Your first exposures to the sun caused a reaction of the skin? You may be suffering from mild summer lucitis, commonly known (wrongly) as a “sun allergy”. What are the skin symptoms? What is the cause ? Responses with Dr Philippe Deshayes, dermatologist, and Dr Jean-Pierre Césarini, photobiologist, oncologist and President of the Solar Safety Association.

sun-allergy

Benign summer lucitis is the most common solar reaction. It occurs in the first days after sun exposure in spring or summer. “It is inappropriate to call it ‘allergy’ but that is the name patients give it “, says Dr Deshayes. “Rather, it is a local toxic reaction “, according to Dr. Césarini.

Symptoms of sun allergy

Lucitis is manifested by a rash of pimples. Skin symptoms are characterized by red papules, sometimes raised lesions such as hives, or even blisters. “This aspect can be misleading and suggest an acne breakout“says Dr. Deshayes. These lesions can be itchy.

The rash usually affects newly exposed areas such as the neckline, shoulders or even the upper arms. The face and forearms are spared. As well, “the symptoms of benign summer lucitis are directly proportional to the amount of solar radiation received “, reports Dr Césarini.

lucite-estivale-benign-pimples

The cause of benign summer lucitis

To explain the cause of lucite, it is important to distinguish UVB from UVA. If UVB is responsible for sunburns and tanning, it is UVA that causes allergies to the sun. “They can occur without sunburn, after exposure that has not been intense (cloudy sky, beginning or end of the day) but always before or at the beginning of the summer season “, emphasizes Dr Deshayes.

Most total screens protect from UVB but partially from UVA. Falsely reassured, vacationers would indulge in unreasonable overexposure believing themselves to be totally protected.

Lucite: who are the most vulnerable people?

Lucitis affects nearly 10% of adults with a clear preference for women, who represent 90% of victims. Namely that the people concerned are more young adults and that these manifestations can occur for a few years and then disappear. “Sometimes the reactions are so minimal that without itching they may go unnoticed“, notes our expert Laroche Posay.

Are there more severe forms to worry about?

As the name suggests, benign summer lucitis is not chronic. It lasts about a week and goes away without the help of treatment. The symptoms then reappear after each exposure to the sun, but subside and disappear with the tan. Lucitis usually recurs the following year. But in some cases, it is not a mild form. Other more severe forms exist and require consultation with a dermatologist.

Polymorphic lucite

Less common than benign summer lucitis, it occurs most often in young populations between 10 and 30 years old, but sometimes affects adults and older people.

It manifests in different ways depending on the patient: small pink pimples, red patches, small itchy red pimples (eczema) or pimples close together forming a circle. Present on the arms, face, décolleté, back of the hands, neck, shoulders and behind the ears, these skin manifestations itch. They appear during or after exposure to the sun.

This lucitis is chronic and symptoms persist with each exposure to the suneven after the skin is tanned. They can even be visible without exposure to the sun, especially in winter.

The skin reaction gets worse year after year, and must be the subject of a consultation with the dermatologist.

Solar urticaria

It is an allergic reaction which causes a few minutes after exposure to the sun:

  • Irritation;
  • Thick red patches;
  • Itches.

It disappears after a few minutes or, sometimes, several hours when the patient is no longer in the sun. It is important to consult a dermatologist because a treatment (antihistamine, corticosteroids, and / or soothing cream) helps soothe symptoms and improve the patient’s daily life.

Symptoms not to be confused with other pathologies

Be careful, the symptoms of summer lucitis are the same as in other pathologies. What can make one think of an allergy to the sun turns out to be sometimes a reaction caused by the application of a photo-toxic product such as perfume, the application or taking of a photosensitizing drug (ketoprofen gel or antibiotic of the quinolone family for example) driven by the sun.

To learn more, read our article on drug photosensitization and see our list of photosensitizers.

The hypothesis of solar herpes, most often localized on the lips and around the mouth, must be ruled out.

Contagious skin diseases

David Beme

Annabelle iglesias

Medical review: Dr Jesus Cardenas, Medical Director of Doctissimo, May 25, 2020

Created May 25, 2020

Sources:

  • Interview with Dr Philippe Deshayes, dermatologist, scientific consultant for La Roche-Posay, July 2017.
  • Lucitis and sun allergy, site of Dr Philippe Abimelec, dermatologist, May 2018 (

    accessible online).

  • Elizabeth H. Page, “Photosensitivity Reactions”, MSD Manual, May 2018 (

    accessible online).