A portrait of smiling woman wearing sunglasses and sun hat.

Wrinkles and dark spots aren’t always the work of Father Time. Research says that as much as people associate with aging are the result of . It’s fair to say that every day keeps your complexion healthy and glowing. The problem is, some people can get allergic to sunscreen, even if they’ve never had reactions to it in the past.

What could be the cause of the itchy rash from sunscreen? Does this mean people who are allergic to sunscreen should confine themselves to the shadows? Below, Board-certified dermatologist outlines the reasons and what can be done to alleviate the condition.

What Causes Sunscreen Allergy?

It can be hard to pinpoint the cause of reactions from sunscreen because different factors may be at play. Some people may have a heightened sensitivity to certain ingredients commonly found in sunscreen formulations. In some cases, frequent exposure to pollutants, harsh weather conditions, or even toxic chemicals in cosmetic products can also compromise the function, making it more susceptible to irritation after applying SPF.

However, these triggers are not indicative of a true allergy but rather . When someone is allergic to sunscreen, their immune system perceives one or more components within the product as a threat and releases antibodies to fight it off. “This can manifest as rashes, itching, scaling, swelling, blisters, and hives on the face,” says Dr. Hao-Dy. The symptoms can occur immediately after SPF application or may develop gradually over time with repeated exposure to the allergen.

How to Treat an Allergic Reaction from Sunscreen

The first step in managing allergies is identifying the specific allergen responsible for the reaction, which can’t be easily done at home or through personal observation. “Patch testing for allergies is the only exact method for determining what you’re allergic to,” emphasizes Dr. Hao-Dy. If you suspect you’re allergic to sunscreen, discuss it with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Dermatologists often use the T.R.U.E. test, which evaluates a broad range of allergens in everyday products, such as cosmetics, perfumes, and skincare products. During the test, small adhesive packages containing a selection of potential allergens are applied to your back and remain in place for two days. Afterward, your doctor will prescribe medications to treat the symptoms if needed.

When you have a reaction from sunscreen, don’t scratch, even though it’s tempting. Wash the affected area with mild soap and rinse with cold water to remove any residual product. You can use an over-the-counter anti-itch lotion or topical corticosteroid to help relieve the itching and rashes on your face. Cover up and as some types of allergic reactions can worsen with sun exposure.

Sun Protection: What to Use If You’re Allergic to Sunscreen

Technically, you’re allergic to some ingredients that happen to be in the sunscreen you’re using – not sunscreen itself. According to Dr. Hao-Dy, chemical absorbers, fragrances, and preservatives are the most common culprits behind SPF allergy. If you have reactive skin, she advises to scan the ingredient labels carefully and avoiding these triggering components:

  • Parabens
  • Benzophenone-2
  • Benzophenone-3
  • Diosybenzone
  • Mexenone
  • Sulisobenzone or sulisobenzone sodium
  • Cinnamates
  • Salicylates
  • Dibenzoylmethanes

Dr. Hao-Dy also recommends using with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as these are least likely to cause skin reactions. The downside is that they tend to leave a white cast.

You can also try POND'S UV Bright Sunscreen with SPF 50 PA++++. It has Gluta-Niacinamide that helps fade dark spots in three days as well as calm redness on the skin. Those with dry skin can reach for POND'S UV Hydrate Sunscreen with SPF 50 PA++++. It hasHyaluron that instantly hydrates the skin and gives a dewy finish.

Being allergic to sunscreen is not an excuse to skip SPF or outdoor activities. There are many dermatologist-approved sunscreen formulas to choose for your face and body. But remember to consult with your doctor before trying new products.