Sunscreen allergy or photoallergic eruption
Some years ago I published a page on "Sun allergy caused by sunscreens" describing my experiences with allergies caused by sunscreens. Since then I have had many responses from readers who had similar problems. On this page I will share a selection of these comments. Many of them refer to products that either caused problems, or they mention products that they found to be safe.
Comments are listed without the names of the authors, but the heading of each comment shows the sunscreen product(s) or any medicine(s) that are mentioned in the message.
Note that some comments were edited, often just shortened or correction of typing errors.
These are some of the messages I received in 2009:
14 December 2009
I also am allergic to the chemical absorbers in sunscreen, but cannot use them at all whether in the sun or not. It is seriously annoying when buying products. My allergy is so severe that I cannot touch e.g. a door handle that someone else has touched that has used sunscreen as I will in turn touch myself e.g. face and get a serious rash. I can use a zinc based sunscreen called Sunsense by Ego. I also use it on my children. I don't know of anyone else with the same allergy, nice to know there are others with similar problems!
Neutrogena chemical free sun block
11 September 2009
I have almost exactly the same problem. I wear long sleeves and cover up as much as possible. Any use of sunscreens will cause me to break out with blisters and itching. Sometimes it takes weeks to heal if it ever does heal completely. I have found that Neutrogena chemical free sun block does not bother me. It can be tough to find. I even break out when I shake the hand of someone with sunscreen on their hands.
18 August 2009
Hi There! I was reading your page about photosensitivity and wanted to mention I suffer from it too. I have heard of PABA causing problems, but not others. I have been seeing an allergist for my skin condition called Dermographism and he recommended sunscreen without PABA for my complaint of allergic reaction to sunscreen. I have tried without PABA and still had issues. The other chemicals you mentioned and the sunscreen causing problems IN THE SUN is something I will look into now. I have an appointment with a dermatologist at the end of the month so I am going to ask him.
14 August 2009
I am thankful for your article. I thought I was going crazy with my 3 year old son. He is only reacting to high factors 30-50, particularly
Banana Boat brand on his face and neck. He erupts in large welts approximately 6-8 hours after the sunblock is applied-after direct exposure in the sun. I on the other hand, experience the 1st rash you discussed, where in the spring I erupt in very small red bumps. The reactions decrease over the summer and itch like the dickens. I use Benadryl oral to help my son. This is quite fascinating–and scary!
11 August 2009
Thank you for posting this article. I too have an allergy to the sun have done for 14yrs, it's a total nightmare, I'm ok for the first 3 days of holiday, then it just breaks out, usually on my chest first, then my back, and if I carry on sunbathing everywhere. I have to go to the doctors for an injection of steroids it's the only thing that clears it up, or it takes about 2 weeks with no treatment. I found your article very interesting and I am going to the shops to research all the suncreams to see which if any doesn't have those three ingredients you mentioned. Have you tried any natural or organic suncreams? I tried Lavera which is supposed to be all natural, also didn't work and when applied I looked like a ghost! Not a good look for the beach ha ha !
Oil of Olay wrinkle protection with SPF
1 August 2009
I am currently going through exactly what you have described. I used sunscreen and was out in the sun, started feeling itchy and by the evening was in a full blown rash on all of the places I had applied sunscreen. It was not until I read your page that I realized that the reaction that I recall having last year when I was using the Oil of Olay wrinkle protection with SPF which caused itchiness around my chin and edges of my face! I stopped using it thinking that I was allergic to the anti-wrinkle part, never dreamed of it being the sunscreen! Wow this is great info. I am thankful to have read it and now will try Waterbabies sunscreen to see if that is better. Thank you!
22 July 2009
Thank you very much for taking the time to write such an informative piece. It has really helped me and has given me a much greater understanding of my "allergy". It only happened me last year while on holiday in Spain. I got an itchy rash right down my chest. I did apply suncream all over but only my chest was affected although I was uncomfortable all over. I took antihistamine tablets and used creams which helped to clear it. In 4 days the rash had gone and I went back out in the sun. The rash never came back. The thing which I had changed was my suncream. I had been using Nivea and Ambre Solaire for the first few days of my holiday. My mother told me when I was young I had a reaction to every suncream except Piz Buin. So I began to use only it and the rash never returned.
