Dealing with Photosensitivity - General

Written by: SphynxCatVP
Link to original:

Actually, dealing with photosensitivity is much more simple and painless than you might think. It's just that the causes are not always simple and painless. This article works under the assumption that the photosensitivity issues are limited to oversensitive eyes and somewhat sensitive (or easily prone to burning) skin, and thus need minor or basic protective measures. (This used to be broken up into two articles - I've cleaned them up a lot and combined them into one so the information is all in one place.)

There are ailments such as Xeroderma Pigmentosum (a genetic disorder that is often fatal by late teens without proper care) and Polymorphus Light Eruption (an actual allergy to at least sunlight, if not UV in general) that cause far GREATER reactions to sunlight and require far greater protection methods; ailments such as these are beyond the scope of this article.

Basic sun protection tips

  • Stay in the shade, when possible, between 10am and 4pm
  • Remember that even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the UV still penetrates cloud cover!
  • Avoid tanning booths of any type
  • Cover up with tight-weave clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Apply 1 ounce (apx 2 tablespoons) of sunscreen/sunblock to your body 15-30 minutes before going outside
  • Reapply 15-30 minutes after exposure
  • Reapply again after activity involving things such as swimming, sweating, toweling off, and vigorous rubbing.



Clothing should have a tight/dense weave to let less light through, and ideally long sleeves and long pantlegs. This does not mean the fabric has to be heavy - only that it has to have a very dense weave. Lighter fabrics allow your body to 'breath" better in hot temperatures, and looser fits allow the breeze to get under the fabric and cool you off better. Experiment to find out which fabrics work better for you - some people can't tolerate polyester and polyester blends, others can't tolerate cottons.

Black is not a requirement! And in fact, in hot weather, black is usually one of the worst colors because it retains the heat more than lighter colors do. On the other hand it's often easier on the eyes because it reflects less light, so it all depends on what you're more comfortable dealing with.

(See the "UV Protective Clothing" section in the links box below.)


Hat or visor - something with a brim over the eyes. A 4" brim all around the hat is recommend for best results. If your hat does not sit tightly, make sure it has a chin strap so you have less chance of losing it in a stiff breeze.

Light bulbs

Some people are bothered by flourescent lighting, such as compact flourescents, due to flicker. All flourescents flicker, even the ones in LCD computer monitors (they're backlit by cold cathode flourescent tubing.) Not everyone notices the flicker, but it IS there.

If this flicker bothers you, try incandescent bulbs (there are eco-friendlier versions out nowadays) or LED bulbs. Around Christmas time, you can find light strings that use LED bulbs now (as of 2010) - besides the lack of flicker, the other advantage is that the use very little power, so they're very energy efficient. There are also LED bulbs that go in a standard light bulb socket (a/k/a "edison" or "Medium" socket) but they are still (as of 2010) $20-$40 apiece depending on the bulb and the store. Prices WILL come down, just give it time. Compact flourescent bulbs were about the same price range when they came out back around 2000 or so, and now you can get a 3-pack of 60-watt equivalent for around $5 or so in most discount stores.

Welders' jackets

Welding jackets are nice because you don't have to worry about any light getting through the leather. :) However, they're not the kind of jacket you buy if you want to make a fashion statement with your sun protection. What they are is 100% practical - they block the light, and some of the brands are also heat treated (to reduce the heat you feel) since welding equipment gives off heat as well as UV radiation. If you want to see what they look like, Here's a welding jacket picture:

Eye protection

Dark glasses, general

These do not have to be prescription sunglasses, but they DO have to have UV blocking. Experiment to find out if any commonly available sunglasses will be dark enough for you. Definitely combine sunglasses with a hat for the most comfort.

(As a courtesy, I do take my sunglasses off when I go indoors, unless it's obnoxious bright or I have a migraine. A lot of people are nervous if they can't see the other person's eyes. I don't know why, it's just something I've noticed over the years.)

Welding glasses

UVEX Astrospecs - These are REALLY not something to make a fashion statement with, but they're not screaming "welding equipment!" at 20 paces either. Here's a picture of the Astrospecs and here's the UVEX product lens chart for a general overview of the different types of lenses you can get for them (one advantage is that the lenses on this style are removable, not fixed, so you can use whatever lens colors you like on the same frames.) You'll need Acrobat Reader to view the PDF files that are linked off the lens chart, but the main lens chart page is in standard HTML format.

