and building up to about 30 minutes per day. Try to avoid exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (daylight saving time), as UV rays are most powerful during this time.

When getting sun exposure, it’s very important to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen to block out harmful UV rays that can lead to burns, skin cancers, and skin damage. The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) recommends sunscreen that is SPF 30 or greater, fragrance-free, and made for sensitive skin.

It is always a good idea to speak with your doctor about how best to add sunlight into your daily routine.

If you live with psoriasis, you may be taking a variety of medications. Some of these medications may increase sun sensitivity. These may include:

  • acitretin
  • methotrexate
  • tazarotene

People with psoriasis who take the biologics known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors (TNF-alpha inhibitors) may also be at an increased risk of skin cancer. These medications may include:

  • adalimumab (Humira)
  • certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
  • etanercept (Enbrel)
  • golimumab (Simponi/Simponi aria)
  • infliximab (Remicade)

People who have previously had numerous treatments of phototherapy may also have a higher skin cancer risk.

Along with sunscreen, clothing can be a helpful tool in sun protection. People with psoriasis should take care to protect their skin from too much sun exposure, which may worsen symptoms.

When choosing sun-safe clothing, tightly woven fabrics offer the best sun protection. A tightly woven fabric is typically one you can’t see through easily. Keep in mind that dark colors offer better sun protection than light colors.

If possible, choose a lightweight shirt with long sleeves and pants. Some clothing offers an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating on the label.

Wearing a broad-brimmed hat is also a good idea, particularly for protecting your scalp from sunburn.

The NPF recommends that, when choosing clothing that offers protection from the sun, people with psoriasis choose clothes made with breathable materials, such as cotton.

Sweating and being hot can trigger a flare of psoriasis in some people, so choosing clothing that will keep you cool is important.

Sunlight can be helpful for some people with psoriasis and may reduce symptoms. For other people, too much sun exposure can trigger a flare.

Some psoriasis medications can increase sun sensitivity and the risk of skin cancer.

People with psoriasis should take steps to protect their skin from the sun, including in the winter. This includes wearing sunscreen, being mindful of time spent in the sun, and wearing protective clothing.