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Be Careful When Treating Your Acne With the Sun

A woman with a sunburn on her face is curious if the sun helps with acne.


There’s nothing like the sun-kissed glow of newly tanned skin. Increased sun exposure can even skin tone, conceal red patches, and mask blemishes. But while it may seem like the miracle cure you’ve been searching for, sun exposure may not guarantee perfect skin, especially for those who suffer from repeated acne breakouts.

So, what’s the truth? Does the sun help with acne? Read on to find out!

Does the Sun Help With Acne?

Even though sun exposure might seem like a natural way to improve the appearance of a terrible breakout, we have bad news for you — the sun can make acne worse.

According to Jessica Wu, M.D., renowned dermatologist and author of “Feed Your Face,” ultraviolet light from the sun naturally kills the acne-causing bacteria on the skin. Once the sun kills the bacteria and your acne starts to heal, you might be happy with how your skin looks and think suntanning is dermatology’s best kept secret. However, Dr. Wu warns that too much exposure to UV light will not only exacerbate acne breakouts, but cause serious long-term damage to your skin.

As your skin darkens from suntanning, the blemishes on your skin, including acne scars, will darken as well. The sun also increases inflammation and can make your redness permanent, leaving you with uneven skin. Plus, when coupled with sunlight, certain medications and topical acne treatments can be incredibly damaging.

So, does the sun help with acne? Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t help with acne and can do more harm than good. Prolonged sun exposure can even lead to serious health problems like skin cancers!

Why Do People Think The Sun Helps With Acne?

At this point, you might be quite confused about the relationship between the sun and your skin. Sunlight has long been touted as being beneficial not only for your skin but for your health overall, and to some degree, that’s correct. 

The simplest benefit of sunlight is that it feels good. Relaxing on the beach, soaking in the sun and watching the calming waves will probably put you in a great mood, and that euphoric high could last for several days. In fact, many people suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), in which periods of depression occur during times of year when there is less sunlight.

Additionally, sun exposure helps manage your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal system that regulates your sleep and keeps your sleep/wake cycle on track. Getting enough quality sleep on a consistent basis is crucial to your health and wellbeing.

Along with boosting your mood and regulating your sleep cycle, sun exposure encourages your body to produce vitamin D, which happens naturally when the warm rays of the sun make contact with your skin. Having enough vitamin D is crucial to ensuring bone health, as well as keeping your muscles and brain cells strong.

With all these positive effects, it’s easy to see why one might ask, “Does the sun help with acne?” To some extent, it actually can.

As we mentioned earlier, the sun kills the acne-causing bacteria on your skin and can reduce swelling and redness associated with breakouts, leaving you with clearer skin after a tan. A better mood and better sleep is likely to reduce stress, which also results in healthy, beautiful skin.

But it’s important to remember that the long-term effects of overexposure to the sun are far from helpful for your skin, your acne breakouts, and your overall health.

Infographic: Be Careful When Treating Your Acne With The Sun

The Risks of Sun Exposure

In addition to darkening acne scars, sun exposure can dry out your skin. When your skin becomes too dry, it produces more oil, called sebum, to balance things out. An excess of sebum clogs your pores, and when that sebum mixes with dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells, a breakout is inevitable.

If you’re thinking of swapping suntanning with tanning beds for your acne's sake, think again. Tanning beds can also lead to breakouts.

Excessive sunlight can also cause premature aging of your skin, as sun damage can exacerbate dark spots and wrinkles and lead to uneven texture. You’ll appear years older than your actual age. More dangerously, sun damage affects your skin at the cellular level and can lead to skin cancer.


What Can Help With Acne?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “Does the sun help with acne?” the next logical question is, “What can help with acne?” 

Many acne-sufferers have seen amazing results from red light therapy. Decades of research have proven red light therapy is a safe, effective way to promote wound healing, reduce the appearance of scars, and improve the overall texture of the skin. Red light therapy energizes your cells, aiding in regeneration, and can also increase blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and maximize collagen production — all great news for your skin!

Interested in treating your breakouts with red light therapy? Consider the Luminance RED Acne Treatment Device. In a recent study, participants testing this device saw amazing results, with 20% reporting an improvement in acne and 15% reporting a better quality of life. In fact, with each treatment, participants reported increasingly positive results.

Though the sun isn’t the miracle cure you’ve been looking for, there are treatment options out there that can help make breakouts a thing of the past!

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