Urgent warning to millions of Brits whose medication makes their skin more sensitive to sunlight – are you one?


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Sun burnt neck with the sea in the background. Australia.Credit: Getty

MILLIONS of Brits have been warned their skin may be more susceptible to sun damage due to their medication or health condition.

As temperatures take another jump today, it’s crucial to keep reapplying sunscreen and stay cool.

Some people may be more likely to get sun damage during the heatwave depending on their health condition or medication, experts warn

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Some people may be more likely to get sun damage during the heatwave depending on their health condition or medication, experts warnCredit: Getty

The mercury peaked at 32.7C (91F) in Hawarden, Flintshire, on Sunday.

But with a prediction of 40C and potentially above for Monday, a red “danger to life” alert is in place over the next 48 hours.

People with certain health conditions, and on medications, may not realise a potential side effect is sensitivity to light.

This could result in a number of short and long term effects, from flushing of burning of the skin to accumulation of skin cancer risk.

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Professor Claire Anderson, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: Some medicines contain ingredients that may cause photosensitivity and can cause sunburn-like symptoms, a rash or other unwanted side effects.

“It can be triggered by products applied to the skin, or medicines you swallow or inject.

“Quite a few medicines can make you more photosensitive including common drugs such as antibiotics, oral contraceptives and antidepressants, but not everyone who takes them will have a reaction.”

Tricyclic antidepressants are most known to cause problems in hot weather – however, the NHS says these are an older form of the drug which are not often prescribed anymore. 

Oral contraceptives include the Pill, which is the most popular form of birth control among women.

Meanwhile, some 60 per cent of people with the autoimmune condition lupus also report their symptoms worsen in the sun, including joint pain, fatigue and a rash.

Lupus is estimated to affect 50,000 people in the UK. 

Various over-the-counter skincare products can also make skin more sensitive to the sun, and care should be taken to apply sunscreen to the face.

Retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids are the ones to watch for. 

Skincare expert and aesthetician Dija Ayodele suggested those who use cosmetics that can increase skin sensitivity stop using them during the heatwave if they are worried about sun damage.

She told The i: “What I normally say to clients in clinic is that if they feel they’re going to be lax or they think they don’t trust themselves to apply sun protection… step away from those sorts of ingredients and products for now, because you can always come back to them.”

Prescriptions of retinoids, for those with acne, are particularly a risk, with the NHS warning to apply them sparingly and “avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and UV”. 

Those with eczema or psoriasis – other common skin conditions – may be in a similar position.

For example, those with eczema who use tacrolimus medicines are warned to avoid any UV light because of potential skin cancer risk, and side effects of flaring, for example. 

And those with psoriasis who use PUVA are warned against long-term use of the treatment, because it can increase the risk of skin cancer.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said people taking medications linked with light sensitivity can reduce their risk by “staying out of direct sunlight”.

It also advised to “protect yourself with a high factor sunscreen, and cover up with long sleeves, trousers and a hat”.

The RPS added: “If you have questions about your medicines and the possibility of a photosensitivity reaction, your pharmacist will be able to advise you.”

The NHS advises adults stay safe in the sun by avoiding it between 11am and 3pm and covering up with suitable clothing and sunglasses. 

A sunscreen of at least factor 30 and 4-star UVA protection should be used – two tablespoons if you are covering the entire body.

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If you’re out for a long day, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out, and again just as you leave the house.

And then it must be reapplied over the day according to the product’s description. 





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