What to do If You Are Allergic to Sunscreen?

a woman applying sunscreen cream on her hand | What to do If You Are Allergic to Sunscreen

Did you know that sunscreen may cause an allergic reaction?

I'm not referring to dislike for a greasy feel or a white cast. These are bothersome, yet they do not harm your skin. I'm referring to a stinging, itchy red rash. And it expands. What's the matter?

Some UV filters, which shield you from the sun's harmful rays, might trigger an allergic response. Ouch!

Worst of all? Sunscreen is required. You'll still figure out a strategy – and sunscreen to avoid the adverse response.

Here's what causes sunscreen allergies and how to avoid them:

What Causes An Allergy To Sunscreen?

If you're allergic to sunscreen, you'll notice right away. An itchy, burning rash will appear everywhere you apply the lotion.

It's a response brought on by:

  • A combination of sunscreen and UV exposure (contact dermatitis) 
  • one of the chemicals in your sunscreen (phototoxic reaction).

The first scenario is more prevalent - and less difficult to correct.

Irritation Of The Skin Or Allergy? Who Is Most Likely To Develop A Sunscreen Allergy?

A sunscreen allergy may affect anybody, although you're more likely to acquire one if:

  • You spend a significant amount of time working outside.
  • Sunscreen should be applied to sun-damaged skin and also to prevent premature ageing.
  • Have a sun-related chronic condition? (for example, atopic dermatitis)
  • You're a lady (we use cosmetics with SPF, so more chance to get exposed and developing an allergy to UV filters)

What Ingredients Does Sunscreen Have?

As a result, you're more likely to acquire a sunscreen allergy. However, not all sunscreens are the same. Some of these are more hazardous to your health than others. It is dependent on the UV filters used:

  • Chemical UV Filters: UV filters are made of synthetic materials that absorb UV light and convert it to a less harmful and destructive form of energy (heat). Ingredients like Mexoryl, avobenzone, and oxybenzone are among them. They're more prone to irritate and trigger allergies.
  • White minerals that absorb UV radiation and convert them to heat are known as physical UV filters. They also deflect a little amount of UV radiation away from your skin. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two of them. They seldom cause contact dermatitis, although they may leave a white stain on the skin.

What Ingredients in Sunscreen Are Most Likely To Cause Allergies?

At any moment, anybody may acquire an allergy to anything. However, certain UV filters are known to cause allergies. The worst offenders are as follows:

  • Benzophenones are a class of chemicals that includes oxybenzone, methanone, benzophenone-3, and any other compound with the word "benzophenone" in its name.
  • Ethylhexyl-p-methoxycinnamate and 2-ethoxy ethyl-p-methoxycinnamate are examples of cinnamates. They're often used with benzophenones to increase the risk of irritation. Cinnamates are linked to Balsam of Peru allergies, therefore avoid them if you have them.
  • Dibenzoylmethanes: Avobenzone and eusolex 8020 belong to this category.
  • Octocrylene: Although it's a relatively new substance (it's been around for approximately two decades! ), it's already causing allergies in a lot of individuals.
  • PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) was one of the original sunscreen cream chemicals used in the United States, but it's now almost obsolete.
  • Ingredients like benzyl salicylate (the first sunscreen ever used in the United States), octyl salicylate, and any other compound that ends in "salicylate" are classified as salicylates. Contact dermatitis is possible, although it is uncommon.
  • Fragrance and preservatives: To make matters even more complicated, allergies and irritations aren't limited to UV filters. Your sunscreen's ingredients might all be to blame! Who are the most logical suspects? Preservatives and fragrances, particularly those that release formaldehyde.

How Do You Determine Who The Culprit Is?

The only way to be sure is to get a patch allergy test performed by your doctor. There is another option. It’s not as exact but, if you can’t go to a doctor yet, it will give you a fair sense of what the culprit may be:

Examine your sunscreen closely to see which chemical is making your life so difficult. Are there any substances you've never used before, particularly UV filters? Or, if you've tried many sunscreens and they've all caused you to break out, what UV filters do they all have in common? The answers to these questions will significantly reduce the number of suspects or perhaps identify the perpetrator right away.

What Can You Do If You Have A Sunscreen Allergy?

The most important thing is to be safe in the sun. This is how:

  • Wear protective clothing (including, women, sunglasses and hats!)
  • Use a mineral sunscreen (one that contains just zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as UV filters).
  • You can apply coconut oil, aloe vera, and olive oil before stepping out in sun.

Mineral sunscreens may leave a white cast and feel greasy. Don't be hesitant to test a variety of sunscreens until you discover the one that works best for you. Also, keep in mind that they are few costs for remaining safe in the sun.

Even after using a physical sunblock, you have a negative reaction. What options do you have?

There are a number of possibilities:

  • You have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide allergy: These allergies are very uncommon, yet you might be one of the unfortunate few that has them.
  • You're allergic to one of the formula's ingredients: As I previously said, the issue might be caused by a fragrance, a preservative, or any other chemical. Check the component list as described above to see if you can identify the offender.
  • A phototoxic response is occurring: As I said at the outset of this piece, the allergy might be triggered by a combination of sunscreen and sunshine. Apply sunscreen to a part of your body that isn't exposed to the sun. If you don't break out in a rash, you're having a phototoxic response. Consult your doctor for the most effective sun protection without side effects.

If you have a severe or repeated allergic response to sunscreen, you should see your doctor right once. The doctor may send them to an allergist, who will investigate the cause of the response.

According to earlier research, the sunscreen component benzophenone-3 has the potential to trigger anaphylaxis, a severe allergic response.

Take Away

If you're allergic to sunscreen, it's most likely to be one of the synthetic UV filters or a common allergy to scent or preservatives. A mineral sunscreen with as few chemicals as possible is your best choice. If it doesn't work, it's possible that sunlight is the issue. As soon as possible, see your doctor!