Allergic reaction to sunscreen


How to Identify, Prevent, and Treat a Sunscreen Allergy

Summer means sun, and plenty of it. As we spend more time at the pool, park, and beach, lathering up with sunscreen can become a daily activity. And it should — applying sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher every time you go outside reduces your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent and your risk of getting melanoma by 50 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In addition to reducing your skin cancer risk, there is substantial evidence showing that sunscreen helps reduce your risk of skin aging.

However, for some people, applying certain types of sunscreen can also cause a skin allergy. Sunscreen allergies tend to be uncommon, according to Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, but if you’re prone to skin allergies or concerned that sunscreen is irritating your skin, here’s what to do.

Understand the Ingredients in Your Sunscreen

There are two types of sunscreen: chemical sunscreen and physical, or mineral, sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens are carbon-based compounds, also known as organic molecules, explains Dr. Zeichner. They protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) light by absorbing the energy and preventing it from passing through. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the chemical sunscreen ingredients that have been found to most commonly cause allergic reactions in the skin are oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), dibenzoylmethanes, cinnamates, and benzophenones. Other ingredients like PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) have also been shown to cause allergic reactions but are rarely used in sunscreen in the United States.

Sunscreens known as physical, or mineral, sunscreens are free of organic (aka chemical) ingredients, explains Zeichner. They contain only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide combined with zinc oxide to block UV light. Mineral sunscreen is quite effective and tends to be less irritating than chemical sunscreen, says Zeichner, but it may be more difficult to spread on the skin and may leave behind a white or ashy appearance. Mineral sunscreen is recommended for young children, because they don’t have the chemical filters that are more likely to cause skin irritation or allergies, adds Zeichner.

Choosing between a chemical or mineral sunscreen is a personal preference, but don’t trust any of the natural or homemade sunscreen recipes you might find on the internet. A study published online in May 2019 in the journal Health Communication warns that these DIY options, which tend to include ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, zinc, beeswax, olive oil, carrot oil, raspberry oil, lavender oil, and avocado oil, may offer insufficient UV protection and increase your risk of developing skin cancer compared to using commercially available sunscreens.

Signs and Symptoms of a Sunscreen Allergy

There are two ways a sunscreen allergy generally appears: as a contact allergy or contact photoallergy, according to Anna Feldweg, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an attending physician in allergy and immunology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

With contact allergies, Dr. Feldweg explains, “You get a rash where the product is applied.” But in a contact photoallergy, the reaction is due to an interaction between sunscreen chemicals and sunlight, “so you get the rash where the sunscreen was applied but only once the skin has been exposed to the sun,” she says.

A sunscreen allergy may appear when you first start using a sunscreen, or it can develop after years of sunscreen use. You might experience an allergic reaction immediately or several days after applying the sunscreen.

According to Zeichner, these are some signs of a sunscreen allergy:

  • Red skin
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Rash
  • Blisters that are filled with fluid

Other symptoms may include:

  • Hives
  • Raised bumps
  • Bleeding
  • Scaling
  • Pain

Learn the Risk Factors for a Sunscreen Allergy

If you have a history of eczema or other allergies, you may be more likely to develop an allergy to chemical sunscreen, and the ingredients may elicit a true allergic reaction through your immune system, says Zeichner. If you have generally sensitive skin or a condition like rosacea, chemical sunscreen ingredients may be directly caustic to your skin, he adds. You may also be at an increased risk for a sunscreen allergy if you’ve had contact dermatitis with other products or if sunscreen allergies run in your family.

Check for Allergies by Doing a Patch Test

Patch testing is a process during which specific ingredients are applied to the skin and left in place for 48 hours to determine whether you develop an allergic reaction, explains Zeichner. You can do a patch test at home by applying sunscreen to a small area of skin to make sure you do not develop a reaction.

How You Can Prevent a Sunscreen Allergy

If you know which ingredients you’re allergic to, you can select sunscreens that don’t contain these ingredients and avoid getting a reaction, says Zeichner. If you have a known history of skin allergies or sensitive skin, stick to mineral-only sunscreens to avoid a potential reaction, he suggests. Zeichner recommends Neutrogena Sheer Zinc, which is a zinc-oxide-only formula that’s appropriate for all skin types and is unlikely to cause a skin reaction.

How You Can Treat a Sunscreen Allergy

If you develop a sunscreen allergy, immediately clean your skin, says Zeichner. If necessary, you can use over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone to calm the inflammation (in less severe cases, you can just leave it alone or apply a bland moisturizer, he adds). Stay out of the sun until your skin has healed, as sun exposure can exacerbate an existing allergic reaction, says Zeichner. This may take a few days.

