Sun Avoidance for Cutaneous Lupus

Rashes and spots associated with all types of cutaneous lupus can be sensitive to sun exposure. The reasons for this are not well understood, but ultraviolet (UV) light may trigger an autoimmune response and cause inflammation in skin cells, which can lead to redness, swelling, and lesions.

To prevent UV light from affecting your skin, NYU Langone dermatologists recommend staying inside as often as possible during the hours of 10:00AM and 4:00PM. The sun’s rays are strongest during midday, and even a few minutes of unprotected exposure may lead to a flare-up of symptoms. 

When you do spend time outside during the day, dermatologists recommend seeking shade whenever possible. Your doctor also recommends applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on skin that is exposed to the sun. Because cutaneous lupus often affects the scalp and ears, sunscreen should be applied carefully to these areas.

One application of sunscreen is effective for about two hours. You should reapply it if you are in the sun longer. You should also reapply sunscreen every time you get wet. Even water-resistant sunscreens may become less effective after you’ve been in the water. 

Hats, umbrellas, and clothing that are made with materials that block UV rays also provide protection.

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