Photosensitization may be defined as a process in which a reaction to normally innocuous radiation is induced by the introduction of a specific radiation-absorbing substance (the photosensitizer) that causes another component (the substrate) to be changed by the radiation. This review focuses on photosensitization produced by exogenous chemicals. Idiopathic photodermatoses, including polymorphous light eruption and its variants, solar urticaria and chronic actinic dermatitis, are also discussed. Clinical recognition patterns of the photodermatoses are stressed as well as several diagnostic procedures available for confirmation of the condition. Finally, descriptions, therapeutic uses, and adverse reactions of sunscreens are provided.
Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.