Is it true? Will sunlight really help my skin condition?

During spells of good weather and throughout the summer months, our ‘Ask a Nurse’ team are often shyly asked: “So what about the sun – I’ve heard that it’s really good for clearing psoriasis [or eczema]?”

This is a fair question; who wouldn’t want to clear their skin in what appears to be a simple and cost-free way, without the mess and time involved in applying creams? However, like many things to do with the skin, the answer is not always straight forward.

Psoriasis and eczema: sunlight – friend or foe?

People who have psoriasis or eczema sometimes find that sunlight can help to improve their condition. However, being careful in the sun is important, as reddening and sun-burning your skin, is a major risk factor for skin cancer.

Overexposure to the sun, causing sunburn, can also bring about the ‘Koebner phenomenon’ – this is where psoriasis can develop at the site of an injury, such as sunburn. That’s right! Sun-burning can actually trigger your psoriasis! Also, be aware that for a minority of people with psoriasis or eczema (around 10% or less), sun exposure can actually aggravate their condition.

A solarium in British Columbia in the 1930s

Mind your skin! Take care in the sun

Most people living in Ireland have fair skin, which burns easily and tans poorly, so are particularly vulnerable to sun damage and skin cancer. The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV, mainly from sunlight, although UV from artificial sources, such as sunbeds*, also cause skin cancer.

Some simple steps to protect your skin

Enjoy the sun safely. In Ireland, make sun protection part of your daily routine, particularly from April – September, when the intensity of sunburn producing UV is greatest. Limit time in the midday sun, typically between the hours of 11am – 3pm.

Remember the 5 ‘Ss’ of sun safety: Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide.

‘Ask a Nurse’ Helpline

The ISF operates a free ‘Ask a Nurse’ Helpline service where dermatology nurses provide support, information and general guidance for your skin condition. Contact the ‘Ask a Nurse’ Helpline or see more on psoriasis, eczema and protecting your skin from sun damage.

*The use of sunbeds should not be confused with phototherapy (or light therapy) delivered in hospital dermatology day care centres. Phototherapy has been specially designed to treat certain skin conditions and involves exposing the skin to particular wavelengths of UV light on a regular basis, using specially calibrated units and under careful medical supervision. The Irish Skin Foundation does not support the use of sunbeds as a substitute for phototherapy performed under medical supervision.

We want everyone in Ireland to learn to Protect & Inspect their skin! Read our short guide, written with hospital-based dermatologists, for protecting and checking your skin.   

Click for more about Protect & Inspect!