The days when no one thought twice about spending hours in the sun without skin protection — and maybe even applied baby oil for that deep-golden tan — are well over. Today, we are all aware of the correlations between sun exposure and skin damage (including cancer) and the benefits of applying sunscreen everyday. Unfortunately, we probably don’t apply it as often as we should, so if you’d like a reminder of why it’s important, visit the “Sunscreen Facts” page on the Melanoma Research Foundation.
For some people, however, sunscreen can cause an allergic reaction, doing more harm than good. “Are You Allergic to Sunscreen,” an article on Everyday Health explains:
Sunscreens work because they contain chemicals that absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation and keep them from penetrating your skin. Some of these chemicals, including oxybenzone, 4-isopropyl-dibenzoylmethane, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), esters, avobenzone, and cinnamates, have been known to cause an allergic reaction in certain people.
How do You Know if You have a Sunscreen Allergy?
There are two ways that a sunscreen allergy can present: contact allergy and contact photoallergy.
- A contact allergy, also known as contact dermatitis, occurs when your immune system reacts to something in the sunscreen, which can be any of the chemicals listed above, but also a fragrance or preservative. The reaction will affect an area where the sunscreen was applied, and may ever reach beyond.
- A contact photoallergy is a negative interaction between the sun and a chemical(s) in the sunscreen that triggers your immune system to attack. This type is pretty rare and will usually only appear on skin that has been exposed to the sun. It is also different from solar urticaria, which is a direction to the sun and doesn’t require additional chemicals.
Both reactions can cause itching, redness, swelling, hives or blisters, and there is no telling if the symptoms will occur immediately or a few days later. And like the allergies we talked about in last week’s blog, “The Comings and Goings of Allergies,” even if you have never had a problem with sunscreen, you can become allergic at any time.
What to do if You Think You are Allergic to Your Sunscreen
- Stay out of the sun as much as possible.
- Wear protective clothing, including hats and sunglasses.
- Find a physical sunscreen, which is comprised of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and won’t penetrate your skin.
- Find a sunscreen that does not contain the element you are allergic to.
- Make an appointment with our expert team at CT Sinus Center for allergy testing in order to find out exactly what is causing your reaction.
When you come into one of our four conveniently-located offices, we will sit down with you to discuss your symptoms and medical history and perform a thorough exam in order to not only confirm that you do have a sunscreen allergy, but also to pinpoint what triggers it (making #4 much less of a trial-and-error process). Once the results are in, we’ll develop a treatment plan that is right for you and your lifestyle.
Don’t spend the summer in the shade, call 860-Balloon today and get back to enjoying fun in the sun with the confidence that your skin (and health) is protected.