Clinical research is always the best place to start when looking for a factual answer. According to various studies, the real answer is (drum roll, please) maybe. The studies that exist are conflicting and not well documented, which begs a decision be made outside of the research.
Exposing acne-prone skin to too much sun will eventually backfire, causing more problems in the long run. Sun exposure causes unwanted skin inflammation. Grades 3 and 4 acne is inflamed – adding additional inflammation is a bad idea. The sun can cause hyperpigmentation and scarring to appear as acne heals. Sun exposure puts the client at a higher risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging.
Certain acne medications, like erythromycin, doxycycline, vibramycin, and minocin (just to name a few) can cause the skin to be more sensitive to ultraviolet light. Photosensitized skin will burn, and possibly blister when exposed to the sun. Tanning leads to sweating, giving bacteria a place to thrive, and causing more breakouts.
While it may seem the sun provides a temporary drying effect on acne, it is actually just putting skin into a dehydrated state. Eventually, sebaceous glands will fire into overdrive to help replace lost oil, resulting in more oil on the surface than before. Flaky skin from a sunburn builds up more dead skin cells that clog pores and cause more breakouts.
That said, how can the aesthetician guide clients with acne regarding sun exposure? The consensus is to apply the right sunscreen daily.
Physical sunscreens are a good option for clients that have acne. Ingredients that are considered physical sunscreens are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Recommend at least an SPF 15 with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. As a side note, zinc oxide is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory – an added benefit for acne sufferers. and make sure the sunscreen is a non-comedogenic formula.
Seek shade or try and stay out of the sun between 10 A.M to 2 P.M. when the sun is the strongest and wear protective wide-brimmed hats (three inches or more).
In conclusion, sun exposure does not help acne and can lead to worsening. Clients can, and should, curtail this by following sun exposure safety guidance.
Michele Corley is the founder and president of Michele Corley Clinical Skin Care, a nationally distributed professional use only skin care line based in Napa, California. Corley holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Georgia Southern University, is a licensed aesthetician, and completed advanced cosmetic chemistry at UCLA. Prior to founding and launching Michele Corley Clinical Skin Care, she earned multiple sales awards while working for a leading skin care contract manufacturer and ranked as a top sales and marketing professional. Corley’s mission is simple: provide aestheticians with clean, efficacious products and back it up with exceptional customer service.