When to See a Doctor About a Sunscreen Allergy

If you think you have a sunscreen allergy and you have any systemic symptoms (such as fever, chills, nausea, or difficulty breathing) or blistering, open, or raw skin, or if you’re treating your reaction and it isn’t getting better, you should visit a dermatologist for evaluation, says Zeichner.

Other Possible Risks of Using Sunscreen

A preliminary study published in May 2019 in JAMA showed that chemical sunscreen ingredients are absorbed through the skin, producing blood concentrations that surpass the threshold established by the Food and Drug Administration. But the study authors conclude that additional research is needed to determine the effects of absorption of sunscreen ingredients into the bloodstream and warn that people should continue to wear sunscreen.

Plus, the study has some limitations, says Zeichner. “In the study, high levels of sunscreen were applied to 75 percent of the body,” he notes. “In the real world, consumers do not apply as much sunscreen as they should and they do not typically reapply every two hours. So it’s unclear whether there is absorption with everyday, real-world use. We need more data to understand this issue fully.”

Currently, there’s no data showing that sunscreen use is associated with harmful health effects, and based on what we know today, the benefits of wearing sunscreen in protecting the skin against skin cancer and premature aging outweigh the potential risks, Zeichner adds. “If anyone is concerned with the use of chemical-blocker sunscreens, mineral options that contain zinc oxide alone or in combination with titanium dioxide are a great option.” Out of an abundance of caution, pregnant and nursing women may also want to consider using mineral sunscreen, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Summary: The Importance of Sunscreen and Sun Safety

Wearing sunscreen is an important part of protecting the health of your skin, so if you’re allergic to a chemical in sunscreen, your doctor can help you find one that doesn’t contain that chemical. In addition to sunscreen, people with sunscreen allergies can also use the following methods to protect their skin from the sun, according to Zeichner:

  • Avoid the sun between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing labeled with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), which means it has been proven to protect the skin from UV rays.

Additional reporting by Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman.

The Trouble With Ingredients in Sunscreens

Sunscreen is a body care product that consumers are directed to apply a thick coat over large areas of the body and reapply frequently. Thus, ingredients in sunscreen should not be irritating or cause skin allergies, and should be able to withstand powerful UV radiation without losing their effectiveness or forming possibly harmful breakdown products. People might inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so ingredients must not be harmful to lungs or internal organs. Furthermore, sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers” to help the product adhere to skin. As a result, many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples.

For these reasons, the Food and Drug Administration is now proposing significant changes in how sunscreen ingredients are evaluated for safety. FDA is proposing that all current and potential new ingredients be adequately tested for safety, including with studies to determine whether the ingredients penetrate the skin and can cause endocrine disruption, cancer or other health harms.

FDA has put the entire sunscreen industry on alert by proposing that in just two instances do we have enough safety information about ingredients to determine whether they’re safe and effective: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. For 12 other ingredients, the FDA has said there isn’t enough data to determine whether they’re safe. In particular, FDA raised concerns about the substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone, its potential to affect hormone levels and the increased absorption susceptibility of children (FDA 2019). Lab studies shows that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones, and physicians have reported sunscreen-related skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended human health consequences from frequent sunscreen application.

Active ingredients in sunscreens function as either mineral or chemical UV filters that keep harmful rays from the skin. Each uses a different mechanism for protecting skin and maintaining stability in sunlight. The most common sunscreens contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters.

When the FDA began to consider sunscreen safety, it grandfathered in active ingredients from the late 1970s without reviewing the evidence of their potential hazards. In February 2019, the agency released its final draft sunscreens monograph, which contains insufficient health and safety data to designate 12 of the 16 sunscreen filters allowed for use in the U.S. as generally recognized as safe and effective, or GRASE. These 12 ingredients include some of the most commonly used UV filters, including oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone. According to the agency, “nearly all of these sunscreen active ingredients … have limited or no data characterizing their absorption.”

Drawing on the available literature, the agency concluded that the risks of using aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate outweigh their benefits, and it proposed classifying them as unsafe. The FDA monograph giving the GRASE designation to just two active sunscreen ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

The Danish EPA reviewed the safety of active ingredients in sunscreen and concluded that most lacked enough information to establish their safety (Danish EPA 2015). In the case of 16 of the 19 ingredients studied, there was no information about their potential to cause cancer. And though the published studies suggest that several chemical filters interact with human sex or thyroid hormones, there was not enough information about any of them to determine the potential risks to humans from hormone disruption.

EWG has reviewed the existing data about human exposure and toxicity for the nine most commonly used sunscreen chemicals. The most worrisome is oxybenzone, which can cause allergic skin reactions (Rodriguez 2006). In lab studies, it is a weak estrogen and has potent anti-androgenic effects (Krause 2012, Ghazipura 2017).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely detect oxybenzone in more than 96 percent of Americans. Study participants who reported using sunscreen have higher oxybenzone exposures (Zamoiski 2015). Investigators at University of California, Berkeley, reported a dramatic drop in teen girls’ exposure to oxybenzone in cosmetics when they switched from their usual products to replacements that did not contain this chemical (Harley 2016).

