Psoriasis and the Sun: What You Need to Know
Many people find that natural sunlight helps improve their psoriasis. Those who live in warm climates may find that their patches and scales disappear entirely during the summer.
What is it about natural sunlight that helps psoriasis? Can sunlight be a natural treatment for psoriasis? Here’s what you need to know.
Natural Sunlight Can Help, But Don’t Overdo It
Sunlight can help with psoriasis symptoms because of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The sun has two types of UV rays:
UVA rays don’t have much of an effect on psoriasis, but UVB can help slow the growth of skin cells and shedding.
Exposure to natural sunlight is one way to take advantage of the benefits of UVB rays. However, it’s important not to overdo it and protect yourself against sunburn. Certain medications can also increase photosensitivity, which can increase the risk of sunburn.
So, while natural sunlight therapy can be beneficial, it’s important to wear sunscreen, even if you’re only in the sun for a short period of time. Sunglasses and a hat should also be worn to protect your eyes and scalp from sun exposure.
Here are a few important things to know about sunlight therapy:
- Start with 10-minute sessions of being out in the sun.
- Gradually increase your exposure time by 30-60 seconds each day – but only if your body can tolerate it.
- Be sure to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen prior to each session.
Keep in mind that the sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.
Look for sunscreens that:
- Protect from both UVA and UVB rays
- Have an SPF of at least 30
- Are water-resistant
- Are hypoallergenic
- Are fragrance-free
For some people with psoriasis, fragrances can cause irritation or make symptoms worse.
The Risks of Sun Exposure
Natural sunlight offers many benefits to people with psoriasis, but there are also some risks that need to be considered.
- Excess UVA exposure can damage your skin, causing wrinkles, broken veins and age spots.
- Excess UVB exposure can cause sunburn, which can make psoriasis worse or trigger a flare-up. Repeated sunburns may also increase your risk of skin cancer.
Phototherapy as a Treatment for Psoriasis
Phototherapy can be used as a treatment for psoriasis. Natural sunbathing is one option, but synthetic lights can also achieve the same effect in a more controlled setting.
Artificial UVB sources are typically used, but there are some instances where doctors will recommend UVA lights instead.
UVA rays are shorter than UVB rays, and they penetrate the skin more deeply. Typically, this type of phototherapy is paired with psoralen, a medication that can improve the effectiveness of UVA rays. In addition, the medication will help your skin absorb the rays.
The combination of medication and UVA therapy can be used to treat moderate to severe cases of plaque psoriasis. Generally, this type of light therapy is reserved for those who haven’t had success with UVB therapy or topical medications.
Phototherapy can be effective at treating psoriasis. In fact, research has found that this type of treatment can immediately reduce or resolve symptoms in 50-90% of cases. Regardless of whether you choose natural sunlight or artificial light sources, it’s important to talk to your doctor about this treatment and take steps to avoid sunburn.