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Acne Medications and the Sun

Acne Medications and the Sun
Posted on 05/03/2023

Patients often ask us if sun exposure is good for acne. While the sun can dry up sebum production, influencing acne production there are a few other things to consider. With longer bouts of sun exposure the skin can thicken as a result and more oil is produced. There are also many acne medications that don’t interact well with the sun and lead to unpleasant side effects. 

AHA and BHA, gentle acids including salicylic, glycolic, lactic, malic varieties. These products exfoliate the skin.  The removal of the protective skin barrier increases solar skin sensitivity.

Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in topical acne treatments including spot treatments, face washes, lotions or toners. One of the most frequent side effects is dryness which causes increased risk of sensitivity to the sun. 

Topical retinoids also known as differin, adapalene, tretinoin, retin-a, tazorac are a topical form of vitamin A that increase cell turnover. This process can make your skin barrier more sensitive and increase the likelihood of a sunburn. If you are using a retinoid it should be applied in the evening and you should always use sunscreen during daylight hours. 

Accutane or isotretinoin is the oral version of Vitamin A. There is the risk of a reaction in the sun since medication the skin barrier is more sensitive. 

Oral antibiotics specifically tetracyclines like doxycycline can come with a risk of rash and severe sunburn in exposure to sunlight. 

Prevent irritation from the sun when dealing with acne by avoiding over exposure, protecting your skin with sunscreen and clothing and be aware of what products might make you more sensitive. 

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