What can I do if I’m allergic to sunscreen?

We all know that the sun rays are dangerous: they cause wrinkles, sun spots, uneven pigmentation and cancer. That’s why it is necessary to wear a good sunscreen every day to make sure our skin is protected against all this damage. But just like any other ingredient in beauty products, sunscreen agents can cause allergies too. And what can we do when this happens?

What are sunscreen allergies and who’s more at risk?

If you’re allergic to sunscreen, you’ll develop an itchy and blistering rash on your skin wherever you applied the sunscreen. This can occur for two reasons: your skin has come into contact with a substance that has triggered the reaction (contact dermatitis) or it can be a combination of the sunscreen and UV exposure (phototoxic reaction).

Those who are more prone to develop an allergy to sunscreen are people that spend a lot of time working outdoors, those that apply sunscreen to sun-damaged skin and those that have chronic skin condition that are related to the sun like atopic dermatitis. It also seems that women are more at risk than men which is thought to be because they often use cosmetics with SPF.

Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens

Now, let’s have a look at the ingredients. There are two types of sunscreens: chemical absorbers and physical blockers:

Chemical absorbers: these are synthetic substances that absorb UV radiation and turn it into a less dangerous and less damaging form of radiation. They include ingredients like Mexoryl, Avobenzone, Oxybenzone and PABAs, most of which can cause irritations and allergies.

Physical blockers: these are ingredients that don’t absorb UV radiation, but instead reflect it and scatter it away from our bodies to the environment. They include ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, which won’t cause contact dermatitis but can leave a white cast on skin. In addition, if the concentrations are too high, they can cause breakouts in some people.

What sunscreen ingredients are more likely to cause allergies?

There are several sunscreen agents that can cause allergies but the most common ones are:

Benzophenones: a group of substances that include Oxybenzone, Methanone, benzophenone-3 and any other ingredient that ends in “benzophenone”. They are very used in sunscreens for their ability to protect against UVBs and some UVAs rays but can cause contact dermatitis.

Cinnamates: a group of compunds that include ethylhexyl-p-methoxycinnamate, and 2-Ethoxyethyl-p-methoxycinnamate. These UVB absorbers, which can cause allergies, are often used together with Benzophenones. Cinnamates are related to Balsam of Peru allergies, so those that have this allergies should stay away with sunscreens that contain this group of ingredients.

Dibenzoylmethanes: this groups contains Avobenzone and Eusolex 8020. Because they can absorb UVA rays, they are often used in conjunction with other sunscreen agents for broad-spectrum protection. Cases of contact allergies to these compounds have been reported.

Octocrylene: this is a recent ingredients that has only been used for about a decade. It protects skin against UVB rays but can cause contact dermatitis.

Salicylates: they include ingredients like Benzyl Salicylate (the first sunscreen ever used in the USA) Octyl Salicylate, and any other ingredients that end with “salicylate.” These ingredients need to be used in high concentrations because their ability to absorb UVB rays is weak. They can cause contact dermatitis, but that rarely happens.

Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA): although one of the first sunscreen ingredients to be used in the USA, it is now rarely found in products because it is a common allergen.

Fragrance and preservatives: to complicate things even more, it’s not only the sunscreen agents that can cause allergies and other negative reactions, each ingredient in the product could actually be the culprit. Those more likely to cause trouble are fragrances and preservatives, especially those that work by releasing formaldehyde. In any case, if you know you’re allergic to something, always check the label before purchasing.

What can I do if I’m allergic to sunscreen?

Apart from staying away from the sun, which isn’t always possible, wear protective clothes, sunglasses and hats, the first thing to do is determine what ingredient is the culprit. Checking the ingredient list is the first step to know what you are reacting to, but the only way to know for sure is to visit a doctor and do a patch allergy test.

Depending on where you live though, that can be quite expensive so if you think it is one of the chemical sunscreens you are allergic to, use physical sun blockers instead. I know that sometimes they can leave an unappealing white cast or be too thick, so experiment until you find the one for you. And in any case, isn’t that a small price to pay to protect your skin against all the devastating damage the sun can do?