Coppertone Ultraguard lotion 50spf Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection
3 July 2009
I recently when to Orlando, Florida and used Coppertone Ultraguard lotion 50spf Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection and experienced a bad rash. They are tiny pimple like blisters and are very itchy. A month ago I used the
Neutrogena sunscreen and had no problems.
Ocean Potion Instant Dry Watersport Mist
30 June 2009
I would recommend not using Ocean Potion Instant Dry Watersport Mist. I have never had a reaction to sunscreen before but this one is intense. I was at a pool, had applied the spray, and then the next day wake up with a rash on surrounding my neck, around the back of my neck and up to my ears. It is very itchy and I am trying to not take anything because I am breastfeeding our 2 year old. I agree that mine is the photo reactive kind. Just wanted to warn you to stay away from this one as well. Have you tried any that are just zinc oxide based? That is what we generally use on the children and I have used it in the past with no problems as well.
27 June 2009
It is most likely Avobenzone (trade names Parsol 1789, Eusolex 9020, Escalol 517 and others, INCI Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane). Also the Cinnamates and Octocrylene. Most likely
Avobenzone. My daughter has the same problem. At night she turns red swollen and itchy. She can use anything as long as there is no Avobenzone. It tends to breakdown and it is common to cause reactions. Try Blue Lizard. The best are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide formulas.
Banana boat sport faces oil free sun lotion
17 June 2009
I have this sun allergy for three years now. I am a 33 years old woman. I have never had this allergy in my life before. Only when I started working for the public accounting firm the first year, my body developed this allergy. So I am think that the stress also contributes to this allergy. Since then, I have this every year for a couple of times in summer. No doctor could diagnose my problem until one Chinese doctor told me that it was sun allergy. He also told me that it would come back once I expose to sun. And here I am, I got it again this year. Starting from my legs, a big patch of the rash appears after I exposed to sun a few days ago with the Banana Boat sport faces oil free sun lotion over my body. Today it goes to my arms. I try not to scratch it, hoping it will go away.
Bullfrog spray-on sunscreen
2 June 2009
I too have the same problem with sunscreens on my face once I am exposed to the sun photoallergic eruption. Thanks to your posting, I discovered what my problem is and have stopped using anything with a sunscreen including moisturizers, foundations, etc. if I am going to be outside. My proof was over the Memorial Day weekend of this year 2009 when I purposely did not use anything with sunscreen. After 2-3 days – NO SWELLING, BLISTERING or rash. I did get a slight sunburn on my face but none of the other stuff. I now use a completely organic moisturizer no chemicals at all which I found on the web. I can however, use Bullfrog spray-on sunscreen on my arms without a problem. As much as I hate hats, I guess I will have to wear one to protect my face from now on.
Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Green Tea Protective SPF25
Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Green Tea Protective SPF25
Blistex lip treatment
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Lotion SPF 60
26 May 2009
Hi, I too have some allergy to sunscreen. I haven't done the detailed experimentation you have, but I first discovered it around 1995 no problems before that – tried several over the counter brands of sunscreen, including PABA free variants. Same reaction, severe swelling where applied, including small bumps/blisters. The last one I tried was Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Green Tea Protective SPF25, same reaction. My reactions are only where the sunscreen is applied, and regardless of whether I am in the sun. I can test some in the store by scratching the inside of my wrist and applying a small amount . I now just go "sunscreen-free" and take precautions covering, not easy in Las Vegas. The difficulty I have now is that when my 7 year old daughter has sunscreen on I react even if I come into contact with part of her that has had sunscreen applied. I haven\t tried Water Babies but I think I will, since you have had some success with it. Please keep this! site updated as I will follow it for more helpful tips. p.s. I found also that I react to Blistex lip treatment.
