What Is A Sunscreen Allergy?
A sunscreen allergy, also known as sunblock allergy or photodermatitis, is an adverse reaction of the skin to the ingredients found in sunscreen products. The allergy is typically caused by the active ingredients in sunscreen, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, or titanium dioxide. Other ingredients known to cause an allergic reaction are benzophenones, cinnamates, and dibenzoylmethanes.
Sunscreen allergy is rare and most people that react to sunscreen usually have a sensitivity rather than a true allergy. Individuals may be sensitive to the fragrances, preservatives, or other additives used in sunscreens.
If you are allergic to sunscreen, even a small amount could trigger an allergic reaction. Knowing the symptoms of sunscreen allergy will help you determine if you could have an allergy and when to contact medical personnel.
Sunscreen Allergy Symptoms
Symptoms of sunscreen allergy include:
- Redness and inflammation of the skin
- Itching or hives
- Swelling or blistering
- Burning or stinging sensation
- Rash or eczema-like patches
- Bumps or raised areas on the skin
- Sensitivity to sunlight (phototoxicity)
Although rare, certain sunscreen ingredients have the potential to cause anaphylaxis. This study proved that the sunscreen ingredient benzophenone-3 can cause anaphylaxis. People with pre-existing skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, are at increased risk of developing a sunscreen allergy. If you experience sunscreen allergy symptoms, you should visit an allergist as soon as possible.
Sunscreen Allergy Diagnosis
Patch testing is the most accurate way to test for sunscreen allergy. Patch testing is commonly used by dermatologists and allergists to determine the cause of contact dermatitis or other allergic skin conditions. During a patch test, a small amount of sunscreen is applied to small patches which are then placed on your back. The patches are generally left in place for 48 hours, during which you will be instructed to avoid activities that may cause excessive sweating or water exposure.
It’s important to note that allergy patch testing may cause some discomfort such as itching. Our allergy specialists will carefully examine the skin under each patch to evaluate any signs of an allergic reaction. We look for redness, inflammation, swelling, or other skin changes that indicate a positive reaction to sunscreen.
Sunscreen Allergy Treatment
The best treatment for sunscreen allergy is to avoid the ingredient that causes the reaction. If you accidentally come into contact with the ingredient, there are treatments to help soothe your symptoms. Topical corticosteroids help treat mild to moderate skin reactions. These medications help reduce inflammation, redness, itching, and other skin symptoms. Oral antihistamines also help with itching, hives, or other allergic symptoms that are present.
While anaphylaxis is rare, it can happen if you are allergic to sunscreen. So, you may need to carry epinephrine if your allergist determines your sunscreen allergy is severe. Our specialists will help you manage your sunscreen allergy. Just book your appointment at one of our allergy centers in New York City.
Sunscreen Allergy Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Be Allergic to Sunscreen?
If you experience allergy symptoms after applying sunscreen, you could be allergic to sunscreen. Some individuals may also develop a sensitivity to the fragrances, preservatives, or other additives found in sunscreen products.
Why Are People Allergic to Sunscreen?
Sunscreen allergy is typically caused by the active ingredients in sunscreen, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, or titanium dioxide. Other ingredients known to cause an allergic reaction are benzophenones, cinnamates, and dibenzoylmethanes.
How Is Sunscreen Allergy Diagnosed?
An allergist can diagnose sunscreen allergy through allergy testing. Patch testing is the most common method of diagnosis.
Is Sunscreen Allergy Curable?
Sunscreen allergy is not curable. However, there are ways to treat symptoms such as using topical steroids and antihistamines.
Can I Still Protect Myself From the Sun If I Have A Sunscreen Allergy?
It’s important to protect yourself from the sun even if you have a sunscreen allergy. You can try using alternative sunscreen with different ingredients or opt for physical sun protection methods like wearing protective clothing.
What’s the Difference Between a Sunscreen Allergy and a Sunscreen Sensitivity?
A sunscreen allergy refers to an immune system response triggered by specific ingredients or components in sunscreen products. Sunscreen sensitivity, on the other hand, refers to a non-allergic adverse reaction to sunscreen products. It is a broader term that encompasses various skin reactions that are not specifically immune system-mediated.