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Beware of Sunburn Boosters

Some medicines and skin care products can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Here’s how to avoid getting burned.

Sun Sensitivity: What It Is continued...

How do you know if you’re more sensitive to the sun? Signs include burning more easily than in the past or noticing rashes, bumps, itching or changes in pigmentation after exposure to sunlight.

“If you’re just getting out for a brief time and notice some burning or stinging on your skin, you should be suspicious,” says Roger Ceilley, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Iowa.

If you notice symptoms that concern you, check medicine labels and check in with your physician. Doctors may diagnose sun sensitivity based on the skin’s appearance and exposure to substances that trigger photosensitivity. Occasionally they may perform a patch test to confirm a photoallergic reaction.

Sun Sensitivity: Common Culprits

To find out if you’re taking a drug that increases sun sensitivity, read the information sheet that comes with medications, advises Dennis Bryan of Chicago, a media adviser for the American Pharmacists Association. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether any medication you’re taking might cause sun sensitivity.

Here is a list of common drugs, foods, perfumes, and skin care products linked to varying degrees of sun sensitivity. 

Acne treatments: Creams and astringents with benzoyl peroxide. Prescription drugs including Accutane, doxycycline (an antibiotic), and Soriatane.

Antihistamines: Benadryl and other products with diphenhydramine.

Antibiotics: Tetracyclines, including Sumycin, Tetracyn, and Vibramycin (doxycycline). Sulfa drugs including Bactrim and Septra. Quinolones, including Cipro and Levaquin.

Antifungals: Griseofulvin, including Grifulvin V, Fulvicin P/G, and Gris-PEG.

Anti-inflammatories: Prescription and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers, including Celebrex, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil).

Chemotherapy drugs: Imatinib and dasatinib.

Cosmetic treatments:Microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser treatments, exfoliating facial scrubs.

Diabetes: Sulfonylureas including Diabinese (chlorpropamide) and glyburide (Micronase, DiaBeta, Glynase).

Diuretics:Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), used to treat high blood pressure. Lasix (furosemide). Combination drugs with HCTZ include Dyazide, Hyzaar, Maxide and Zestoretic.

Foods: Celery, citrus fruits (such as lime peel), dill, fennel, parsley, parsnips, and artificial sweeteners.

Heart medicines: Amiodarone (Cordarone), nifedipine (Procardia), quinidine (Quinaglute and Quinidex), and diltiazem (Cardize, Dilacor, and Tiazac).

Herbal remedies: Dong quai, St. John’s wort.

Perfumes: Lavendar, cedar, bergamot oil, sandalwood, rose bengal, musk, 6-methylcoumarine.

Psychiatric: Tricyclic antidepressants such as Norpramin and Tofranil; the antipsychotic medication chlorpromazine (Thorazine).

Skin care products: Check ingredients for alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), salicyclic acid, glycolic acids, Retin-A, and hydrocortisone.

Sunscreen: Benzophenones, dibenzoylmethane, oxybenzone, cyclohexanol, salicylates, cinnamate, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid).

Sun Sensitivity: Protecting Your Skin

If you are sensitive to the sun, the best way to protect your skin is to avoid exposure, dermatologists say. That means no tanning booths and no lying out at the beach, even with sunscreen.

If it’s not possible to avoid sun exposure, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15; choose a higher sun protection factor of 30 or more if you have a fair complexion or are more sun-sensitive. Make sure to apply at least 1 ounce for adequate coverage, put it on at least 20 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every two hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily. Keep in mind that some damaging ultraviolet rays can penetrate window glass, which means you could get a sunburn while driving or inside, if in direct sunlight.

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