Many medications and topical products can cause photosensitivity reactions or increase a person’s risk of developing sunburn. There are possible long-term effects from chronic exposure to the sun and/or tanning apparatus particularly as this relates to photosensitivity reactions.
UVA contributes to sunburn or tanning and also augments cellular damage to contribute to aging effects and skin cancer. UVA may also cause cataract formation and activate herpetic lesions. Drug-induced photosensitivity reactions can occur in both the UVA and UVB range, but are more likely to occur in the UVA range.
Drug-induced photosensitivity, as described in “Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology” by Fitzpatrick, Johnson, Wolff and Suurmond shows that not all individuals display reactions and not all who do, to the same degree. Drug induced photosensitivity results in the formation of toxic photoproducts such as free radicals. The principal sites of damage are DNA in the cell nucleus as well as the cell membrane. The UVA spectrum is the primary cause of this action. Drug induced photosensitivity can result in immediate sunburns (erythema), delayed sunburn patterns (16 – 24 hrs later), as well as delayed melanin hyperpigmentation (brown spots) in 72 – 96 hours – and later on in life. Indoor tanning apparatus, including salons, booths and beds, use a light source composed of more than 95 percent UVA radiation. As mentioned above, drug-induced photosensitivity reactions are more likely to occur in the UVA range, so tanning apparatus are even more likely to produce drug-induced photosensitivity reactions than natural sunlight. Basically though, the reactions stop with cessation of drug use, but the damage has been done and will continue, and definitely will result in wrinkles and brown spots
It is important to note that any pronounced display of photosensitivity should always be discussed with a dermatologist.
Groups of drugs that can increase sun sensitivity and potential for sun damage:
Antihistamines (e.g. benedryl)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflamatories (e.g. ibuprofen, naproxen…)
Acne treatments – e.g. retinoids/tretinoin/accutane/benzoyl peroxide
Some small number of people also display photosensitivity to chemicals like PABA and Avobenzone that are designed to protect the skin from sun exposure in sunscreen formulations. For a full list of products and drugs see Mineral based sunscreens provide the least potential for sensitivity on all skins.
There are also numerous ‘Natural’ products that make your skin more sensitive to the sun and thus more susceptible to sun damage:
This is called phytophotodermatitis. It affects all skin types, and results in spotty dark pigmentation. The primary culprits are oil and juice extracts of lime, lemon, wild parsley, parsnips, carrot greens, figs, and meadow grass. Perfumes and after shaves containing oil of bergamot and musk ambrette will also produce phytophotodermatitis and the resulting long term effects on your skin..
Check out the FDA information at http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/496_sun.html
What can you do about mitigating these sun sensitivity issues if you have no choice but to use the drugs or natural remedies mentioned above….
1. Do not tan,
2. Keep out of the direct sunlight as much as possible,
3. Apply a good UVA and UVB mineral sunscreen to your skin EVERYDAY and reapply often during the day if you are spending a lot of time out doors (on average more than 2 hours).
The information provided here is not meant to diagnose or cure any medical conditions. Please see your doctor or a trained medical professional should you have any concerns.