In an evaluation of CDC-collected exposure data for American children, researchers found that adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone measurements had significantly lower total testosterone levels (Scinicariello 2016). The researchers cautioned that their results offer a single-day snapshot; they are not a controlled study of the effect of multiday exposures. The study did not find a similar hormone effect in younger boys or females.

Three other studies reported statistically significant associations between oxybenzone exposure during pregnancy and birth outcomes. One reported shorter pregnancies in women carrying male fetuses; two reported higher birth weights in baby boys; and one found lower birth weights in baby girls (Ghazipura 2017).

Intentional dosing studies of people are rare. In one, volunteers applied a lotion containing oxybenzone and two other sunscreen ingredients. Researchers reported a minor but statistically significant decrease in testosterone in men, accompanied by a minor increase in inhibin B, another male sex hormone (Janjua 2004). The researchers concluded these differences were normal variations and not attributable to sunscreen exposure. In any event, critics argue the exposures were too short to be conclusive (Krause 2012).

According to the latest FDA sunscreens monograph, the agency needs further data to determine the GRASE status of oxybenzone, given that the “available literature … indicat that oxybenzone is absorbed through the skin to a greater extent than previously understood and can lead to significant systemic exposure.… The significant systemic availability of oxybenzone … is a concern, among other reasons, because of questions raised in the published literature regarding the potential for endocrine activity.” Given the pervasiveness of oxybenzone exposures, we need further study to clarify its association with hormone disruption in children and adults.

EWG recommends consumers avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone. But sunscreen users are exposed to other active ingredients too. Margaret Schlumpf of the University of Zurich detected four other sunscreen filters along with oxybenzone in Swiss women’s breast milk, which suggests that the developing fetus and newborns may be exposed to these substances (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010). She detected at least one sunscreen chemical in 85 percent of milk samples.

Some experts caution that the unintentional exposure to toxic active ingredients erodes sunscreens’ benefits (Krause 2012, Schlumpf 2010). But most experts conclude that more sensitive tests are needed to determine whether sunscreen chemical ingredients pose risks to frequent users (Draelos 2010, Gilbert 2013).

Active ingredient toxicity

This table outlines human exposure and hazard information for nine FDA-approved sunscreen chemicals. With each sunscreen, we asked these questions:

  • Will the chemical penetrate skin and reach living tissues?
  • Will it disrupt the hormone system?
  • Can it affect the reproductive and thyroid systems and, in the case of fetal or childhood exposure, permanently alter reproductive development or behavior?
  • Can it cause a skin allergy?
  • What if it is inhaled?
  • Are there other toxicity concerns?


EWG hazard score

Use in U.S. sunscreens

FDA 2019 proposed status

Skin penetration

Hormone disruption

Skin allergy

Other concerns

UV filters with higher toxicity concerns



Insufficient data and concern for absorption through skin and hormone disruption

Detected in nearly every American; found in mothers’ milk; 1% to 9% skin penetration in lab studies

Weak estrogen, moderate anti-androgen; associated with altered birth weight in human studies

Relatively high rates of skin allergy


Janjua 2004, Janjua 2008, Sarveiya 2004, Gonzalez 2006, Rodriguez 2006,

Krause 2012,

Ghazipura 2017

(Octyl methoxycinnamate)


Insufficient data to determine safety – significant

data gaps

Found in mothers’ milk; less than 1% skin penetration in human and laboratory studies

Hormone-like activity; reproductive system, thyroid and behavioral alterations in animal studies

Moderate rates of skin allergy


Krause 2012, Sarveiya 2004, Rodriguez 2006, Klinubol 2008

UV filters with moderate toxicity concerns



Insufficient data to determine safety – significant

data gaps

Found in mothers’ milk; skin penetration less than 1% in human and laboratory studies

Disrupts estrogen, androgen and progesterone


Toxic breakdown products

Krause 2012, Sarveiya 2004, SCCNFP 2006


Widespread; stabilizes avobenzone

Insufficient data to determine safety – significant

data gaps

Skin penetration in lab studies


Rarely reported skin allergy


Walters 1997, Shaw 2006, Singh 2007



Insufficient data to determine safety – significant

data gaps

Found in mothers’ milk; skin penetration in lab studies


Relatively high rates of skin allergy


Krause 2012, Bryden 2006, Hayden 2005

UV filters with lower toxicity concerns

Titanium dioxide

2 (topical use), 6 (powder or spray)


