Photosensitivity is a topic I’ve long since wanted to explore, but didn’t have the time to. But realizing that I may be inadvertently using something that does harm to my skin, I give myself no more excuse. Butt to the chair, I dutifully did my research (SunGrubbies and Skincare-news) and finished my writing. Below is the fruits of my findings.
Photosensitivity is a skin disorder in which your skin becomes sensitive when exposed to lights. The glaring summer sun isn’t the exclusive culprit of photosensitivity. Sometimes, it can also be caused by the winter sunlight and even fluorescent lights. People suffering from photosensitivty may find hyper-pigmentation, rashes, blisters, and redness on their skin. As a general rule, people with fair skin are more likely to have photosensitivity. However, what makes photosensitivity complicated is that it can be triggered by a number of reasons. Some of them include internal ingestion of medicine, contact with photosensitizers, topical application of skincare ingredients (e.g. essential oils, sunscreen, and fragrances), and improper skincare treatments. So a good practice is to avoid using beauty products with photosensitizers when you are staying outdoors for a long time.
Possible Triggers of Photosensitivity
For the sake of this blog, I will only discuss what is most related to skincare. As I find out, there are mainly five types of photosensitizers:
Essential oils are nice ingredients included in skincare products. However, some of them, including all citrus oils, can actually cause photoreactive responses in your skin. Examples are:
- Angelica root
Sunscreen can protect our skin from sun damage and delay aging signs. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. Sunscreens containing photosensitizers can cause skin disorder. Look for the following ingredients in your sunscreen’s ingredient list.
As a result, you may want to choose sunscreens that are less likely to cause photosensitivity such as those with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
While some of the ingredients listed below can be excellent treatment for some skin problems (Retin-A can help acne and wrinkles, for example), they can also produce side effects when your skin is exposed to lights.
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
- Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)
- Retin-A (and other topical retinoids)
- Salicylic acid
Fragrances are irritants for skin. You should avoid them whenever possible, especially for those with acne and sensitive skin. Beauty products with the following fragrances can have another negative effect: causing photosensitivity.
- Musk ambrette
Some skincare treatments can cause photosensitivity too. These treatments include:
- Chemical peels
- Laser treatments
- Facial scrubs
This list isn’t in the least a complete list, but it can serve as a starting point for you to stay clear of those not-too-conducive ingredients when your skin is exposed to lights.
If you didn’t pay any attention to the photoreactive ingredients in your skincare products, it’s time you do!