July 31, 2018

Do You Have a Sunscreen Allergy?

Wearing sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin from the sun’s dangerous UV rays. Dermatologists all over the world recommend the use of sunscreen every day. However, some people develop a skin rash or irritation when applying a sunscreen lotion to their skin. These symptoms may indicate a sunscreen allergy, even though it’s rare.


Why Are Some People Allergic to Sunscreen?


Skincare products cause allergic reactions in many people, but only a small percentage of them are allergic to sunscreen. According to a study that involved more than 20,000 patients, an allergy to sunscreen affects only 1 percent of the population. The study was conducted between 2001 and 2010.

When it comes to a true sunscreen allergy, there are two types of allergic reactions that can be triggered by sunscreen products: contact allergy and photo-allergy.

Contact allergy, or contact dermatitis, is a more common type. In this case, an allergic reaction is a result of a direct contact between the skin and a chemical contained in a sunscreen product. Experts point out that this allergy doesn’t depend on whether or not you are exposed to the sunlight.

If you experience the symptoms of sunscreen allergy only when you are exposed to the sun, it’s most likely a photoallergic reaction. When the sun’s rays interact with a chemical in a sunscreen, your skin will develop the rash.

According to specialists, allergies normally occur after a first exposure to the trigger. The allergy-inducing chemicals contained in sunscreen can also be found in various cosmetics, shampoos, skin lotions, etc. This means that the initial reaction in people with sunscreen allergies can develop because of another product.

People allergic to sunscreen can react to both active and inactive ingredients. Fragrances and preservatives are some of the most common triggers of skin allergies. In addition, sunscreen products contain various chemicals blocking UVB light, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, or cinnamates. These chemicals can also trigger an allergy. For example, an effective ultraviolet light-blocker known as PABA (para-aminobenzoic) is associated with a high risk of allergies, which is why people don’t use it anymore.

Who Is at Risk for a Sunscreen Allergy?


Having a history of eczema or any other skin allergies increases the risk of developing a sunscreen allergy. The risk is also higher among young women, which may be due to the fact that women use more cosmetics in general. According to research, people older than 40, males and those with occupational dermatitis are less likely to have an allergy to sunscreen.

What Are the Symptoms of a Sunscreen Allergy?


People with sunscreen allergies usually experience a red, itchy rash on the skin area exposed to sunscreen. Experts say that the rash is similar to the reaction caused by poison ivy. Some people may also develop swelling or blisters filled with fluid.

If you notice these symptoms after applying a sunscreen, remove the product from your skin immediately. To prevent the reaction in future, you may need to avoid using the sunscreen again.

It would also be a good idea to consult with a specialist. The doctor can perform special allergy testing in order to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Are There Any Alternatives to Sunscreen?


Sunscreen helps to prevent the damage caused by the sun’s radiation, as well as the development of skin cancer. Even if you are allergic to sunscreen products, you should protect your skin.

Fortunately, there are various alternatives to popular sunscreen products. Thus, you can try using a physical or mineral sunscreen, which is less likely to cause an allergy. Unlike chemical sunscreen that penetrates the skin, this alternative just stays on top of the skin surface.

Experts recommend that people with sunscreen allergies and sensitive skin use mineral sunscreens. The active ingredients of physical sunscreens – zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – help to reflect the sunlight. Although physical sunscreens are more visible on the skin, as they don’t soak in, they are less irritating for the skin, especially if you have an allergy.

Thus, such brands as Aveeno and Neutrogena offer some of the best mineral sunscreens on the market. Both products are based on zinc oxide as UV filter – an ingredient that provides an effective, high quality protection against the dangerous rays without causing an allergic reaction or irritation.

Sunscreens that contain colloidal oatmeal provide even more protection for the sensitive skin and also hydrate the skin. Certain physical sunscreens are good at resisting water, and you can also find the one that is suitable for using under makeup.

The Bottom Line


Apart from sunscreen, experts recommend wearing sunglasses, a hat, and rash guards, in order to improve your protection. Combination of these accessories and a high quality, allergen-free sunscreen will provide an effective protection from UV light, letting you enjoy the sunny summer days without having to worry too much.

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