Continued on 1 June 2009
Bought and tried Water Babies today, same reaction. Found that Neutrogena has a new product “Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Lotion” SPF 60, active ingredients titanium dioxide 4.9%, zinc oxide 4.7%. Tried a little bit of it in a couple of areas with no reaction at all. I’m hoping this is my answer.
12 May 2009
I stumbled upon this site as I was trying to find a suitable sun screen for me. I too also react to all sun screens: rash will form where cream was applied and I haven't been able to find a working one yet. I tried the water babies that was suggested on this site, but still no luck. I end up getting a rash which goes away in a day. I've tried using banana boat, aveeno, neutrogena, coppertone water babies, etc and I'm not having any luck finding one that works. Do you have any other recommendation? Thanks in advance.
Continued 14 May 2009
I just tried one from 'Vichy' and I didn't react to the area where I put it, so I'm gonna test it some more by putting it on a larger area.
4 May 2009
Just wanted to say I could have written that. This is exactly what happens to me. It's been a struggle as Dr's won't believe me. I have struggled to find any cream that I can use at all. Ones that contain titanium dioxide seem to be worst for me.
Piz Buin allergy
8 April 2009
I have the same allergy. Nothing so far has ever stopped it. I generally use Piz Buin allergy, but last summer was a nightmare and even worse than normal. I also continually take antihistamine. I am going on holiday soon and am keen to try anything. Help!
Ban de Soleil
5 April 2009
I am 38, and noticed my first reaction in Hawaii at the age of 15, after using a sunscreen that was supposed to help tanning, it was called Ban de Soleil. An itchy red rash appeared, mainly on my knees, hands, feet, and a little down my lower legs and upper arms. It wasn't extreme but was unpleasant. I got it again in Mexico at age 22, then again in Mexico and then again in Hawaii. It never appears on the first day of my sunbathing but takes usually a few days to come out. Once it comes out I have learned to really take it easy avoid the sun and it disappears in about 4 days without further sun exposure. At my worst, I got an injection and used the same cream you mentioned as above and took antihistamines. I also notice I don't sweat very efficiently in the heat, and need to drink a lot of water. No one would know because I have a darker complexion, very dark eyes and hair, although I am Caucasian. For years I have thought it was a heat rash, but the area's I get it in, don't make sense, but they would make perfect sense for an allergy, since I reapply sunscreen often to these areas. Hmmm. What I do worry about is if it means anything else, like skin cancer would be more likely, or anything like that? I will try waterbabies next time I am sunbathing too.
5 April 2009
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It helped me very much understand what I have. I get an allergic reaction to most of the sunscreens I use when exposed to the sun. I once used a chapstick which had "octyl methoxycinnamate" and "oxybenzone". a day after using it my lips became swollen with small blisters. It healed completely after around 2 weeks. I'm also now hunting for a sunscreen that won't cause me any trouble. Thank you for giving me a head start.
23 March 2009
I am so relieved to see your postings because I am having the same exact problems!!! My doctor thinks I am totally crazy and a hypochondriac because I keep complaining about the same things and there are no answers for me. Here's what I have concluded about myself so far: I think the culprits for me are many of the preservatives since they act as antibacterial agents. I first experienced a bad problem when I was taking oral antibiotics. Any part of my body that was exposed to the sun while I was taking the antibiotics, and even for a week or so after I was done taking the antibiotics, was flared up. I have a strong feeling that
phenoxyethanol especially is one of the main triggers for me. I experience photoallergic problems with creams and soaps that are not sunscreens also, and especially with products containing phenoxyethanol. I am beginning to experiment with other preservatives as well, but I do believe the chemicals stay in your body for a period of time so that problems continue to occur even after I have stopped using the product. I would love to correspond about theories and solutions you have found since you are the only other person I have seen with this problem.
20 March 2009
Just read your comments. I, too, have the same symptoms problems as you do. When we head to Mexico for vacation in the Spring I end up with a horrible rash; blisters they start up the 2nd or 3rd day. I will try Water Babies this time. My dermatologist recommended Blue Lizard but I believe it does not allow you to tan at all. I would like a little color but don't need to tan.
