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Acne & Sun Sensitivity

Acne & Sun Sensitivity


Acne and acne-type rashes resulting from sun exposure may be linked to simple sun sensitivity or may be the sign that you have a serious medical condition that requires treatment. Sun sensitivity, sometimes called photosensitivity, is defined by the Genetics Home Reference, part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, as an "abnormal reaction to sunlight." Acne rashes, skin bumps and pimples may be a result of skin sensitivity. Assessment by a dermatologist is necessary to determine the exact cause.

Links Between Sun and Acne

Sun sensitivity and acne outbreaks result from the genetic makeup of the person or exposure to the sun while using prescription and over-the-counter drugs. While most acne-type breakouts are limited and disappear without scarring after sun exposure is minimized, some conditions take several days to heal. In rare cases, skin lesions created by sun sensitivity require dermatological medical treatment or plastic surgery to repair the damage.

Acne Drugs & Sun Sensitivity

Acne drugs including medication that includes tretinoin may increase sensitivity to the sun. Tretinoin is the active ingredient in Retin-A, Avita and Renova, according to Consumer Reports Health, and both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications include the ingredient. Other topically applied acne medications that increase sun sensitivity include tazartoene, adapalene and azelic acid. TeensHealth from Nemours reports that antibiotics prescribed to treat acne can also increase sun sensitivity. People taking tetracycline and doxycycline as an oral acne treatment should also avoid sunshine due to increased sensitivity, according to the Merck Online Medical Manual.

Sun Allergies and Acne

Sun sensitivity, sometimes referred to as sun allergies, includes acne-like skin irruptions. The Mayo Clinic reports tiny bumps, or papules, and flat bumps called plaques, resulting from sun exposure in a condition called polymorphic light eruption, or PMLE. This typical sun allergy fades when exposure to the sun is removed. Acne-type bumps heal within a few days, according to the clinic. Actinic prurigo causes raised red patches on skin, even skin not exposed to sunlight, after exposure to bright sunlight. Solar urticaria, another acne-type condition caused by sun sensitivity, creates rapidly-forming blisters and skin hives. This condition typically disappears when the skin is shielded from the sun.


The Arthritis Foundation warns that the appearance of an acne-type rash after sun exposure may be a symptom of systemic lupus erythematosus, also know as SLE or lupus. Several types of red rashes mark the disease including a butterfly rash, known medically as a malar rash, a disc-shaped red rash, and superficial rashes that do not scar the skin. Lupus rashes directly related to sun sensitivity appear on any part of the body including the face and chest.

Acne Prevention

Acne related to sun sensitivity is easily controlled by avoiding the sun's rays during the peak sunlight hours between 10 a.m. and four in the afternoon. Minimize chronic problems with acne triggered by sun sensitivity during summer months by avoiding the sunlight while wearing makeup that can clog open pores and also by covering the skin to avoid ultraviolet rays.

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