Can I sunbathe with lupus?

No. Sun exposure is strongly discouraged when you have lupus. Protection from the sun is necessary for all patients, even those with lupus who have never had cutaneous signs.

When exposed to sunlight, the skin of lupus patients may overreact. The sun then promotes a lupus rash in areas of the skin exposed to light that is out of proportion to the degree of sun exposure. This sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity) is sometimes the first manifestation of lupus. Sun exposure can also cause a relapse of the disease and the appearance of other manifestations such as joint signs, fatigue and perhaps more severe damage. These manifestations often occur several weeks or even months after sun exposure. Lupus flares are thus more frequent in autumn and early winter. The delay between sun exposure and the onset of the lupus flare explains why often the link between the two is not made by the patient.

What to do

> Avoid sunbathing and frequenting places where reverberation is strong, such as the sea, high mountains (snow and water reflect the ultraviolet rays of the sun)

> Avoid going out and being exposed to the sun during the hottest hours of the day, between 12:00 and 16:00, when ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at its maximum

> Do not wear white, wet or loosely woven clothes, as they attract the sun's rays dangerously and the white reflects the light.

> Do not believe that an umbrella used alone is enough for effective protection, because sand and water reflect the sun's rays

> Apply sunscreen to the face and body, with a maximum protection factor (50+), which protects against UVA and UVB rays.


- To be effective, the application must:

  • be renewed every 2 hours and after each swim,
  • be done, even under cloudy weather, because nearly 80% of UVB rays pass through clouds, mist and fog,
  • be carried out even under an umbrella.

> Prefer wearing dry clothes, tightly woven (cotton, jeans) and dark colours. There are also anti-UV clothing on the market (at some sportswear shops)

> Be careful that T-shirts do not protect the arms and it is better to favour long sleeves. Similarly, pants should be preferred over shorts.

> Protect the face with a wide-brimmed hat, or a visor cap, and the eyes with sunglasses with a UVA/UVB filter

> Avoid photosensitising drugs: topical (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and phenothiazine), and oral medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cyclins, quinolones)

In the absence of sun, self-tanners are allowed, but it must be remembered that they are absolutely not photoprotective...