Sunscreen allergies what to use

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a specific substance as though it’s harmful.

It’s not clear why this happens, but most people affected own a family history of allergies or own closely related conditions, such as asthma or eczema.

The number of people with allergies is increasing every year.

The reasons for this are not understood, but 1 of the main theories is it’s the result of living in a cleaner, germ-free environment, which reduces the number of germs our immune system has to deal with.

It’s thought this may cause it to overreact when it comes into contact with harmless substances.

Getting assist for allergies

See a GP if you ponder you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can also be caused by other conditions.

Sunscreen allergies what to use

A GP can assist determine whether it’s likely you own an allergy.

If they ponder you might own a mild allergy, they can offer advice and treatment to assist manage the condition.

If your allergy is particularly severe or it’s not clear what you’re allergic to, they may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and advice about treatment.

Find out more about allergy testing

Symptoms of an allergic reaction

Allergic reactions generally happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.

They can cause:

  1. red, itchy, watery eyes
  2. a runny or blocked nose
  3. sneezing
  4. a red, itchy rash
  5. wheezing and coughing
  6. worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms

Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can happen.

This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.

Common allergies

Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.

The more common allergens include:

  1. insect bites and stings
  2. animal dander, tiny flakes of skin or hair
  3. grass and tree pollen – an allergy to these is known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  4. latex – used to make some gloves and condoms
  5. dust mites
  6. mould – these can release little particles into the air that you can breathe in
  7. medicines – including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
  8. food – particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cows’ milk
  9. household chemicals – including those in detergents and hair dyes

Most of these allergens are generally harmless to people who are not allergic to them.

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.

Sunscreen allergies what to use

Zeichner. They protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) light by absorbing the energy and preventing it from passing through.

Sunscreen allergies what to use

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the chemical sunscreen ingredients that own been found to most commonly cause allergic reactions in the skin are oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), dibenzoylmethanes, cinnamates, and benzophenones. Other ingredients love PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) own 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.

Sunscreen allergies what to use

They contain only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide combined with zinc oxide to block UV light. Mineral sunscreen is fairly effective and tends to be less irritating than chemical sunscreen, says Zeichner, but it may be more hard 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 own 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 believe any of the natural or homemade sunscreen recipes you might discover 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 love 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.

How to manage an allergy

In many cases, the most effective way of managing an allergy is to avoid the allergen that causes the reaction whenever possible.

For example, if you own a food allergy, you should check a food’s ingredients list for allergens before eating it.

There are also several medicines available to help control symptoms of allergic reactions, including:

  1. decongestants – tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids that can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose
  2. antihistamines – these can be taken when you notice the symptoms of a reaction, or before being exposed to an allergen, to stop a reaction occurring
  3. lotions and creams, such as moisturising creams (emollients) – these can reduce skin redness and itchiness
  4. steroid medicines – sprays, drops, creams, inhalers and tablets that can assist reduce redness and swelling caused by an allergic reaction

For some people with extremely severe allergies, a treatment called immunotherapy may be recommended.

Sunscreen allergies what to use

This involves being exposed to the allergen in a controlled way over a number of years so your body gets used to it and does not react to it so severely.

Is it an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance?


The exaggeration of the normal effects of a substance. For example, the caffeine in a cup of coffee may cause extreme symptoms, such as palpitations and trembling.


A reaction produced by the body’s immune system when exposed to a normally harmless substance.


Where a substance causes unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhoea, but does not involve the immune system.

People with an intolerance to certain foods can typically eat a little quantity without having any problems.

Sheet final reviewed: 22 November 2018
Next review due: 22 November 2021

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.

Sunscreen allergies what to use

And it should — applying sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher every time you go exterior 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 what to use

Sunscreen allergies tend to be unusual, 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.