I suffer from rosacea, so the skin on my face can break out into an itchy and blotchy rash seemingly at a moment’s notice. It also makes my skin look flushed and red, particularly around my cheeks. Safe to say, I’m not very pleased with this condition and, if left alone, I can unconsciously attack my rosacea patches until my face looks awful.
I also had pretty bad acne as a child and my mother (a product of the 70’s) was always determined to get me outside. She had this deep-seated belief that displaying my skin to the sun would immediately help clear up all manner of problems, from acne and greasy skin to the strange redness across the cheeks that she and I both had. The more I stayed indoors, the more she felt that my skin was getting worse because my pores were missing out on one critical ingredient: sunlight.
Sunbathing and Psoriasis
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my mum wasn’t just quoting old wives tales but that some skin conditions actually can have a marked improvement with exposure to sunlight. My friend pointed me to this article featuring the idea of UV exposure as a complementary therapy for psoriasis. This led me to an extended research of sunlight and all manner of skin conditions. Psoriasis is a much more sever condition than rosacea, where the cycle of skin cell division is sped up to such a point that large plaques and scales can form (sometimes painfully). There are many different types of psoriasis but, looking into it, it seems that UVB radiation from sunlight can be remarkably helpful in soothing the condition. This can be through direct exposure to sunlight or through special UV light boxes, which can be focused on specific areas that are affected by the condition. This treatment is called phototherapy and you can find out more about its ultisation here but I’ll lay out the basics:
UV light comes from the sun in two forms: UVB and UVA
UVB in small doses is beneficial for the skin as it contains vitamin D and other goodies. You can have narrowband or broadband UVB treatments and the narrow band is more effective but more expensive due to the specific light bulbs required.
However, prolonged exposure to UVB is what causes redness, burning and irritation, the complete opposite of what a person with a skin condition wants!
In addition to this, UVA and UVB light can cause premature aging and risks of skin cancer, so both of these rays come with their own dangers. That said, the Lancet paper linked above states that there were no significant increases in skin cancers from those using phototherapy.
Sunbathing and Eczema
Eczema is the most common form of skin condition that I encounter, with two of my close friends being sufferers. Redness, itchiness and flaky skin can appear anywhere on the body and cause extensive irritation. From what I’ve noticed from my friends, it also seems to flare up fast and angrily, with suffers desperate to discover what they did to bring about the angry flare.
Just like psoriasis, UV light is a treatment for eczema.
Sunbathing and Rosacea
With UV light seeming to be so helpful for the two skin conditions I mention previously, it seems certain that it would be similarly helpful for rosacea suffers like myself. Sadly, no, this doesn’t seem to be the case at all. In fact, after all my research it seems as though I did myself a favour by hiding away indoors when my rosacea first started to appear. More than 80% of sufferers link flare ups to sunlight exposure, meaning that UVA and UVB light actually seem to aggravate my condition.
If you have a skin condition and want to find out if sunbathing is helpful, detrimental or won’t affect it at all then I’d advise doing some research. If you discover that your condition is unaffected by the sun or (even better) may improve with exposure then it’s important that you follow proper care when sunbathing. Everything we’re taught as a child except you seriously need to follow it! I’d personally recommend seeing if you can have phototherapy rather than just sunbathing as it can be directed to just the affected areas and has a higher rate of success when combined with other prescribed treatments.