Vitiligo is a relatively rare skin condition, but the sheer visibility of the white patches of skin that develop can give it a lot of control over your self-esteem. Whether you're actively treating your skin condition or learning to live with it, you definitely need to prevent sun exposure from damaging both your pigmented and non-pigmented areas. Discover how sunburns and vitiligo are connected and what you need to do about sun protection after a diagnosis.
Burns Are a Potential Trigger
Some cases of vitiligo first start spreading over your face, limbs, or torso in response to skin damage like a sunburn. If this was the case for you, it's likely that future sunburns will cause the white patches to grow in size, spread across portions of your body, or pop up in new areas. Managing your exposure and preventing burns by applying a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 will at least ensure your condition isn't aggravated by continuing sun damage.
Lack of Pigment Causes More Damage
The white patches that appear are still your normal, healthy skin; they're just missing the pigment known as melanin that gives each person's skin its unique color. Melanin primarily functions as a form of natural sunblock, so obviously the white patches that are lacking it will burn very easily. This means you're increasing your risk for skin cancer dramatically even with half an hour of unprotected exposure. Even if you're not concerned about a sunburn causing your vitiligo to spread, you should at least use sunscreen and other protective measures to protect yourself from skin cancer.
Avoiding Sun Won't Work
Since the visible variations in skin color can make you feel self-conscious, it's easy to just decide to avoid the sun altogether and spend as little time outdoors as possible. However, this is a quick route to a serious Vitamin D deficiency. You still need to get a healthy dose of sun every few days, and using sunblock allows you to absorb the right rays while blocking out the skin-damaging UVB and UVA light.
Medications Increase Photosensitivity
Finally, talk to your dermatologist about the potential for photosensitivity if you're using creams to treat the discoloration, especially oxsoralen. These topical treatments can work wonders for restoring even skin tone, but they'll increase your chances for a sunburn even further for a few days. Your doctor should tell you how long to stay out of the sun completely until the effect wears off. For more information, you can check out the site.