Generally recognized

as safe and effective

No finding of skin penetration

No evidence

of hormone disruption


Inhalation concerns

Gamer 2006, Nohynek 2007, Wu 2009, Sadrieh 2010, Takeda 2009, Shimizu 2009, Park 2009, IARC 2006b

Zinc oxide

2 (topical use), 4 (powder or spray)

Widespread; excellent UVA protection

Generally recognized

as safe and effective

Less than 0.01% skin penetration in human volunteers

No evidence

of hormone disruption


Inhalation concerns

Gulson 2012, Sayes 2007, Nohynek 2007, SCCS 2012


Widespread; best UVA protection of chemical filters

Insufficient data

Very limited skin penetration

No evidence

of hormone disruption

Breakdown product causes relatively high rates of skin allergy

Unstable in sunshine, must be mixed with stabilizers

Klinubol 2008, Bryden 2006, Hayden 2005, Montenegro 2008,

Nash 2014

Mexoryl SX

Uncommon; pending FDA approval; offers good, stable UVA protection

Insufficient data

Less than 0.16% skin penetration in human volunteers

No evidence

of hormone disruption

Skin allergy is rare


Benech-Kieffer 2003, Fourtanier 2008

Eight other ingredients approved in the U.S. are used rarely in sunscreens: dioxybenzone (benzophenone-8), cinoxate, ensulizole, meradimate (menthyl anthranilate), PABA, Padimate O, sulisobenzone (benzophenone-4) and trolamine salicylate. In 2019, FDA proposed that trolamine salicylate and PABA were unsafe for use and there was insufficient safety test data about other five.

Hormone disruption

Several common chemical filters appear to be endocrine disruptors. Many studies in animals and cells have shown that the chemicals affect reproduction and development by altering reproductive and thyroid hormones, although the evidence is mixed for some studies (Krause 2012). Animal studies report lower sperm counts and sperm abnormalities after oxybenzone and octinoxate exposure; delayed puberty after octinoxate exposure; and altered estrous cycling for female mice exposed to oxybenzone. Recently, Danish researchers reported that eight of 13 chemical sunscreen ingredients allowed in the U.S. affected calcium signaling of male sperm cells in laboratory tests, which the researchers suggest could reduce male fertility (Endocrine Society 2016).

Since most of the hazard data is generated from animal studies, it is difficult to determine the human health implications of exposure to a mix of hormone-disrupting ingredients in sunscreen.

In addition to the relationship between oxybenzone and testosterone levels in adolescents, preliminary investigations by a team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the State University of New York, Albany, suggest a link between higher concentrations of benzophenones and poorer reproductive success in men seeking assistance at a fertility clinic. Men with greater exposures to benzophenone-2 and/or 4-hydroxyoxybenzone had poorer sperm quality (Louis 2015) and reported that it took longer for their partners to conceive (Buck-Louis 2014). Female exposures to oxybenzone and related chemicals have been linked to increased risk of endometriosis (Kunisue 2012).

Mineral sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, usually in the form of nanoparticles. Evidence suggests that few if any zinc or titanium particles penetrate the skin to reach living tissues. So mineral sunscreens tend to rate better than chemical sunscreens in the EWG sunscreen database. However, it is important that manufacturers use forms of minerals coated with inert chemicals to reduce photoactivity. If they don’t, users might suffer skin damage, although to date no such problems have been reported.

The FDA should set guidelines and place restrictions on zinc and titanium in sunscreens to minimize the risks to sunscreen users and maximize these products’ sun protection. Our detailed analysis of nanoparticles in sunscreens is available here.

Inactive ingredients

The FDA must also look closely at the so-called inactive ingredients in sunscreens. These typically make up 50 to 70 percent of a sunscreen.

One ingredient in particular is a cause for concern: the preservative methylisothiazolinone, which is used alone or in mixtures with a related chemical preservative called methylchloroisothiazolinone. Lab studies indicate that methylisothiazolinone is a skin sensitizer or allergen. Over the past several years, physicians have reported serious cases of skin allergies, most notably in children exposed to methylisothiazolinone, by baby wipes and products meant to be left on the skin (Chang 2014). In a study published in 2014, researchers at Baylor University surveyed the ingredients in 152 children’s body care products labeled “hypoallergenic” and found methylisothiazolinone in 30 of them (Schlichte 2014). The American Contact Dermatitis Society named methylisothiazolinone its “allergen of the year” in 2013.

In 2015, researchers from 15 American and Canadian clinics reported an increase in methylisothiazolinone allergies in patients. The researchers concluded they had documented “the beginning of the epidemic of sensitivity to methyliosthiazolinones in North America” (Warshaw 2015). That methylisothiazolinone has become relatively common in sunscreen is a matter of concern because sunscreen users are likely to be exposed to significant concentrations of it. The products that contain it are intended to be applied to large portions of the body and reapplied often.

