It’s summertime. Quality backyard time, beach trips and grilling are on our minds. But for those living with psoriasis, warmer months can also bring doubt and uncertainty about how exposure to the sun can affect you. Of course sunscreen is important – but is it safe to apply on your psoriasis-affected skin? Will it have an adverse effect on your psoriasis treatment?
We turned to Laura Korb Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., who is an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, to help shed some light on the importance of sunscreen so you can get back to your favorite outdoor activities.
Q: Why is using sunscreen so important for those with psoriasis?
Dr. Ferris: While many who suffer from psoriasis find that the sun helps to improve their skin’s appearance, there are dangers from too much exposure. Just as with any skin, the ultraviolet rays of the sun can penetrate the layers of the skin, cause severe sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer. That is why wearing sunblock is extremely important for all of us, including psoriasis patients.
Q: What are some additional considerations that those living with psoriasis must keep in mind when staying outside in the sun?
Dr. Ferris: Some medications (like acitretin or methotrexate) can potentially increase sun sensitivity. Patients with psoriasis may also be at higher risk of skin cancer due to the medications they take (such as those that block tumor necrosis factor alpha). Patients with a lot of ultraviolet light B exposure in the past from in-office phototherapy may also be at higher risk of skin cancer. Also, a severe sunburn, like any injury to the skin, may flare psoriasis. That is why it is so important to use sunscreen when out in the sun.
Q: Is over-the-counter sunscreen safe to apply to skin with active flares?
Dr. Ferris: It is best not to apply sunscreen to open or actively inflamed skin.
Q: What should those with psoriasis be looking for when shopping for a sunscreen?
Dr. Ferris: Ideally, I recommend looking for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are products that help to block the sun’s harmful rays. Look for sunscreens that are at least SPF 30. Other than avoiding open or inflamed skin, the same recommendations hold true for psoriasis patients as with most people.
Q: Is sunscreen enough to keep you safe in the sun?
Dr. Ferris: In warm weather, there are a number of issues that can contribute to flare-ups, including sunburn and too much exposure to the sun. It is important to apply sunscreen frequently, but other measures are also important, like wearing clothing that helps to protect your skin while in the sun, sitting in the shade when you can, avoiding peak hours of sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wearing a hat.