Whether you're an adult or a teen, chances are, you've dealt with acne at some point in your life. No matter your age, acne can be uncomfortable and downright embarrassing, and you've probably tried a variety of home remedies, including sunbathing. While a little sunshine may seem like a cheap and effective way to treat pimples, it can actually do more harm than good.
Though there's some evidence to show that the sun can prevent breakouts, its effect varies from patient to patient. And sometimes the risks of too much time in the sun outweigh the rewards.
"The sun's UV rays zap acne-causing bacteria, which is why pimples may clear up temporarily," says Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. "Plus, pimples and red marks may look less obvious when your skin is tanned." However, the sun can also have the opposite effect on your face: Being in the heat can increase inflammation and cause new breakouts.
What's more, spending too much time in the sun means your pimples may end up healing with dark scars and spots. Beyond acne, UV light also causes free radical damage to the skin, which destroys collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkles. "UV rays can also damage the skin's DNA leading to skin cancer," says Wu.
If you are on oral acne medication, such as isotretinoin (Accutane), there is also need for concern. These drugs may make you more sensitive to light, causing your skin to burn faster than it normally would. [Medicinenet.com]
A better way to clear up acne? After washing your face with an oil-free cleanser, use a toner containing salicylic acid, which helps fight and prevent pimples, says Wu. Once or twice a week, use a scrub to remove any built-up dirt, oil, and sunscreen and help keep pores clean. If your acne is severe, you might consider avoiding dairy, which has been shown to worsen acne. Birth control pills can also help regulate hormonal acne. And remember: When you're in the sun, always slather on sunscreen. Just be sure to use choose one that's oil-free.
- Wu, Jessica, M.D. Personal correspondence.