In March 2015, the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded that no concentration of the chemical could be considered safe in leave-on cosmetic products (EU SCCS 2014). But methylisothiazolinone is still allowed in U.S. products. In 2014 the Cosmetics Ingredient Review, or CIR, expert panel – an independent body the American cosmetics industry pays to advise it on the safety of cosmetics ingredients – told the industry that methylisothiazolinone was safe for use in body care products as long as manufacturers came up with formulations that wouldn’t cause allergic reactions (CIR 2014). Since FDA has little legal power to regulate cosmetics ingredient safety, it has authorized the cosmetics industry to police itself through this panel, but it’s recommendations are not legally binding, and in several decades, it has declared only 12 ingredients or chemical groups to be unsafe (CIR 2017).

EWG recommends the FDA launch a thorough investigation of the safety of all sunscreen ingredients to ensure that none of them damage skin or cause other toxic effects.

“The bottom line is that the best sunscreen is a sunscreen you will actually use and reapply. So if you hate it and won’t reapply it, then it isn’t the best product for you or your family,” says Kalyani Marathe MD, a pediatric dermatologist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. “If it’s super-duper white or has a weird smell that you or your kids will hate, then find something you will actually use.”

Marathe says a great way to do that is to test a new sunscreen on a 2-by-2-inch patch on the inside of your or your child’s arm between the elbow and wrist twice a day for a week and see if there’s a reaction.

Dermatologists stress that while parents are right to be thoughtful about the products they use, sunscreen allergies shouldn’t scare them away from the products.

“Yes this can happen. It’s not dangerous, just annoying. But skin cancer kills. It’s one of the most common cancers, and that is something to really be afraid of,” George Washington’s Friedman says. “I think it’s more important to protect ourselves in the sun than to allow fear to prevent us from using a validated and well-understood tool to prevent skin cancer in ourselves and especially our children.”

Other tips for parents:

  • The FDA says infants younger than 6 months should be kept out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and it says parents should use protective clothing if they have to be in the sun.
  • For children and infants older than 6 months, the FDA recommends using sunscreen as directed on the Drug Facts label of various products.
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of 30 or higher.
  • Marathe says if you are using mineral-based sunscreen, look for one with 10%-15% zinc oxide and 5% or more titanium dioxide.
  • Avoid spray sunscreen because it can be hard to find out how well it’s covering you. If you do use one, spray it into your hand before putting it on your face, rather than spraying it directly onto your face and inhaling chemicals.
  • Put on sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside. Reapply it every 2 hours when you’re in the sun and every hour if you’re sweating or swimming.
  • Don’t just rely on sunscreen to protect against the sun. Use clothing with SPF protection, hats, and rash guard shirts at the pool.
  • If you or your child has a reaction to the sunscreen, rinse the skin quickly to remove the sunscreen, and then slather the affected area with petroleum jelly. Stop using the sunscreen and seek medical advice.
  • Report problems to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

Ingredients in sunblock may have caused serious burns on baby, toddler

A mom is calling on sunscreen makers to put better warning labels on lotions and sprays after I-Team Reporter Jackie Callaway uncovered the ingredients in a sunblock she used may have burned and blistered her baby and toddler.

Jade Gribble said she traveled to Bradenton in April to spend the week with her twin sister Jana Whitehead. Gribble said she sprayed Havana Sun SPF 50 spray on all four of her children before spending a day at the beach.

“I thought it would be safe,” Gribble told ABC Action News.

I-TEAM INVESTIGATIONS | Our latest investigations

But just two hours later, the sisters say 1-year-old Talon and 3-year-old Tally began turning red. They say the burns on their heads and faces grew into blisters overnight.

Gribble took her two youngest, who she says were screaming in pain, to the emergency room.

“It was overwhelming and I was racking my head, like what did I do wrong?” said Gribble.

ABC Action News purchased the same sunscreen and brought it to three dermatologists, including Dr. Maria Hicks, and showed them photos of Talon and Tally’s burns.

Hicks gave her assessment, saying, “When you see that, you have a dermatitis which is an inflammation of the skin.”

Hicks said she suspects one of two ingredients in Havana Sun caused a reaction on the children’s skin: Oxybenzone and acrylates.

Both are popular ingredients in sunscreens also known to irritate the skin in certain people.

Acrylate, an ingredient that gives the sunscreen its consistency, was named allergen of the year in 2012 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Dermatologists recommend using a mineral-based sunscreen instead of a chemical-based one, and only using a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

The I-Team found other parents complaining of a child suffering the same burns – only with a different sunscreen.

A Boynton Beach mom is now suing the makers of Banana Boat sunscreen, accusing the company’s spray of causing blisters on her 2-year-old son’s skin.

