Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sunscreen allergies: Are you allergic to sunblock?

 Everyone knows that if you are planning on being in the sun you should wear sunscreen. However do you find that you tend to avoid sunscreen because it irritates your skin? It is possible to be allergic to sunscreen.  Here is a list of signs that could mean you’re allergic to sunscreen:

·      redness
·      rash
·      itching
·      burning
·      blistering

There are two main reasons that can cause the “signs” listed above.  If you are experiencing these symptoms, it could be from one of two main causes. Either it’s a true allergy to the chemicals in the sunscreen or it’s a phototoxic reaction to the combination of sunscreen and UV light. Yikes!

In order to better understand the causes, here is a bit of information on how sunscreens work. They either “absorb” UV light or they “reflect” or block UV light.

Sunscreens can contain chemicals that absorb UV radiation and turns into a less toxic form of energy that is less damaging to the skin.  Most sunscreens are of this type.

On the other hand, there are others out there that reflect the light.

Sunscreens can also contain ingredients that physically reflect or block UV light/radiation away from the skin.  Reflectors often contain titanium oxide and zinc oxide and these ingredients rarely cause allergic reactions.   On the other hand, reflectors tend to be a little heavier and are not absorbed well into the skin, which can make it less cosmetically appealing.

Let’s thank David Hasselhoff for illustrating the point:

Now that we’ve talked about types of sunscreens, now let’s dive into the most common chemical s found in sunblock that can cause reactions:

·      Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA)
·      Benzophenones
·      Cinnamates
·      Salicylates.
·      Dibenzoylmethanes
·      Octocrylene

Do you think you have allergies to sunscreen? Here are a few tips from Hudson Allergy’s Allergist Dr. Julie Kuriakose:

1.     Use PABA free sunscreen
2.     If possible, use a sunscreen that contains either zinc oxide or titanium oxide.  However look at the ingredients to make sure it does not also contain allergenic chemical listed above
3.     When using a new sunblock, place a small amount on skin in a non sun-exposed area and monitor for a reaction for up to 72 hours.  If no reaction occurs, again place a small amount on skin however this time on a sun-exposed area and monitor.
4.     If you are having persistent reactions, see an allergist

If you think you may have sunscreen allergy, see your allergist.  Patch testing with specific chemicals in sunscreen can be performed to identify the allergy.

To schedule an appointment, please call us at 212.729.1283 or send an email to