Sun Sensitivity and Photosensitivity

Cause and Effect


We are getting closer and closer to warmer weather, we all want to catch some rays, because it feels so good on our skin and lifts our spirits.  But you might want to consider what kind of medications you are taking right now.                                                                                

There are so many medications that it seems more people are on some type of prescription or treatment than not.  While medications and topical treatments have many benefits, there are side-effects that must be considered as well.  (Think of those drug commercials that talk of some new medications and then name many side effects that you really wonder if you should ‘ask your doctor.’)

Many medications and topical treatments do cause some people to become more sensitive to the sun or any type of UV light and develop photosensitivity (light or sun sensitivity).  The list of these photosensitive drugs is large and long.  It isn’t a guarantee that every person will have the same reaction to medications and treatments, different skin types will result in different reactions. However, whenever you get prescribed a new drug or topical medication, make sure to read the literature and ask your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects, including photosensitivity.  It is also important to know how long the effects would last once you have taken a medication.  Different types of medication will stay in the body for different lengths of time.

Natural or Drug Induced Photosensitivity

 There are two types of skin photosensitivity, one is natural and is determined by genetics.  A person’s skin may turn red after a few minutes in the sun, or they tan nicely.  The other type is caused by adding a photosensitive medication to the mix (either orally or topically). Before you consider getting laser hair removal or other laser treatments, you need to know, the photoreactive compounds or ingredients in some medications might damage your skin cells as they are exposed to the UV light of the laser.

Possible Side Effects

While a professional laser technician or may know what type of treatment to provide, based on your skin type, they would be able to assess your natural photosensitivity.  It is very important that you tell them what kind of medications you are taking because you may suffer side effects. The most common side effects are hyperpigmentation (discolouration of the skin), blisters and mild burns. They would be mostly mild irritations, but there is a chance some reactions could be worse.

Medications to Avoid

 It may be very surprising how many common medications cause this type of reaction when combined with laser hair removal or even exposure to the sun.  That is why it is so vital to wear sunscreen, you never know what effects can come with continued use of photosensitive medications.  Some of these medications include, but are not limited to: acne medicines, antidepressants, antihistamines, certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and diuretics. So, for peace of mind, have a chat with your doctor or pharmacist.