Summertime Fun in the Sun!

Now that the summer sun is high in the sky, everyone knows they should use sunscreen as a first defense against the powerful rays that can cause sunburns and skin cancer.  But what if the very product meant to protect you is causing an allergic skin reaction?

Discovering which products to avoid and which to apply can keep skin healthy in the sun. People with sensitive or allergy-prone skin should monitor how their skin reacts after using sunscreen. Signs that a product may be irritating the skin do not always appear immediately, they can take a few days to emerge.

Contact dermatitis is the most common problem, including rash, itchy skin, blisters or swelling where sunscreen was applied.

Sunscreen can work in two different ways: By physically blocking or diffusing the UV rays with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide creams, or through chemicals like benzophenone that absorb and convert the UV rays so they cause less harm. Allergies to chemical sunscreens are more common, though either product could be the culprit.

Patients who are sensitive to one kind of sunscreen can generally find an alternative that does not contain those ingredients. The particular kind of sunscreen is not important, as long as the product is pleasant to use, does not cause an allergic reaction and meets personal preferences so it will be used often.

Anyone who's had previous skin damage or eczema has a greater risk for sunscreen allergies, as well as those who use sunscreen often in their daily routines, like outdoor workers or women who use skin care products containing sunscreens.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommendations for
skin care in the sun can not only reduce the risk of skin cancer, signs of aging and sunburn, but also reduce the risk for allergies that can worsen with excess sun exposure:

    Use a sunscreen with SPF between 30 and 50, when you are outside, even on cloudy days.

    Apply one ounce for the whole body, a shot-glass size amount

    Reapply every two hours you are outside or after swimming, including on the back

    Minimize time in the sun between peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Wear clothes that minimize exposure such as dark colors that deflect light, tightly woven fabrics or special UV-protective clothing

If you have a rash after using sunscreen or using another product in the sun, you may be a candidate for patch testing. This testing can help to pinpoint very quickly what the problem is, whether it's the actual sunscreen agent, a preservative or a fragrance.

Patch testing is a safe, reliable and easy way to diagnose the cause of your specific allergic reaction. You will wear patches containing different allergens applied by our nurses on your back for 2 days.  After 48 hours, you will return to the office to have the patches removed and undergo the initial test reading.  Allergic reactions are commonly seen at this point; however, your provider will need to see you again 1 or 2 days after the patches are removed for a final test site reading to ensure an accurate diagnosis. At this time, we will go over the test results and advise you which substances you should avoid and how you can prevent future contact with those substances.

If you or your loved ones have had any reactions to sunscreen products, please give us a call to schedule an appointment so we can determine whether a contact allergy is involved and what substances you should avoid to keep you safe and protected while you are out enjoying our beautiful California sunshine!

Download June 2016 Newsletter (opens in PDF)