Subjective irritation associated with burning or stinging, without objective redness, is the most common sensitivity complaint from sunscreens. This irritation is most frequently observed in the eye area. 15% of the population believes they are allergic to sunscreen, when in reality only 3-5% of the population (is allergic to, or) has had some reaction to a sunscreen product. True allergy to sunscreen ingredients is uncommon. Sunscreen additives, including fragrances and preservatives account for many of the sensitivity or allergic reactions that occur with sunscreens. Sunscreen ingredients reported to cause contact allergy might be photoallergens (topical substance which, when applied to an area of skin which is simultaneously exposed to ultraviolet light, is capable of producing an immune response resulting in photoallergic contact dermatitis). Individuals with preexisting eczematous conditions have a significant predisposition to sensitization associated with their impaired cutaneous barrier. Most individuals who develop photocontact dermatitis to sunscreens are patients with photodermatitides (a photosensitivity of the skin in the absence of other photosensitizing factors; abnormal responses of the skin, to sunlight or artificial light, due to extreme reactivity of light-absorbing molecules).
If you feel that you have significant reactions to sunscreens and have tried many without improvement you might consider evaluation by a dermatologist or allergist. A skin test to a screening panel containing most of the common preservatives as well as active ingredients in many sunscreens can be performed. Then one can select a sunscreen that would not produce the allergic contact dermatitis.
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