• Which ingredients cause skin photosensitivity?


    You’ve seen the warning on some of the skincare products: “after using this product avoid sun exposure”. Some ingredients, though very efficient for certain skin conditions, can further cause unwanted side-effects if the skin is exposed to direct sunlight after the treatments. They are the so called “photosensitizers” that sensitize the skin and make it prone to sun burns, hyper pigmentation and allergies when exposed to ultraviolet light without extra protection.

    How can you identify your own skin’s photosensitive reactions? After sun exposure, skin becomes itchy or irritated, then inflammations, red bumps or blisters develop on the surface of the skin. Some people can simply have a lifelong allergy to sun light but the photosensitivity caused by chemicals in cosmetics is temporary and disappears when the source is eliminated and skin protected.

    That’s why it’s helpful to know some of the main ingredients that don’t get along with sunshine. Some of the well known sensitizing ingredients are:
    • Benzoyl Peroxide – used for Acne Treatments, a very good anti bacterial agent
    • Hydroquinone – whitening agent used to treat hyper-pigmentation (age spots, freckles)
    • Para-aminobenzoic acid – used in some sunscreens
    • AHAs – these Alpha Hydroxy Acids (e.g. Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid) are great exfoliators but may increase the skin’s sensitivity and the sun damage on the skin cells
    • BHAs – Beta Hydroxy Acids are known to be milder exfoliators but can still increase sensitivity for some types of skin
    • Retinol – a form of vitamin A used in anti aging and regenerating skin products , this can increase sun sensitivity
    • Alcohols – these dry out the skin and may irritate it
    • Natural ingredients – they can cause sensitivity too, especially the astringent ones, such as lemon, citrus, mint or peppermint oils, lavender sage, thyme, witch hazel and basil extracts
    • Artificial colors –makeup products could incorporate lots of artificial colors and skin gets damaged under direct sunlight
    • Medicines in certain topical treatments such as tetracyclines
    (to be continued)

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