Sunscreen allergy what to do
There are two ways a sunscreen allergy generally appears: as a contact allergy or contact photoallergy, according to Anna Feldweg, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an attending physician in allergy and immunology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
With contact allergies, Dr. Feldweg explains, "You get a rash where the product is applied." But in a contact photoallergy, the reaction is due to an interaction between sunscreen chemicals and sunlight, "so you get the rash where the sunscreen was applied but only once the skin has been exposed to the sun," she says.
A sunscreen allergy may appear when you first start using a sunscreen, or it can develop after years of sunscreen use.
You might experience an allergic reaction immediately or several days after applying the sunscreen.
According to Zeichner, these are some signs of a sunscreen allergy:
- Red skin
- Blisters that are filled with fluid
Other symptoms may include:
- Raised bumps
Learn the Risk Factors for a Sunscreen Allergy
If you own a history of eczema or other allergies, you may be more likely to develop an allergy to chemical sunscreen, and the ingredients may elicit a true allergic reaction through your immune system, says Zeichner.
If you own generally sensitive skin or a condition love rosacea, chemical sunscreen ingredients may be directly caustic to your skin, he adds.
You may also be at an increased risk for a sunscreen allergy if you’ve had contact dermatitis with other products or if sunscreen allergies run in your family.
How You Can Prevent a Sunscreen Allergy
If you know which ingredients you’re allergic to, you can select sunscreens that don’t contain these ingredients and avoid getting a reaction, says Zeichner. If you own a known history of skin allergies or sensitive skin, stick to mineral-only sunscreens to avoid a potential reaction, he suggests. Zeichner recommends Neutrogena Sheer Zinc, which is a zinc-oxide-only formula that’s appropriate for every skin types and is unlikely to cause a skin reaction.
Check for Allergies by Doing a Patch Test
Patch testing is a process during which specific ingredients are applied to the skin and left in put for 48 hours to determine whether you develop an allergic reaction, explains Zeichner.
You can do a patch test at home by applying sunscreen to a little area of skin to make certain you do not develop a reaction.
When to See a Doctor About a Sunscreen Allergy
If you ponder you own a sunscreen allergy and you own any systemic symptoms (such as fever, chills, nausea, or difficulty breathing) or blistering, open, or raw skin, or if you’re treating your reaction and it isn’t getting better, you should visit a dermatologist for evaluation, says Zeichner.
How You Can Treat a Sunscreen Allergy
If you develop a sunscreen allergy, immediately clean your skin, says Zeichner.
If necessary, you can use over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone to calm the inflammation (in less severe cases, you can just leave it alone or apply a bland moisturizer, he adds). Stay out of the sun until your skin has healed, as sun exposure can exacerbate an existing allergic reaction, says Zeichner. This may take a few days.
Understand the Ingredients in Your Sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreen: chemical sunscreen and physical, or mineral, sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens are carbon-based compounds, also known as organic molecules, explains Dr. Zeichner. They protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) light by absorbing the energy and preventing it from passing through.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the chemical sunscreen ingredients that own been found to most commonly cause allergic reactions in the skin are oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), dibenzoylmethanes, cinnamates, and benzophenones.
Other ingredients love PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) own also been shown to cause allergic reactions but are rarely used in sunscreen in the United States.
Sunscreens known as physical, or mineral, sunscreens are free of organic (aka chemical) ingredients, explains Zeichner. They contain only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide combined with zinc oxide to block UV light. Mineral sunscreen is fairly effective and tends to be less irritating than chemical sunscreen, says Zeichner, but it may be more hard to spread on the skin and may leave behind a white or ashy appearance.
Mineral sunscreen is recommended for young children, because they don’t own the chemical filters that are more likely to cause skin irritation or allergies, adds Zeichner.
Choosing between a chemical or mineral sunscreen is a personal preference, but don’t believe any of the natural or homemade sunscreen recipes you might discover on the internet. A study published online in May 2019 in the journal Health Communication warns that these DIY options, which tend to include ingredients love coconut oil, shea butter, zinc, beeswax, olive oil, carrot oil, raspberry oil, lavender oil, and avocado oil, may offer insufficient UV protection and increase your risk of developing skin cancer compared to using commercially available sunscreens.