Posted on by CosMedical Technologies

In the middle of July, our risk of photodamage is reaching its peak — but the UV index isn’t the only factor to consider if clients want to keep their skin protected from sun damage this summer.

There are a few common skincare ingredients that have been shown to increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Some can be used safely, while others might do more harm than good. 


Retinol and AHAs (like glycolic acid) are two of the most highly-recommended ingredients for a radiant, youthful-looking complexion. Although both are ideal for improving the signs of photoaging, these skin-renewing multitaskers can sometimes intensify sun damage by the same mechanism they use to reverse it: exfoliation.

The layer of dead cells on skin’s surface naturally offers some protection from ultraviolet light. By stripping away this layer, chemical exfoliants not only reveal the fresh, bright new skin underneath, but expose it. This allows sunlight to penetrate more easily into living tissue to cause sunburns, inflammation, discoloration, premature aging, and more. 


  • Salicylic Acid - BHA is less likely than AHA to increase skin’s sensitivity to UV rays; however, all forms of exfoliation can affect the skin, particularly for sensitive skin types.
  • Hydroquinone and Kojic Acid - Along with causing photosensitivity, these brighteners are excluded from all CosMedical Technologies products due to a documented risk of harmful side effects. 
  • Essential Oils - When combined with sun exposure, certain fruit oils and extracts – notably bergamot, lime, and lemon – can cause phytophotodermatitis in some groups of people. (Note: CosMedical’s formulas use essential oils that have been modified to remove the active UV-sensitizing compounds.)


Retinol and AHAs are best used at night to limit sun exposure. Even so, however, it’s important to protect skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day. Clients who spend a lot of time outdoors may wish to switch to a lower-strength retinoid or glycolic acid formula for their summertime skincare routine. For more natural brightening, topical Vitamin C is an excellent alternative that doubles as a photoprotective antioxidant treatment. 


Like any potent active you put on or in your body, retinoids and AHAs should be used with care, but this does not negate the tremendous benefits they have to offer. Don’t hesitate to recommend these rejuvenating ingredients throughout the year. Simply make sure to advise clients of the product’s precautions — and if possible, send them home with a sunscreen, too.

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