The answer to the question is as unique as you are.
In some people sunlight can be a salve for eczema, bringing relief and comfort. Some people with severe eczema even benefit from ultraviolet ray treatments. Yet for others, sun and heat are an eczema trigger, necessitating a good hat, proper clothing and a limit to how much time you spend in the heat.
The good news is that most eczema patients in widespread studies have experienced an alleviation of symptoms, reduced inflammation and neutralized bacteria/viruses/fungi on the skin after a dose of sun exposure.
Although it is not entirely clear why sunlight helps relieve eczema (a.k.a. atopic dermatitis), some science points to vitamin D. Sun exposure increases the production of vitamin D in the skin and in doing so, helps modulate immune function in the outermost layer of skin.
By increasing vitamin D production, sunlight indirectly increases the production of an amino acid in the skin that triggers the body’s natural immune response.
Specific Eczema Reactions to Sun: the Good and the Bad
If your eczema happens to be a case of contact dermatitis, I’ve got great news! More than most, you will find an improvement in your skin after sun exposure.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those with photosensitive eczema. It’s a rare form of eczema specifically triggered by the sun. For you, sun exposure is extremely limited, and I’d likely prescribe Vitamin D. Fortunately, I don’t see cases of photosensitive eczema, which would be especially awful for my patients living in hot and sunny Texas.
Eczema and Sunscreens
What are the best sunscreens for eczema? Glad you asked! Just like shampoos and moisturizers, the sunscreen an eczema patient chooses has to be carefully chosen for purity and be fragrance-free.
If you can get sample or trial sizes, those are the best for spot-testing for a reaction. No one wants to buy an entire bottle only to realize it irritates their skin. That’s just practical advice.
Here’s more food for thought as you go about figuring out “which” sunscreen to choose:
There are CHEMICAL sunscreens. There are MINERAL sunscreens.
MINERAL sunscreens tend to be better tolerated by people with eczema. Great! The downside you may not appreciate is how mineral sunscreens tend to leave a white cast on the skin from the ingredient titanium dioxide However, I will say titanium dioxide offers additional protections for sensitive skin like those with a tendency to develop Melasma (hyperpigmentation). And there are products on the market that tout a “no white cast” formulation, so those may be worth trying, especially for darker skin.
And just like people without eczema, you have to reapply after being in the water and use a formula of at least 30 SPF with broad-spectrum protection (both UVA and UVB rays). If the sun is making your eczema feel better, that’s wonderful, but remember “more” is not necessarily better. Sun damage is still sun damage.
Eczema, Sun and Medication
Certain drugs, chemicals and even plants can cause the skin to become sensitive to sunlight. If you develop eczema or your eczema becomes worse after sun exposure, it’s time to check in with your healthcare professional to see if your medication is triggering your reaction or to explore other potential causes, especially if the sun has never been a problem before.
One of the best options for providing relief to eczema is using a safe and effective baby eczema cream and Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy products provide the best relief.
After-Sun Eczema Strategies:
Rinse-Off! Possible triggers may be sitting on your skin after time outdoors. Take a quick, cool shower to soothe your skin and wash away sweat, chlorine, water, pollen, or other potential triggers. Gently pat yourself dry and apply a gentle lotion right away.
Get Cool! Overheating may be the culprit of an eczema flare-up. Monitor yourself to see how long you can be outdoors in the heat before you start to pay the price. If necessary, allow yourself breaks, going somewhere to cool off for a while. Dressing in loose clothing made of all-natural fibers like cotton will also help keep you cool, enhancing the comfort of your day in the sun.
Before You Take Your Eczema Skin to the Sun
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. I encourage my eczema patients to monitor themselves (or their child, if they’re the parent of an eczema kid). How does their skin react to sun exposure for 10 to 15 minutes? After an hour? After an entire day at the beach?
Don’t overdo it, follow sensible sun care applicable to everyone, and you might happily discover that summer is your skin’s favorite season after all.
Children or adults suffering from eczema should always have a daily eczema body wash available after a long active day.