Does the sun help acne? Many people think that getting some sun and developing a tan can reduce acne. But is this true or just a myth? Turns out that all that time in the sun is simply giving the illusion of improved acne. In fact, for some skin types, sun exposure worsens the scar or flares up your acne thanks to sun damage from UV light. Don’t take it from us — we spoke to a dermatologist to find out if there is any truth to curing acne with the sun.
Does The Sun Help Acne?
As an acne sufferer, you’ve probably tried a variety of home remedies like lying out in the sun all day to “clear up” your acne. But does getting some sun really help? The short answer is “no”, according to Dr. Hooman Khorasani. Dr. Khorasani is a triple board-certified, fellowship-trained cosmetic and skin cancer surgeon based in New York.
“Many patients suffering from acne and psoriasis report that their acne and psoriasis improves during summer vacations, which includes sun exposure,” says Dr Khorasani. This is because UV light suppresses our immune system and has the ability to reduce inflammation. The catch? UV radiation also suppresses our immune system’s ability to do its usual surveillance of cancerous cells — and this contributes to skin cancer formation!
Skin can sometimes appear healthier because the sun provokes the production of melanin in the skin, which gives you a tan. Sun exposure can also temporarily dry out pimples. A tan can make the skin look more even as it is hiding spots or uneven texture, giving you the impression of improved acne. However, the sun causes more harm than good.
Astonishingly, up to the late 70’s, severe acne patients were treated with UV radiation or radiotherapy, explains Dr. Khorasani. “Decades later, many of these patients developed recurrent skin cancers,” he says. “When I was a surgical intern, one of the plastic surgeons I shadowed had an elderly female patient who had received UV treatment as a teenager, and developed over 50 skin cancers all over her scalp in her 70s. Unfortunately, she never survived the operation and was one of the first losses I had to experience during my surgical internship.”
Today, Dr. Khorasani has at least three patients with a history of UV light treatments for acne who are being treated for skin cancer. Evidently, UV overexposure may give us the illusion of temporary benefits but poses long term negative effects that may not appear until years later.
Can The Sun Get Rid Of Acne Scarring & Redness?
It’s fair to say that a tan can give the illusion of reduced scarring. But the reason people report a reduction in redness is because UV light suppresses our immune system and decreases an inflammatory response. This causes the redness to reduce in appearance in the short term.
The problem is that people forget the long-term consequences or don’t realize that sun exposure causes damage to the vulnerable scar pigment. “Collagen is the ‘brick and mortar’ of our skin, and in healthy skin, has a basket weave architecture,” explains Dr Khorasani. “But in scar tissue, the collagen fibers are layered in a parallel fashion as opposed to the basket weave pattern.”
If you ever see a change in a scar with sunburn, it’s important to seek medical advice. “Since scars do not contain as many melanocytes, they are also more prone to sunburns and therefore, the development of skin cancer,” explains Dr. Khorasani.
Are you already dealing with the consequences of sun damage? We’ve collated some treatment options below from both Dr. Khorasani and our in-house skin care experts.
Post-Sun Treatments For Acne Sufferers
As Forbes points out: “Sun avoidance and protection are important in helping this pigment change fade more quickly.” If you’re looking to help acne scars fade more quickly, the following skin care products can be used as post-sun treatments.
Toners & Serums
Our Lime Refresh Tonique tones and balances the skin with a formula that removes excess oil and minimizes pores. Citrus fruit oils refresh the skin, while lime juice acts as an astringent responsible for minimizing the appearance of pore size. Citrus fruit oils tone and refresh the skin, while lime juice acts as an astringent responsible for minimizing the appearance of pore size.
The Eminence Organics Stone Crop Serum is designed to hydrate and minimize the appearance of uneven skin tone and dark spots thanks to a combination of stone crop, green tea and bearberry extract.
If you enjoy a relaxing mask, the Citrus & Kale Potent C+E Masque offers a mixture of avocado oil, citrus and leafy greens. This formula contains properties to remove excess oil on the skin. It even protects the skin against the visible signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.
Our Clear Skin Probiotic Masque is a cooling and invigorating mask that eliminates the appearance of blemishes. It contains cucumber to tone problem areas and leave the skin feeling nourished. Lastly, the Eight Greens Phyto Masque – Not Hot improves the appearance of problem skin and oily complexions.
Eminence Organics Product Support Representative Nadira Kavanagh suggests refrigerating the treatment mask prior to the application of the product: “The additional cooling effect will provide a refreshing sensation during treatment.”
Dermatological Treatment Options For Acne Scars
If you want to pair your skin care products with something extra, you can ask your dermatologist about treatments designed to reduce acne scarring. Professional options use fractionated treatments of the scar (i.e only a "fraction" of the skin is treated in each session). These options include radio-frequency (RF) microneedling, mechanical microneedling and fractionated Co2 Laser, explains Dr. Khorasani. These treatments help with the appearance of acne scarring which is caused by a change in the architecture of collagen fibers in our skin:
- Radio-Frequency (RF) Microneedling: RF microneedling is a non-surgical aesthetic procedure that targets acne scars and stimulates the production of new collagen. It’s also used to tighten the appearance of the skin.
- Mechanical Microneedling: Tiny needles are inserted into the skin to break up scar tissue, stimulating the replacement of this lost tissue with healthy, normal collagen.
- Fractionated Co2 Laser: Facial resurfacing with fractional lasers can be one of the most effective skin care treatment options for facial scars.
Acne, at any age, can be infuriating and take a real toll on your confidence, but there are options available (not laying about in the sun, however!). Are you currently struggling with acne? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!