Read the label
You’re trying to do the right thing, slathering on sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging ultra violet rays, but 10, 20 or 60 minutes later, you notice red itchy bumps popping up. Your first guess might be right. An allergic reaction. The most common sunscreen agents that can cause contact dermatitis are: PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), benzophenones and fragrances, such as 6-methylcoumarin and musk ambrette. Reading product labels will indicate if it contains any of these.
SPF 30 or 100?
Sunscreen allergies are becoming more common, especially with ultra high SPF sunscreens. The higher the SPF, the more chemicals are used, and the higher the concentration of those chemicals, but the benefits are practically nil. When protecting against UVB, the difference between SPF 100 and SPF 50 is 1 %. SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays, SPF 50 blocks 98 %, and an SPF 30 blocks nearly as much at 96.7%. I recommend sticking with SPF 30, applying it often, and using sunscreens with either zinc or titanium oxide. They give excellent protection against the sun, and a low incidence of causing allergy, and they are much less tacky than they used to be. I do warn you: be careful not to get it on your clothes as it may stain.
The sun’s other effects
The sun can also cause a photoallergic chemical reaction to foods causing dermatitis, even when only coming in contact with your skin. Some of these foods are celery, parsnip, fennel, clover, lime and lemon.
The sun can also cause a phototoxic reaction, which is much more common and caused by frequently used drugs like tetracycline (an antibiotic often used to treat acne), thiazides and furosemide (both diuretics), naproxen (a non-steriodal anti-inflammatory, sulfur medications and birth control pills. These medications make your skin sensitive to the sun and increase your risk of burning and sun damage. If you are taking any of these, take extra precautions.
Certain medical conditions or nutritional deficiencies can also cause sun reactions. A group of genetic diseases, called porphyrias, can cause skin to be oversensitive to the sun, as can hepatitis C and certain autoimmune diseases like lupus.
Bottom line, protect your skin from the sun.
If you have had a reaction to a sunscreen product, get tested. New advances in blood testing can help us get specific as to the allergen that is causing the problem, which makes avoidance easier.
Contact us today for more information and to get tested.