Sun allergy is quite common. Polymorphous light eruption, or PLE, affects millions of people and comes with a host of irritating symptoms like redness, rashes, pustules, and blisters. There are other sun allergies as well, and these include solar urticaria, drug-induced photosensitivity, acne aestivalis, and others. The best offense against sun damage and sun allergies is a strong defense of prevention.
You can be allergic to a lot of things. Fresh cut grass, peanuts, avocados, and even the sun. Yep, sun allergies, it’s a thing. In fact, millions of people are allergic to the sun, and among this group a whopping 90% have an allergy called polymorphous light eruption, or PLE.
Now, keep in mind that the term “sun allergy” is just a broad label that covers a variety of rashes and skin reactions to ultraviolet (UV) exposure. We’ll touch on these other allergies in a bit, but first let’s explore the most common sun allergy, PLE.
Do I Have a Sun Allergy Like PLE?
PLE typically affects younger women, between the ages of 20-40, who land on the “fair skin” end of the spectrum. The symptoms are often delayed by one or two days after sun exposure, and can include everything from pesky redness, to a burning or itching rash, and even blisters and pustules.
Unfortunately, these symptoms tend to develop on hard-to-hide areas of the skin, like the chest and arms. And those with PLE almost always complain of extreme irritation. But the good news is there’s no proven connection to skin cancer. Phew!
What’s the cause? Great question. . . apparently skin scientists have found indications of faulty cellular defense in those with PLE (talk about spotty cell service), where the skin is not able to defend against the sun’s free radicals.
Other Types of Sun Allergies
Aside from PLE, there are other sun allergies (or photodermatoses) which include:
- Solar urticaria — symptoms include a breakout of hives after even limited exposure to the sun. Fortunately, the symptoms quickly disappear.
- Drug-induced photosensitivity — this is caused by any number of medications and typically presents itself as a sunburn or rash.
- Acne aestivalis or Mallorca acne — the symptoms resemble PLE, but this condition is caused by a reaction to certain cosmetics or sunscreens, and is triggered by sun exposure.
- And others.
Whichever sun allergy you might have, the best measure to fight against photo sensitivity is to take preventative measures. Remember to be mindful with sun exposure. Seek shade during the hottest times of the day, and protect your skin where it matters the most.