Your local welding store should carry these in stock if they stock supplies for "OxyAcetelyne torch welding".

You can also visit Uvex's eyewear product listing directly, though they do not sell directly to consumers. It's always good to see what they currently offer, though, and so that you know what lens options are still available.

Lens tinting

Try differently tinted glasses - your eyes may be more sensitive to a different portion of the spectrum than others, and may need different color tinting than normal in order to stay comfortable. For instance, I know someone who uses red tinted lenses for day-to-day use, whereas I normally use the green-tinted (Uvex) Shade 5 lenses normally. It all depends on what makes your eyes comfortable.

The advantage with the Welding glasses mentioned above is that it's easy to try different colors fairly cheaply (around $10 or so per lens) instead of paying $100 and up for a pair of prescription glasses.


Vitamins C & E to prevent damage

Take these in a 2:1 ratio, respectively. This reduces or eliminates long term UV damage (and it *MIGHT* - but only MIGHT - give you a longer time before you burn, but I can't positively say yet.) See this article on preventing sun poisoning and UV damage for details.

Vitamin D

Just because you're avoiding the sun doesn't mean you can skip your vitamin D! Normally the body makes vitamin D with sun exposure (hence why it's called the "sunshine vitamin"), but if you're avoiding the sun, obviously the body isn't going to get that process going very well. In more tropical regions, full body exposure to the sun for about 30 minutes generates 10,000IU's of vitamin D naturally. This figure is greatly reduced the further north or south from the equator you are!

Because I don't get a lot of sun myself (for obvious reasons, heh) I am currently taking 5,000IU's of vitamin D a day. This is a slight adjustment in 2009 based on bloodtest results in spring of that year, because showed my vitamin D levels were a little below optimum. For several years prior, I was taking 4,000IU's a day of vitamin D with no resulting health issues at all - unless you count never getting the flu anymore to be an issue *grins*. Vitamin D is relatively inexpensive (the variety of softgels I was getting tends to run around $10 or so for a 250-count bottle; but 5,000IU dose pills are commonly available on Amazon from Now Foods as well) so it's relatively cost-effective to keep it in the diet.

Softgels or capsules are greatly preferred - vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, and should be taken with fats for best results - and NEVER get tablet or caplet forms, especially if you have digestive issues of ANY sort.


Bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, radish sprouts, mung bean sprouts, etc. Eat at least a handful daily. This will (and I know from personal experience) somewhat reduce the annoyance from bright lights and sunlight. It won't really eliminate it, but it will reduce it. Keep this up - if you stop, your eyes will become more photosensitive again, and believe me, you WILL notice. If your doctor has told you you're losing your sight (whether from diabetes or cataracts or whatever), over time, this diet WILL IMPROVE YOUR SIGHT.

Window coverings

There are often a variety of options for light blocking window coverings. Generally what offers the best light blocking capability are solid vinyl (not fabric) roller shades - these are often cheap, but not terribly nice looking. In otherwords, practical but not fashionable.

You can get simaler light blocking capability from vertical blinds, which are often made in a light-blocking variety (some varieties of vinyl/plastics), and can be found in discount stores, but are not always cheap even there. And if you have an odd-sized window, you may just be out of luck for off-the-shelf varieties and may be forced to order them custom-sized.

The next option is horizontal blinds - however, the slats aren't as tight together, so you do get light leakage through them. Again, these can be expensive, especially if you have to have them custom-sized. However, depending on how you have them mounted, you can have roller shades under them or some other light blocking screen/film method to block more light. It all depends on how you like your windows.

(See the "Window Treatments" section in the links box below.)

On the more unusual side, I've heard of windows being covered with standard bedsheets, blankets, sheets of insulation boards, and the occasional mattress. It all depends on who you're living with as to what you can get away with. I do recommend if you're using one of the more unusual methods, that first covering the window with a layer of white fabric (so that it looks mostly normal from the outside) is probably a good idea. You can use any color as the outside-facing layer, but the sun is going to bleach anything and turn it white eventually, so you might as well start with white.

Skin protection, general

General skin covering - besides welding jackets, long sleeved shirts/coats as well as long pants are good basic methods of keeping your skin covered - it's not necessarily how thick the fabric is as much as how tight the weave is. A thick, but not very tight weave fabric will still let light through, whereas a tightweave fabric will let much less light through.