We reached out to both the makers of Banana Boat and Havana Sun for comment.

Havana Sun’s CEO agreed to an on-camera interview and then later canceled, sending an emailed statement instead.

The makers of Banana Boat said the company does not comment on pending litigation but defended its products as undergoing rigorous testing.

Statement from Havana Sun CEO Matt DiFebo:
“We deeply regret that a Havana Sun customer and her two children had an unpleasant experience with our SPF 50 Spray. All of our products are developed and manufactured in compliance with FDA sunscreen regulations, which include appropriate testing to insure product safety and efficacy. While we are a relatively new company, we have sold several thousand bottles of this product without receiving any complaints. However, even following all of the FDA mandates, it is highly unlikely that any sunscreen product will not cause an unfavorable skin reaction with at least a few individuals. Without having additional information regarding the usage circumstances of the family that experienced this issue, the storage conditions of the product after it left our control or a sample of the exact product they used, it is not possible for us to comment further on this particular instance.”

Statement from Edgewell Personal Care, maker of Banana Boat sunscreen:
“We take all of our consumer’s concerns seriously and our quality assurance team investigates all cases when we are contacted directly about someone who has encountered a reaction when using our products. Importantly, all Banana Boat products undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are appropriately labeled and meet all relevant health regulations, including SPF tests. For some people, sensitivity to an ingredient can be triggered or exacerbated by the sun. Such a photosensitive or photoallergic reaction can result in an exaggerated skin rash or sunburn. In more severe cases, blistering may also develop. We encourage people who have concerns about a burn to visit a dermatologist who can determine the type of burn, or a reaction to sunscreen itself, and advise on appropriate treatment.

Edgewell Personal Care does not comment on pending or ongoing litigation but as always, we invite anyone with a concern to contact us directly at 1-800-723-3786. As is our practice, we will work with each family to understand and address their specific circumstances. We are dedicated to providing safe and effective, high-quality sun protection and you can confidently use Banana Boat products as intended.”

This Mom Claims Aerosol Sunscreen Burned Her Baby—But Can That Really Happen?

Sunscreen is supposed to protect you from burns, but one mom says it did the opposite. Last year, Rebecca Cannon shared a series of photos, along with a warning, about her daughter Kyla’s reaction to aerosol sunscreen–and the post has resurfaced. Her little one had swollen cheeks and burns on her face. According to one of Cannon’s posts, Kyla suffered a second-degree caustic burn.

“Please watch and be when using aerosolized sunscreen!” Cannon wrote in the viral post. “I have done a lot of research since coming home and have found a disturbing amount of cases like ours. I don’t know why it’s not removed from the shelves!!”

Kyla’s reaction certainly looks painful–but could a spray sunscreen really do such damage?

For starters, the chemical formulas of aerosol sunscreens may be irritating, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City. It’s recommended that you choose a physical or mineral sunscreen (one that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) over a chemical sunscreen, especially for delicate babies’ skin or if you have sensitive skin. “Chemicals are more irritating,” Dr. Jaliman says.

It’s also a smart idea to look for “unscented” or “fragrance-free” sunscreens for babies or anyone with sensitive skin, as scented sunscreens may also cause irritation.

While Dr. Jaliman says she’s personally never seen a chemical burn from a sunscreen, the photos Cannon posted of Kyla do look familiar. “I have seen a lot of allergic reactions where someone is sensitive to the chemical and their body reacts and turns red and swollen. Looking at this baby’s face, it appears to me that she had an allergic reaction to the sunscreen.”

RELATED: These Are the 7 Best Sunscreens for Babies and Kids

When using aerosol sprays, be sure to apply them correctly, Dr. Jaliman adds. “Never spray sunscreen directly on the face. It needs to be sprayed on the hand and applied to the face.”

And if you know you or your child are sensitive to certain products, test new formulas on a small patch of skin before using them all over.

Feeling The Burn Of Sunscreen In Your Eyes?

Summer is right around the corner, and whether you have plans to soak in the sun on the beach, at the lake, or even at the park, make sure you remember to protect yourself from sunburn and UV rays – but beware of the agonizing sting when sunscreen seeps into your eyes. While sunscreen won’t lead to permanent eye damage, it does cause a chemical burn to the surface of the eye that can be painful for a couple of days.

According to Kory S. Cummings, O.D., an optometrist in Fort Worth, Texas, there are a few things you should do to minimize the discomfort from sunscreen in your eyes.

  1. First and foremost, don’t panic. Remove contact lenses if you’re wearing them.
  2. If you have it on hand, flush with lubricating eye drops; otherwise, water will suffice.
  3. Once the eye has been flushed thoroughly, use eye drops made without preservatives every hour to ease the pain. It’s important to use drops that are non-preserved to ensure no additional chemicals are introduced into the already inflamed eye.
  4. Avoid using contact lenses for at least 48 hours.
  5. If your eyes leave you feeling extremely uncomfortable, close your eyes and let them rest.