Neutrogena for Babies 60 SPF
Neutrogena face stick
18 March 2009
Yes, I too had a terrible allergic reaction. I had a total time of 30 minutes in the sun during a 5 hour span of running errands on Saturday the 14th. Got home at 4PM. Washed my face off. About 7 hours later my face swelled up like a balloon and was really red. I still have a red face, though the swelling has calmed down somewhat. It is Wednesday morning now and the swelling happened around 1am the previous Sunday. I never had this happen before. I am going to let it go away on its own without using prescription drugs or steroid creams. I am using pure Vaseline on it as it is extremely dry and rough and flaky right now. A very thin coating. I am so glad you shared your story. This is especially hard living in the Southwestern U.S. with strong sun. I used Neutrogena for Babies 60 SPF it's a new product on the market this season and evidently it caused the allergic reaction. But I have used the Neutrogena face stick for years without any problems! Imagine that. I should have just used what I knew would not cause problems, but I have been suffering with skin rashes since August of 2007 on different parts of my body and figured using a product for Babies would be better. I guess I was wrong. The ingredients you listed are somewhat similar, so I am really aware now. Again, thank you for sharing your story. It has helped me.
Neutrogena oil-free sunblock
Mineral based sunblock
Creme de Jour by Marie Veronique SPF 25
10 March 2009
I found your website because today I had an allergic reaction, I guess photoallergic in nature, from Neutrogena oil-free sunblock. It's happened every time I use this particular sunblock stick, and I really applied a lot today more than usual, because I was taking a long walk. I didn't have my usual sunblock, so I was willing to risk it. Well, 6 hours later, my face became splotchy and the skin under my eyes became very swollen. My cheeks and under eye area began to itch like crazy, and still are. So, I won't use chemical sunblock again, if I can help it! However, I did want to let you know that mineral based sunblock is much gentler. I use a moisturizer with SPF 25 called Creme de Jour by Marie Veronique. It has never made my skin erupt. If you look online for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide sunblocks you can research them and hopefully find one that works for you, although you might have found an answer already as your last post is almost a year old!
Thanks for the information. Wishing you happy, calm skin.
Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55
3 March 2009
I have what you've described as photoeruption on my face. I had been under the impression that I was allergic to PABA so I was avoiding sunscreen containing that compound. Last Wednesday, I applied Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55 and went to a baseball game for two hours without my face being exposed directly to sunlight I wore a wide brim hat that kept my face shaded. The next morning my face resembled a tomato and the skin was extremely itchy. I took Claritin anti-histamine and applied a cream containing
Benedryl anti-histamine. Neither was helpful after a few applications. I suspect that it is the many forms of
paraben that are causing my problem because all sunscreens I have used seem to contain one or more of the variants eg, methyl-, ethylparaben . I have heard of Water Babies and may try it if I can find the product. Otherwise, I won't be going to any more baseball games.
Neutrogena SPF 45
11 February 2009
I came across your blog when searching for itchy sun allergies. I seem to have developed a similar reaction to sunscreen. I am not sure when you last post was added, however you suggested you were going to try using the Neutrogena SPF 45 – however I think it's this one that caused my reaction – so please don't! Frustrating I know, I live in Australia where sunscreen's a requirement everyday. not fun! Take care!
30 January 2009
I also developed allergies on my face and neck when one of my best friend put on a sunscreen cream on my face. My neck became so red, with bumps and worse it became so itchy as well as my face. She put the cream at 2am Saturday; then the reaction took place on Monday morning. The doctor advised me to take antihistamine med and calmoseptine. Please advise if should I continue taking them and applying them since there's no good result yet.
Neutrogena sunscreen for sensitive skin
Sunscreens that contain zinc
9 January 2009
I have the exact same problem. I have found that skin care products and sunscreens that contain Octisalate or Octiocrylene cause my allergic reaction. Neutrogena sunscreen for sensitive skin is the best!!! also, most sunscreens that contain zinc don't have the other chemicals.