4 Surprising Things That Can Make You Prone to Sunburn

July 28, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Monika Wolaniuk, D.O. contributes to topics such as Family Medicine.

Gone are the days when you could walk onto any beach or pool deck and find someone slathering themselves in baby oil, then aiming a tanning reflector at their face. But even if you take proper precautions in the sun – methodically applying SPF 30 sunscreen and limiting your hours outdoors in peak sunlight – you might still look as though you overdid it while trying to achieve the “perfect tan” from decades ago.

It can be puzzling to develop a sunburn when you think that you’re doing the right things to protect your skin. But certain medications, dietary supplements, personal-care products and foods may increase your risk of sunburn. “Knowing what substances you put into, or onto, your body may help you avoid future sunburn surprises,” says Monika Wolaniuk, D.O., a family medicine specialist with Hackensack Meridian Medical Group.

Be careful about spending time out in the sun when you use any of the following:

Medications which may increase the risk of sunburn

Some of these commonly used drugs, whether topical or ingested, may make some people more photosensitive:

  • Antibiotics, such as tetracyclines
  • Antihistamines
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Retinoids
  • Hypertension medication
  • Cholesterol-lowering medication
  • Antifungal medication
  • Coal and tar derivatives, such as medicated shampoo
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Hormone replacement therapy

Dietary supplements which may increase the risk of sunburn

  • St. John’s wort
  • Gingko biloba

Personal-care products which may increase the risk of sunburn

  • Retinols
  • Glycolic acid
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Topical vitamin C
  • Perfumes or scented soaps
  • Deodorants
  • Certain sunscreens

Foods which may increase the risk of sunburn

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Dill
  • Fennel

Ways to care for your skin when you may be prone to sunburn

If you develop a sunburn or rash after taking medication or using another product which may cause sun sensitivity, make an appointment with your doctor. The doctor can help you determine what may have caused the problem, then share recommendations to help you avoid sunburn going forward.

“You may be able to switch to a different medication, change the time of day that you take medication or simply be aware that you should stay out of the sun while you’re on the medication,” says Dr. Wolaniuk. “Sustaining less sun damage over your lifetime may help reduce your risk of wrinkles or skin cancer in the future.”

Your doctor may recommend that you:

  • Limit the time that you spend in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., peak sunlight hours
  • Wear long sleeves, pants and a wide-brimmed hat if you’re out briefly during peak hours
  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and reapply every 2 hours that you’re outdoors
  • Gravitate toward sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
  • Don’t use tanning beds or visit tanning studios

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.