When you have vitiligo, protecting your skin is essential. Skin that has lost its natural color can burn easily and worsen vitiligo.1 Sun exposure can also increase the contrast between normally pigmented skin and lighter patches caused by vitiligo.1
There are steps you can take to protect your skin from the sun.
What does it involve?
Sunscreens are rated by sun protection factor (SPF) numbers, which indicate how long you can stay in the sun without getting burned. Higher SPF numbers are better, but consistent, regular use of sunscreen is the most important aspect in protecting skin.
Apply a UVA/UVB (broad spectrum) sunscreen daily with minimum 30 SPF or higher to all exposed areas of skin.1 Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days and while driving; UV light can pass through clouds and car windows, according to a recent study.2,3
Adults should use the equivalent of one fluid ounce to cover their whole body uniformly, and reapply every two hours - or immediately after physical exercise, profuse sweating, or extended time in the water.3 Waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen should be applied to cool, dry skin. For school-age children, roll-on sunscreens are recommended because they can be easily applied with little spillage.
Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, unless otherwise directed by the package instructions. Lip sunscreens should be applied 45 to 60 minutes before sun exposure.
Wearing SPF-treated clothing provides another layer of protection. However, not all SPF clothing is equal; thicker, colored fabrics are most protective. A long-sleeve denim shirt, for example, provides an SPF of about 1,700. White T-shirts offer less protection, around SPF 7, while a green T-shirt may provide SPF 10.1
Do not use tanning beds and sun lamps. These are not safe alternatives to the sun and can burn or age skin that has lost pigment.1
If a rash or irritation develops, stop using the sunscreen and check with your doctor.