We all know that sunlight contains harmful UV rays that can damage your skin, and that you should wear SPF every day to keep your skin safe and healthy. But what are other ways to protect your skin from sun-related damage? An important step is to always test new skincare products for phototoxicity.

What is phototoxicity? Phototoxicity is a skin condition that occurs when photoreactive chemicals interact with sunlight, and it can lead to redness, skin irritation, and swelling similar to an exaggerated sunburn. Certain people are more predisposed to develop phototoxicity, while others develop this condition due to ingested or topical medications or other topical products.

In our everyday lives, photoreactive chemicals commonly occur in citrus and other organic ingredients, like essential oils. The right combination of lime or lemon juice and strong sunlight could lead to these damaging burns. Many products designed for anti-aging and skin cell turnover can remove melanin and other layers designed to protect your skin from the sun, so using the right sunscreen and minimizing your sun exposure is even more essential when using these products.

Additionally, you should always test a new skincare product on a small patch of skin — I recommend the inside of your wrist, an area that is similarly sensitive to the skin on your face — for at least 24 hours before applying regular quantities to your face. Any reaction when exposed to sunlight could indicate photoreactive chemicals in that product, but you’ll also be testing for any other allergens or irritants during this process. You’ll want to steer clear of any product that causes even a small amount of discomfort or irritation. That’s not the one for you!

You can treat minor cases of phototoxicity the same way you would a sunburn, but if you experience any additional symptoms, such as chills, fever, blistering, or more, you should see a dermatologist right away. If you’re concerned about phototoxicity as a side effect of any ingested medications, talk to your doctor and consider monthly skin checks, on top of your annual appointment.

You can schedule a skin check with me anytime by calling (212) 220 0776, and find more skin health information by subscribing to my newsletter and following me on Instagram!

Marnie B. Nussbaum, M.D., FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in non-invasive aesthetic rejuvenation.

There is not a more caring, more attentive, smarter dermatologist than Dr Marnie Nussbaum. I trust her implicitly with anything and highly recommend her.

— Carolyn Rosen


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