Just when you thought nothing could be worse than getting sunscreen in your own eyes, you hear a spine-tingling scream come out of your child. What should you do when sunscreen gets in your child’s eyes?

“Children will typically be very upset and scared, because they don’t understand that the pain will not last forever,” said Cummings. “Flush their eyes and use eye drops made with no preservatives, as you would for an adult. A cold and wet compress over their eyes will also be very soothing.”

Now that we know what to do to relieve the burn, here are some tips on how to prevent sunscreen from getting into your eyes.

  • Never spray sunscreen directly on your face. Apply it first to your hand, and then to your face, avoiding the eyes.
  • Look for sunscreens made with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. They adhere better to the skin than other sunscreens made with chemicals (octyl methoxycinnamate) and won’t run as easily -it also won’t sting, since it’s chemical-free.
  • Avoid sunscreen near your eyes altogether and opt for 100% UV-blocking sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to shield the sun from your eyes.

Red itchy bumps from wearing sunscreen outside?

It sounds as if you are experiencing a photo-allergic reaction or photocontact dermatitis, meaning that the sunscreen product in combination with UVA/B rays causes you develop an allergic reaction. Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), the most widely used UVA blocking agent, is the most common cause of sunscreen-induced photo-allergic contact dermatitis. Other sunscreen agents known to induce photo-allergic reactions are the benzophenones, cinnamates, and dibenzoylmethanes.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are inorganic filters which have excellent coverage for UVA1, UVA2 and UVB. I would suggest either one or a combination of these agents, as they will offer broad-spectrum protection with minimal irritation, sensitization, and skin penetration. Look for ones with the fewest added ingredients. Try to avoid fragrances. Although rarely used these days, always avoid PABA-containing products.

Belly Buttons & Babies Sunscreen Lotion (SPF30) and Honest Mineral Sunscreen Spray (SPF30) both appear to fit the recommended criteria above, though I can’t specifically recommend either, as I have no personal experience with them.

You might also consider clothing products and hats that offer sun protection.

Your allergist can help with personalized recommendations and strategies.

There’s a worrying reason your child reacts to different sunscreens

Natural doesn’t mean it is safe

Choosing a sun cream for your child can be overwhelming. Shelves are stocked up with an endless supply of different brands and application types (cream, spray, roll-on).

With so many scary stories about reactions out there, families tend to go for the more ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ brands because they think it’s safer for their children.

This is where we go wrong, apparently.

“There is now a misconception that natural or organic products won’t cause reactions on the skin, which is false,” Cara told Kidspot.

“Throughout the consumer market, there has been a huge rise in the push for natural and organic products. With this come stories of problems people have experienced with all sorts of products. Unfortunately, they are usually not representative of the market on the whole.”

Common childhood rashes59349

From nappy rash to chicken pox, there are a whole lot of reasons your child’s skin could be flaring up.

  • 16 Jun 2017

OK, so my child has reacted. When do I need to worry?

According to Cara, there are two main types of reactions to sunscreen we need to be aware of. Knowing the difference between the two could save you a lot of worrying.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis – This is the most common and results from low-grade irritation to the components in the sunscreen. “This may be due to the fragrances, or other ingredients in the cream base as well as the sunscreen ingredients. The rash is usually red and bumpy and may be mildly itchy but generally not severe,” Cara revealed.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis – This occurs when the user becomes sensitised to an ingredient and develops a true allergy to it. “This can be due to sunscreen itself (most commonly benzones) or other components in the cream such as fragrances and preservative,” Cara said. “The rash tends to be red, bumpy and very itchy and it will worsen every subsequent time the same product is used.”

How to prevent a reaction

Yes, there are ways we can avoid a reaction. Unfortunately, if your child is prone to skin irritations, this usually comes after a nasty reaction occurs.

The biggest tip from Cara is to avoid using that same ingredient again.

“Allergic contact dermatitis is quite serious as the rash tends to be itchy and once allergic, the user can never go back to using the same ingredient,” she said.

“The allergic reaction tends to worsen every time the same product is used.”

Whether your child has sensitive skin or not, Cara also recommends looking for brands that are fragrance-free.

“To reduce the risk of reactions, users should look for hypoallergenic formulas and particularly fragrance-free sunscreens,” she added.

“Reactions to fragrance and preservatives in creams are more common than reactions to the sunscreen ingredients itself. I recommend La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics Spray (SPF 50+). It offers very high UVA and UVB broad-spectrum sun protection, and has been designed for children’s delicate skin.”

