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Sun damage: How to prevent, soothe and repair sun dermatitis and sun rash

What is sun rash and sun dermatitis? La Roche-Posay explains the best methods to protect your skin from the sun and prevent sun damage. Discover more!

Caring for your skin after exposure to the sun

As the sun comes out and the temperature rises, we all naturally start to spend more time outdoors. But if your skin is particularly sensitive to heat, it can be a pretty challenging season to navigate.

This is because the sun and its powerful UV rays can create inflammatory reactions in the skin, leading to conditions such as sun rash or sun dermatitis. Let’s take a look at how to identify sun allergies in the skin and the best ways to prevent them so that you can enjoy those summer days worry free.

What exactly is sun rash and how is it caused?

Sun rash (or polymorphic light eruption as it is also known) is a form of sun allergy caused by overexposure to sunlight or artificial UV light. It can appear within a few hours or even a couple of days after your skin has been exposed to sunlight and may last for up to two weeks.

A common condition, sun rash is thought to affect approximately 10-15% of the UK population, either as an occasional occurrence or, in more serious cases, every time the skin is exposed to sunlight. It’s also believed to be common in women beginning between the ages of 20 and 40, and typically affects fair-skinned people more - although it can also affect people with darker skin tones too.

If you’re finding your symptoms hard to treat, it may be because you’re confusing sun rash for prickly heat – a similar type of rash caused by overheating rather than overexposure to UV rays. A good way to tell the difference is if your skin becomes hardened or desensitised. This is a strong sign that you have a sun rash as these aren’t symptoms associated with prickly heat.

What does sun rash look like?

Sun rash can present itself in many different ways, but it usually appears as a rash of pinky-red and raised spots, or blistery or bulls-eye shaped patches. If the skin is exposed to sunlight after the rash appears, you may find that it becomes worse and more pronounced so stay covered up and sitting in the shade wherever possible.

What is sun dermatitis and how is it caused?

Sun dermatitis is a term used to describe skin that is very sensitive to sunlight and artificial light. In some cases, an inflammatory reaction in the skin may occur immediately after the skin comes into contact with the sun, while in others it may happen between 7 and 24 hours later. If you think you have sun dermatitis, you’ll probably find that it becomes much worse in the summer months as this is when the sun is at its strongest.

What does sun dermatitis look like?

Many people describe sun dermatitis as feeling sore, itchy, hot, and swollen leaving the skin feeling dry and flaky. In some more severe cases, you may even feel like your skin is burning. Like with sun rash, staying out in the sun once it has appeared can make your symptoms worse so covering up is vital.

How can you avoid sun rash and sun dermatitis?

While there is no cure for sun rash, applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen in a high SPF can help to protect your skin from a reaction. You should also apply rehydrating after-sun products to your skin to ensure the skin can start to repair, soothe, and replenish itself after sun exposure.

How can Anthelios suncare help?

La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios range offers a wide range of textures and formulas that are suited to all skin types, including very sensitive and allergy-prone.

If you suffer from sun rash or sun dermatitis, a formula such as Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50 can help as it provides exceptionally high protection for sun-sensitive skin that is prone to intolerance. It does this with optimal SPF 50+ protection that’s reinforced against UVA rays and stricter than the European recommendation thanks to a patented filtering system Mexoplex®. La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water also helps to soothe and hydrate the skin.

Once out of the sun, or while recovering from a reaction, you can help to soothe, hydrate and restore the skin with La Roche-Posay Posthelios Gel. Its replenishing formula contains 10% lipid-replenishing and soothing agents that rehydrate exposed skin.

Discover our full range of Anthelios suncare

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