Red Skin Syndrome – Sun Exposure

Much has been written about damage to the skin caused by sun exposure. Most Americans are fearful of every ray of sunshine because they worry that a new wrinkle or a skin cancer will develop from even the smallest amount of exposure. Are these concerns valid? The following evaluation of these concerns is necessary whenever I recommend sunlight exposure and sometimes ultraviolet treatments during the late stages of the RSS process.

Our knowledge is our only defense; caution, our only friend.
A.J. Darkholme

Ultraviolet therapy and sunshine were used in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as a cornerstone treatment for eczema before steroids were invented. Sunlight brought a decisive cure. Easterners would send their eczema children to the southwest during winter months because they knew their children got better during the summertime in their home states. Appropriate sun exposure helps in the treatment of psoriasis, mild early eczema and generalized itching. It creates vitamin D stores, provides a sense of calmness and feelings of well-being. Sun damage depends on genetics, skin type, area of the country lived in and the use of sunscreens.

Certain skin types, fair redheads, blonds, and blue-eyed individuals can manifest early and more severe sun damage if exposed often in youth. They do burn easily and show damage already in midlife. For these people we recommend sun avoidance, protective clothing, and sunscreens. Even for RSS patients who fit into the genetic profile above the benefits from a little sun exposure still outweigh the risks of further skin damage.

There are chemicals found in sunscreens that are potentially problematic. Our FDA in the United States allows certain chemicals in our sunscreens that are not approved in other countries. Different research and different data provide conflicting margins of safety for usage of these chemicals. Also, it is unknown whether widespread continual sunscreen over-usage might cause problems due to skin absorption. Caution should always be the guideline.