Sprays get a bad wrap, but it could be the ingredient rather than the application type that is the problem. Image: iStock

How to treat a reaction

If consumers have a history of reacting to sunscreens, they can be tested in a small sun-exposed area for a few days before being applied all over the face and body. But for immediate treatment, your plan will depend on the severity of the reaction.

“If it is extensive, itchy or uncomfortable then it would be best to see the local doctor or a dermatologist for further advice,” Cara said.

“If it is mild, then it will settle with gentle skin care such as soap-free wash and fragrance-free moisturiser to the skin.”

And if you’ve tried a heap of different brand and application types, it’s best to book in with a dermatologist or your local health practitioner for advice.

Sunscreen allergy


Nowadays there are hundreds of different brands of sunscreens available for use. These products usually contain one or more active chemicals that absorb or block harmful UV rays, fragrances, preservatives and a base such as lanolin (wool alcohols). With their increasing use over the last few decades it is not surprising to see contact allergic dermatitis due to these products.

What causes sunscreen allergy?

Contact allergic dermatitis to sunscreens can occur as a result of an allergy to any one of the many ingredients found in these products. Some of the chemical absorbers used in topical sunscreens may be more sensitizing to some individual than others. In addition, individuals may also have a sensitivity to the fragrances and preservatives found in sunscreens.

What are the reactions to sunscreen allergy?

Typical allergic contact dermatitis may occur in individuals allergic to any of the ingredients that are found in sunscreen products or cosmetic preparations that have a sunscreen component. The rash can occur anywhere on the body where the substance has been applied and sometimes may spread to unexpected sites.

In some cases, sunscreen allergy may cause a photocontact dermatitis in which the areas affected usually occur in a sun-exposed pattern on the body and where sunscreen has been applied. These areas often include the face, arms, backs of the hands, “V” shaped area of the upper chest and lower neck. Usually the upper eyelids, area under the chin and behind the ears are not affected.

Photocontact dermatitis to sunscreen

Am I allergic to sunscreens?

Due to sunscreen products containing multiple active ingredients it is often difficult to determine the cause of dermatitis. Patch testing for the individual component is the only exact method for determining which of the chemicals the allergen is.

Patch testing and photopatch testing of topical sunscreen preparations may be performed if the active sunscreen ingredient is the suspected allergen. The prevalence of allergy to chemical absorbers in sunscreens is not known for the general population, however, in patch test clinics the prevalence of allergy to the active sunscreen component appears to be quite low. On the other hand, photopatch testing shows sunscreen chemical absorbers to be a common cause of photoallergic contact dermatitis. Hence it is important to carry out photopatch testing in addition to patch testing.

Patch tests reveal photoaggravated contact allergy to oxybenzone and mexenone

Many allergies to sunscreen products are caused by the inactive components such as the fragrances or preservatives that are used. Patch testing using fragrance mix and Balsam of Peru detects approximately 75% of fragrance allergy cases. A positive patch to fragrance mix indicates that you are allergic to one or more fragrance chemicals. An estimated 1-2% of the general population is allergic to fragrance.

Self-testing a product for sunscreen allergy is possible but should be done only after first talking with your doctor. Apply a small amount (50 cent sized area) of the product to a small tender area of skin such as the bend of your arm or neck for several days in a row. Examine the area each day and if no reaction occurs, it is unlikely you are allergic to it. However, it may still not be suitable for you as it can still cause irritant contact dermatitis.

Treatment of dermatitis caused by sunscreen allergy

Once the dermatitis appears on the skin, treatment is as for any acute dermatitis/eczema, i.e. topical corticosteroids, emollients, treatment of any secondary bacterial infection (Staphylococcus aureus), etc.

What should I do to avoid sunscreen allergy?

If you have a sunscreen allergy the best way to avoid any problems is by avoiding all products that contain any of the substances that you have a sensitivity to.

If you have a sunscreen allergy, metal oxide sunscreens such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide may be suitable. These have not been reported to cause allergic contact dermatitis. Although cosmetically less pleasing, they have been proven to be safe and effective sunscreen agents.

Your dermatologist may have further specific advice, particularly if you are highly sensitive to sunscreen products.

Sun Allergy (Photosensitivity)

What Is It?

Published: October, 2018

A sun allergy is an immune system reaction to sunlight, most often, an itchy red rash. The most common locations include the “V” of the neck, the back of the hands, the outside surface of the arms and the lower legs. In rare cases, the skin reaction may be more severe, producing hives or small blisters that may even spread to skin in clothed areas.

Sun allergies are triggered by changes that occur in sun-exposed skin. It is not clear why the body develops this reaction. However, the immune system recognizes some components of the sun-altered skin as “foreign,” and the body activates its immune defenses against them. This produces an allergic reaction that takes the form of a rash, tiny blisters or, rarely, some other type of skin eruption.

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