What is a sun allergy? Experts explain rare skin condition

Allergies are never fun. They can be embarrassing or painful, and often they can keep you from enjoying some of life’s simpler pleasures – think petting dogs or eating chocolate chip cookies. Fortunately, we have (somewhat) moved forward as a society to find workarounds for many of them. If you’re allergic to a food, for example, while missing out on some delicious foods can be annoying, you’ll eventually learn to deal with it or find a substitute. But what happens when you’re allergic to something unavoidable, like the sun?

Yes, you can, in fact, be allergic to the sun: it’s called solar urticaria. But before you freak out about never going for a hike or going to the pool, know that the allergy is quite rare. According to the Cleveland Clinic, only 10 to 15% of the American population is affected by this type of allergy.

As always, it’s best to understand what a sun allergy actually is in order to be prepared. Read more about the rare allergy, how to tell if you have it, and how to treat it.

Meet the experts:

How can you be allergic to the sun?

Purvi Parikh, MD, allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, says Seduce A sun allergy is a group of itchy skin rashes that can occur as a response to the sun by your immune system. Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York, adds that this is because the immune system treats sun-damaged skin as foreign cells, which then leads to body reactions. . .

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There are many types of sun allergies, according to Dr. Parikh. It lists photoallergic eruptions, solar urticaria and actinic prurigo. Marisa Garshick, MD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City, adds that a sun allergy can also refer to a skin reaction that develops when exposed to sunlight. It’s a condition officially known as polymorphic lucite (PMLE), which is the most common type of sun allergy affecting 10-15% of the US population, which Dr. Garshick says , may cause a rash or hives.

A sun allergy can happen to anyone. Dr. Engelman says the disease can be inherited or a reaction can be triggered by medications, pre-existing medical conditions or other skin conditions. She adds that sun allergies tend to occur more frequently in women than in men and begin to develop in the teens and twenties. While those with lighter skin are generally more sensitive to sun exposure and more likely to have sun allergies, Dr. Garshick says it can also affect those with darker skin.