Protecting your skin from the sun

For Lupus and Dermatomyositis and other patients with sensitivity to sun

Lupus and dermatomyositis are made worse by sun exposure. Daily sunscreen application can keep your skin free of inflammation. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Get Broad Spectrum Protection: UV-A and UV-B protection every day

Always opt for a sunscreen that provides both UV-A and UV-B protection. Sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are most effective in blocking both UV-A and UV-B rays. Sunscreen should be worn every day to every exposed surface of your skin. Just a little bit of sun exposure is all it takes to trigger a flare in some cases. And remember that it doesn’t have to be hot out to get sun—sunscreen should be worn all year long, even when it’s cloudy. Sun can penetrate window glass, so even when you’re driving sunscreen is important.

2. Choose SPF 30 or higher

Always use a sunscreen with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 or higher. The SPF in your sunscreen absorbs and reflects the sun’s rays so they don’t activate skin disease.

3. Choose a sunscreen you are comfortable using every day.

Don’t just buy what is on sale. Spend some time sampling products in the drug store, or ask your dermatologist for samples. Keep sunscreen on your bathroom counter so you remember to put it on every day. Put extra bottles in your car, golf bag, and office for reapplication. Remember that it take sunscreen up to 30 minutes to work.

4. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen.

Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen. You need enough to fill a shot glass for your face and neck, and ears. A shot glass-full each is required for your arms and hands, chest and abdomen, back, legs if they are exposed to the sun. Another trick is to apply enough to turn your skin white, then rub in.
Spray sunscreens are rarely adequately applied, and are therefore not the best choice for patients with rheumatologic skin disease.

5. Reapply sunscreen every two hours

Sunscreen wears off after just a couple of hours. You’ll need to reapply for your afternoon commute. So, make sure you lather on another shot glass full before getting in the car in the afternoon as well. If you are outdoors, reapplication is required at least every two hours and every 60 minutes if you are swimming or sweating. There are new products available that can be applied to wet skin, which may be a good option if you are engaged in activities where you are swimming or sweating.

6. Don’t leave home without it

Remember that sun coming in the car windows can activate skin lupus, and that a simple trip to the grocery store can lead to a disease flare.

7. Don’t rely on sunscreen alone for protection.

Unfortunately, sunscreen can’t completely prevent sunburns, blisters and skin cancer. But you can give your skin some added protection by wearing:

  • avoid sun during peak times. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sun when you shadow is shorter than you are. Generally this is between 10 AM and 4 PM, but it may be different depending on where you live and the time of year.
  • lip balm with SPF 30 or higher
  • a tightly woven hat with a wide brim
  • wrap-around sunglasses with UV protection
  • a tightly woven, dark long-sleeved shirt or special sun protective clothing. Check out