What To Do If You Are Allergic To Sunscreen

Daily application of sunscreen is the most effective way to prevent skin cancer as it protects you from the harmful sun’s rays. Unfortunately, the ingredients that are used can sometimes cause an allergic reaction that cause an itchy or red rash area. Here are some possibilities for what might be causing the allergies and how to find a sunscreen that works for you.

What causes a sunscreen allergy?

There are a few things that can be causing the allergic reaction from the sunscreen.  The reaction can either be triggered by a combination of the sunscreen and UV exposure, called phototoxic reaction, or one of the ingredients in your sunscreen, called contact dermatitis. The latter is easier to fix, while the former may need professional assistance.

What does sunscreen contain?

There are two main forms of sunscreens that can be used and not all sunscreens are created equal. The two sunscreen types are chemical and physical sunscreens(aka: mineral sunscreen).

  1. Chemical Sunscreens are a carbon-based compound. They contain synthetic UV filters that absorb UV radiation and turn it into less dangerous and less damaging form of energy. These are most likely to cause the allergic reaction and irritation.
  2. Physical or Mineral Sunscreens are free of organic ingredients and typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that absorb UV rays and turn them into heat while also scattering a small portion of UV rays away from your skin.

Which ingredients are most likely to cause allergies?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the most common cause of allergic reactions in the skin are from oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), dibenzoylmethanes, cinnamates, and benzophenones. Some other ingredients including PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), octocrylene, salicylates, and fragrances have been shown to cause allergic reactions as well.

You can check for allergies by doing a patch test at home by applying sunscreen to a small area of skin and make sure you do not develop a reaction. If you already know which ingredients you are allergic to, you can select sunscreens that don’t contain those ingredients. You can check our other blog for tips on: How To Read A Sunscreen Label.

Best Practices

Your first priority is to #PracticeSafeSun and protect yourself as much as possible. Some quick tips are to:

  • Avoid the sun as much as possible, especially between the hours of 10AM-2PM.
  • Cover-up with sun protective clothing that is certified UPF 50+.
  • Wear a hat with a 3”+ brim.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Switch to a mineral sunscreen and apply it to all exposed skin. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours.

Bottom Line

If you find yourself in the predicament of sunscreens causing an allergic reaction, it is most likely due to one of the ingredients. The safest option is to try a mineral based sunscreen that has as few ingredients as possible. If you continue to have issues it might be a reaction to sunlight, in which case you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.