Medications That Cause Sun Sensitivity

Jul 18, 2022 | All

(And what to do about it)

Medications That Cause Sun Sensitivity

Summer is in full swing, and with it many are outside, enjoying  outdoor activities and fun in the sun. While the benefits of being outdoors can not be underestimated, sun exposure when using many prescriptions and nonprescription medicines can result in sensitivity and skin damage.

Below is a list taken from the FDA of drugs that can cause skin sensitivity and skin damage when exposed in the sun.

Medications That Cause Sun Sensitivity

According to the FDA:

  • Antibiotics -ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, levofloxacin, ofloxacin, tetracycline, trimethoprim)
  • Antifungals -flucytosine (Ancobon) , griseofulvin (Gris Peg) , voricanozole (Vfend)
  • Antihistamines -cetirizine (Zyrtec, Zyrtec Allergy, Children’s Zyrtec Allergy, Children’s Zyrtec Hives Relief, PediaCare Children’s 24-Hour Allergy, Aller-Tec, and Wal-Zyr), diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Genahist, Sominex, Unisom), loratadine (Claritin), promethazine (Phenergan), cyproheptadine (Periactin)
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs -simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Altoprev), pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • Diuretics- thiazide diuretics: hydrochlorothiazide Microzide, HydroDiuril, and Oretic), chlorthalidone, chlorothiazide.; other diuretics: furosemide and triamterene)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen(Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex), piroxicam (Feldene), ketoprofen (Actron)
  • Oral contraceptives and estrogens
  • Phenothiazines -tranquilizers, anti-emetics: examples, chlorpromazine (Thorazine and Largactil) promethazine, thioridazine (Mellaril Topper), prochloroperazine (Stemetil, Buccastem)
  • Retinoids (acitretin, isotretinoin)
  • Sulfonamides – sulfadiazine, sulfamethizole (brand name: Thiosulfil Forte), sulfamethoxazole (Gantanol), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), sulfisoxazole (Gantrisin)
  • Sulfonylureas for type 2 diabetes- Glimepiride (Amaryl) Glyburide (DiaBeta; Micronase) Glipizide (Glucotrol)
  • Alpha-hydroxy acids in cosmetics


Below are some tips to enjoy the great outdoors while on any of the above medications:

Avoid Sun exposure

When outside, seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – some organizations recommend as late as 4:00 p.m. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays may be stronger when reflected off water, sand and snow.

Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats to limit sun exposure.

Use a broad sunscreen regularly and as directed. Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. An SPF 15 is the minimum number needed to provide measurable protection; however, a sunscreen with an SPF value of 30 or higher is recommended. Rarely, some sunscreen ingredients can cause photosensitivity themselves.

A Word About Sunscreens

Medications That Cause Sun Sensitivity

Environmental Working Group (EWG) founded in 1990, is a 501C3 nonprofit that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants, and corporate accountability. They publish reports on various consumer products such as detergents, cosmetics, food and water safety, etc. They have published their 2022 sunscreen ingredient and testing list that tests sunscreen effectiveness and ingredient safety.

Their peer reviewed study, completed in Fall of 2021 of 51 sunscreens tested showed that many of these sunscreens did not protect as well as claimed. UVA radiation is found to cause skin cancer. SPF is the standard by which sunscreens make their claim that they provide protection against suns rays, however SPF only measures a small portion of the UV light spectrum. This is different than testing against the entire UV light spectrum.

In other words, SPF does not mean that you are protected against UVA cancer causing rays.

How to select an effective sunscreen

Look for a sunscreen that

  1. States it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen
  2. Has a SPF of 30 or greater
  3. Is water resistant or waterproof

EWG has published an up-to-date sunscreen lists for everyday use, safe for infants and children, sport and water activities and more. Check them out before purchasing new sunscreen.

By the way, you should always throw out and purchase new sunscreen every year.   Environmental Working Group approved sunscreens

If you have questions about your medications and the possibility of a photosensitivity, contact your health-care professional or pharmacists. Taking a few precautions can help limit your risk of photosensitivity and keep the sun shining on your fun.


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