While many are aware that protection from sunlight is important to prevent skin cancer, rosacea patients have even further reason to minimize their exposure. In fact, beyond being the top trigger for rosacea flare-ups named by 81 percent of patients in a National Rosacea Society survey, researchers have found that sun exposure may be linked to the visible blood vessels (telangiectasia) often associated with rosacea.
"Although many people with rosacea may know they should avoid the sun, sometimes it's difficult to do this, especially in the summer," said Dr. Zoe Draelos, clinical associate professor of dermatology, Wake Forest University. "Whenever possible, rosacea patients need to limit the amount of time in direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is strongest. It's best to stay in the shade whenever possible, and to use a sunscreen the year round."
Dr. Draelos explained that most sunscreens today are labeled with an SPF -- sun protection factor -- of varying degrees. "We suggest that rosacea patients use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and make sure the label also indicates that it is effective against UVA and UVB radiation as well," she stressed.
In research funded by the National Rosacea Society, doctors from the department of dermatology at Boston University found that sun exposure -- aside from triggering redness -- appears to stimulate a substance in the body that may lead to the development of visible blood vessels. The research potentially sheds significant light on the vascular component of rosacea -- which could be attributed to damage from the sun.1
"Rosacea patients with very sensitive skin may also experience irritation from some sunscreens themselves," Dr. Draelos said. "To minimize irritation, patients might want to try a pediatric sunscreen formulation, or one with a moisturizer or a skin protectant such as dimethicone."
Dr. Draelos also advises rosacea patients to use a sunscreen that prevents the skin from becoming warm, such as those containing physical barriers like zinc oxide or micronized titanium oxide, which reflect rather than absorb UVB and UVA radiation. Finally, patients should remember to apply sunscreen liberally at least 30 minutes before going outdoors.
Kosmadaki MG, Yaar M, Arble BL, Gilchrest BA. UV induces VEGF through a TNF-alpha independent pathway. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal. 2003;17:446-448.