Allergy & Asthma-Kent H. DeYarman, MD

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Reactions to Sunscreens

Reactions to Sunscreens

SUNSCREENS are of two main types.

 

CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS absorb light and include para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), benzophenones, digalloyl trioleatre, salicylates, and cinnamates. Chemical sunscreens can cause contact dermatitis and photodermatitis.

 

PHYSICAL SUNSCREENS such as zinc oxide, talc, and titanium dioxide form an opaque barrier without absorbing solar rays. These do not cause contact dermatitis or photodermatitis but may be less cosmetically acceptable.

 

Sunscreens may also contain other chemicals that can cause contact dermatitis such as parabens, fragrances, lanolin, etc. Patients allergic to hair dyes (paraphenylenediamine) often react to PABA.

 

In general sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and that do not contain fragrance or parabens are the least likely to cause allergic reactions. Alba Botanica makes sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and that do not contain fragrance or parabens (Alba Mineral Sunscreens). Other Alba sunscreens do contain common sensitizers. Patch testing can be done if necessary to clarify sunscreen allergies.