lots of people sunbathing on a beach

Hypermobility & Sunburn: You Need To Be Careful This Summer

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Hypermobility and sunburn commonly occur together. 1 in 3 Americans report getting sunburned every year. But the number of hypermobile people that are affected by sunburn is likely to be higher. 

As sunburn is linked to permanent skin damage, age spots, premature wrinkles, and cancer, you must be careful in the sun this summer. Here’s all you need to know about hypermobility and sunburn.

Do people with EDS sunburn easily?

Yes, people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) and hypermobility burn easily. There are many reasons for this, which we explain in detail further in this article. But some of the key reasons include having thin skin, scars and previous injuries, and collagen issues.

Why does hypermobility cause sunburn?

One theory as to why hypermobility causes sunburn is the body’s inability to produce good-quality collagen. Studies have found that taking collagen supplements orally can protect the skin from UVB rays. 

Collagen is naturally in the bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and cartilage in our bodies. But when you’re hypermobile, this collagen is faulty. Therefore, non-hypermobile people may naturally benefit from extra sun protection thanks to their good collagen. But for us hypermobile folk, our bad collagen offers no sun protection, meaning we’re more likely to burn.

Another reason why hypermobility causes sunburn is because hypermobility causes thin skin. It’s normal for hypermobile people to have skin that’s thin and translucent – so much so that their veins are prominent. The thinner your skin is, the more likely it is to burn when exposed to the sun. 

How to protect yourself from sunburn

All it takes is 15 to 25 minutes to burn in the sun. So, you need to take action to protect yourself from sunburn before you even step foot outside. Here’s how:

  1. Wear protective clothing – Covering your skin with clothing is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from sunburn. Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats with a wide brim to shade your face, neck, and ears. Amazingly, most items of protective clothing have a UPF of 50, which provides as much protection from the sun as possible.

  2. Apply sunscreen – Apply sunscreen with a high SPF (30 or higher) at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. SPF 30 sunscreen protects against 96.7% of UVB rays while factor 50 offers 98% protection. Always reapply it every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin, and don’t forget to apply it to your ears, lips, and the back of your neck.

  3. Seek shade – Stay in the shade during peak sun hours, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If you must be outside during these hours, seek shade under trees, umbrellas, or other coverings.

  4. Wear sunglasses – People with hypermobility often have blue sclera (the whites of the eyes). This happens because the sclera is thinner than it should be. Your eyes could get burn because of this. Protect your eyes from UV radiation by wearing sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays. Look for sunglasses with wraparound frames that provide additional protection.

  5. Check the UV index – Check the UV index in your area to determine the strength of the sun’s rays and plan your activities accordingly. When the UV index is high, take extra precautions to protect your skin.

  6. Avoid tanning beds – Tanning beds emit UV radiation that is just as harmful as the sun’s rays. Avoid tanning beds and opt for self-tanning products if you want a tan.

  7. Drink water – Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially when you’re outside in the sun. Dehydration can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

  8. Be extra cautious if you have fair skin –  If you have fair skin, you are more susceptible to sunburn and skin damage. Take extra precautions to protect your skin by following the tips above.

Does it take longer for people with hypermobility to heal from sunburn?

Yes, it usually takes longer for people with hypermobility and EDS to recover from sunburn. One reason for this is that our skin is thinner and more fragile than normal. If you think about when you get a bruise or a cut, it takes longer to heal than it would on a person without hypermobility. This also happens following sunburn.

Hypermobility also makes us more prone to injuries. As a result, our skin is more likely to have prior damage. Scars, for example, are more sensitive and prone to sunburn than healthy skin.

I previously got sunburn on my shoulders. It lasted for weeks and eventually turned into a tan. Now, a tan is only meant to last between 7 and 10 days, but this tan went on for months. Looking back, was it even a tan? I guess it could have been some sort of sun damage or pigmentation change.

Can you sunbathe with EDS?

Sunbathing with EDS or hypermobility isn’t a complete no-no. Being in the sun is crucial for topping up your vitamin D. Low vitamin D can contribute to aches and pains, as well as fatigue. Researchers say that spending around 30 minutes in the sun during the spring and summer is long enough to get enough vitamin D. But don’t forget your sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

However, the sun isn’t strong enough in the autumn and winter, and vitamin D supplementation is best.

Sunbathing can also improve your sleep. Total sleep time is reduced in people with EDS, according to research. So, being able to get better sleep as a result of spending time in the sun is good news. But make sure you don’t fall asleep in the sun as this will result in some painful, nasty sunburn.

Do people with EDS tan?

There’s no scientific evidence that says people with EDS and hypermobility can’t tan. I have read numerous reports online from hypermobile people saying they don’t tan, though. 

Personally, it’s very difficult for me to get a tan. The only places I ever seem to get a tan are on my feet and hands. And, even this tan is hardly noticeable. I did get quite a tan on my shoulders a few years ago, but the tan only came after getting badly sunburned!

Ehlers-Danlos and hypermobility make you more prone to sunburn. As sunburn comes with some serious health risks, make sure you take steps to protect your skin when you’re in the sun this summer.

Sources:

https://pdskin.com/blogs/uv-index-the-sun-safety-scale

Author

  • Amy

    Amy lives with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD). She spent years not knowing what was wrong with her body, before eventually being diagnosed in her 30s. She has two young children - both of whom are hypermobile.