Sun exposure may help reduce psoriasis symptoms. However, a person should only use sun exposure as a treatment if a doctor advises them to do so.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that can develop when the immune system is not functioning correctly. It results in an overgrowth of skin cells.
Some doctors may recommend regular exposure to sunlight as part of a psoriasis treatment plan. However, it is important to follow medical guidance. Sunlight is not as effective for treating psoriasis as prescription therapies, and too much sun exposure can worsen symptoms or trigger a flare.
This article looks at how to have safe sun exposure with psoriasis and protect the skin from too much sun.
Sun exposure may have a positive impact on the symptoms of psoriasis. It also boosts vitamin D levels.
The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays, UVA or UVB. The difference lies in the size of the wavelength. UVA rays can reach deeper into the skin, while UVB rays do not penetrate as deeply.
As a result, UVA rays from sunlight are not as effective in treating psoriasis as natural UVB rays.
Exposure to natural UV light can help ease inflammation and reduce scaling in people with mild to moderate psoriasis. However, doctors do not recommend using sunlight to treat psoriasis in all cases. A person should never seek to do so without appropriate medical guidance.
Further, sunlight is not as effective for the treatment of psoriasis as prescription phototherapy.
UV light therapies are a
Sunlight can also help the body create vitamin D, which has many important functions. Vitamin D occurs naturally in some foods. However, a person needs sunlight for most of their vitamin D supply.
A 2017 review suggested that vitamin D deficiency may be common among people with psoriasis. However, the role that vitamin D plays in psoriasis management is controversial.
It is not clear whether increased vitamin D helps improve psoriasis symptoms or whether the improvement is due to sunlight benefitting the immune system.
Sunlight can help treat psoriasis. However, a person should only attempt to do so if their primary care professional recommends it.
A medical professional can assess a person’s medical status and advise on the safest level of sun exposure.
For example, some doctors may recommend always wearing sunscreen when outside or avoiding peak daylight hours. The Environmental Protection Agency states that the sun’s rays are typically strongest between 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Doctors may also recommend a more controlled type of UV exposure, such as narrow-band UVB therapy.
Anyone who is undergoing phototherapy should avoid sun exposure. This includes people who use PUVA, a light therapy that involves a combination of UVA rays and a drug called psoralen.
During phototherapy, the skin absorbs UV rays. This can help ease psoriasis symptoms. Phototherapy refers to UV light exposure in a controlled setting, such as a dermatologist’s office.
UVB rays may help treat psoriasis by slowing rapidly growing skin cells, reducing inflammation, and reducing itching.
Phototherapy may reduce or resolve immediate symptoms of psoriasis in
Doctors may also recommend PUVA, a combination light therapy.
The person will first take psoralen to increase the body’s sensitivity to UVA rays. Then they will undergo phototherapy.
Sun exposure can
- light skin
- family history of skin cancer
- a large number of moles
- history of burning easily
- older age
Some medications, including oral medications, topical creams, and ointments, can make the skin
It is important to ask a healthcare professional about any risks associated with medications and other treatments.
The National Psoriasis Foundation does not recommend that people use tanning beds to treat their symptoms.
Unlike phototherapy units, tanning beds use wavelengths that can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Tanning beds may also use more UVA than UVB light — another reason why they are less effective than phototherapy at reducing psoriasis symptoms.
Anyone who seeks sun exposure should protect their skin. People with psoriasis should always consult their primary care physician before doing so.
There are different types of sunscreen, and it can be difficult to choose the right one.
For a person with psoriasis, a good sunscreen will:
- have “broad-spectrum” on the label, indicating that it offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays
- have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
- be water-resistant, if a person will be swimming or sweating under the hot sun
- be hypoallergenic or designed for sensitive skin and possibly fragrance-free
Some chemicals in generic sunscreens can irritate the skin or trigger flares.
Below are some more tips for sun safety.
- Cover exposed skin: Clothing can help protect the skin from too much sun exposure. Some dermatologists recommend clothes and hats are infused with sunscreen.
- Use sunglasses: Using sunglasses can help protect the sensitive skin around the eyes.
- Seek shade: Shade can help to limit sun exposure and allow the body to cool.
However, be aware that there is still a risk of excessive sun exposure in shady areas. Trees and umbrellas can block some of the sun’s rays. However, sunlight can reflect off various surfaces, including snow and water. This can increase skin exposure.
There is currently no cure for psoriasis. However, many people manage the condition with topical treatments and lifestyle changes.
Sun exposure under medical supervision can help manage symptoms, primarily through the action of UVB rays. Phototherapy in a dermatologist’s office provides a more controlled form of exposure to these rays.
It is important to undergo light therapy under the supervision of a qualified professional. Tanning beds are not a safe alternative.
Take precautions when exposing the skin to sunlight, as too much sun can worsen symptoms.
A dermatologist can help determine the best type and extent of exposure to UV rays and what type of sun protection to use.