Polymorphous light eruption (PLE) is a common idiopathic photosensitivity disorder with an estimated prevalence of 10–20%. It is characterized by an intermittent skin reaction to ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure, consisting of non-scarring pruritic erythematous papules, vesicles or plaques that develop on light-exposed skin. Despite the different morphology in different individuals, the eruption tends to have a monomorphous presentation in any single subject. The histopathological features of PLE are distinct and comprise a perivascular lymphocytic infiltrate in the dermis, subepidermal oedema and variable epidermal changes. The pathogenesis of PLE is not well known, but findings suggest that it is a delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction to one or more UV-modified cutaneous antigens. The principal action of PLE is mainly in the UVA region, although some subjects exhibit sensitivity to UVB alone or to both UVA and UVB radiation at the same time. Preventive measures in PLE include the regular use of photoprotective methods combined with graduated exposures to natural sunlight. The induction of immune tolerance by phototherapy and photochemotherapy are useful prophylactic methods in moderate to severe cases. The role of systemic agents in the management of PLE is under investigation. This article reviews the epidemiological, pathogenetic and clinical aspects of PLE and discusses recent advances in the diagnostic approach and management of this condition.