I’ve tried a physical sunblock and I still had a negative reaction. What now?

Well, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide haven’t been reported to cause contact dermatitis but if you’re experiencing a negative reaction there could be a couple of reasons. Sometimes, these ingredients are used together with chemical absorbers, so it’s possible that it’s to those you are reacting to. Or maybe it’s the fragrance or one of the other ingredients. Check the label to see if you can discover the culprit and try something else instead like an unscented sunscreen that only contain physical blockers.

Another thing you could do is apply the sunscreen on a part of your body that won’t be exposed to sunlight. That’s because, like mentioned above, sometimes the allergy is caused by a combination of sunlight and sunscreen lotion. So if you apply a small amount of sunscreen on your arm and wear a long-sleeved top for example and your skin is fine, you know your problem is not caused by the sunscreen, but by the sunlight. If this is the case, you should consult a doctor to determine how you can protect yourself from the sun efficiently without side effects.

Are you allergic to sunscreen? Feel free to share your experience (or anything else you want) in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Victoria says

    I am allergic to Methlisothiazolinone. I am trying to find a MAKEUP, A MOISTURIZER, A GOOD ALL OVER LOTION THAT DOES NOT HAVE THIS INGREDIENT IN IT. SUGGESTIONS PLEASE. I am using vanicream lotion, but I need more moisture on my hands and legs. Thanks for suggestions on suntan lotion. I have the vanicream sunscreen and so far so good.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Victoria, have you tried Olay moisturizers? They’re effective, affordable and don’t contain that ingredient. Hope this helps.

      And you’re welcome.

      • Reny says

        I am allergic to sunscreen as well. I tried Olay moisturizer with SPF after reading good reviews about it. But that did not help me either :(

        • beautifulwithbrains says

          Reny, I’m sorry to hear about your problem. I’m not sure what ingredient you are allergic to, but I would suggest you stick to physical sunscreens (ie those with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide). These ingredients are gentler and shouldn’t cause any problems for your skin.

          • Reny says

            Thanks for your post. I checked the ingredients of my Olay sunscreen and it has many more stuffs than the zinc oxide. So I went to the store and checked out the ingredients of mositurizers with SPF there. I found one from Olay, the similiar one like the one I had but this one says for sensitive skin. (the one I had says for normal skin). The Sunscreen ingredients in it are just Zinc Oxide and just one more thing. (Cant remember the name) I picked that up and have been using it for past 3 days. It looks like its working for me. No problems, so far. Thanks!

        • Kaelyn says

          I actually first broke out (face swelled & itched) after using the Olay moisturizer with SPF. That was when I realized that I was allergic to sunscreen on my face.

          • beautifulwithbrains says

            Kaelyn, I’m sorry you had a negative reaction to the cream. Olay moisturizers usually contain chemical filters. Have you tried a physical sunscreen with Zinc Oxide?

    • Kathryn B says

      Try using Argan oil or coconut oil. Pure ingredients that moisturizer great without any additives.

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Kathryn, thanks for your comment. These oils are great moisturizers but I wouldn’t use them as a substitute for sunscreen as they have very low SPF. Coconut oil protects only from 20% of UV rays for instance.

  2. Colleen says

    I love the sun, and usually just use sunscreen with SPF 15 or 30 for my whole body, including my face (never have used a special sunscreen for just my face). Twice now I have went to cancun, and using the same sunscreen or a higher SPF of 50, i have had a horrible allergic reaction. My face never really got sunburned, my eyes just swelled up horribly, especially underneath. The first time was bad. The second time was so bad that I ended up at an urgent care and was given a shot for the reaction. Within a day after the shot, the swelling went down. Afterwards, my face started peeling horribly, especially under the eyes. I was given a hydro-cortisone cream by the doctor to help with the dry, peeling skin. Do you have any idea why This is happening, and only in cancun?

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Colleen, I’m sorry to hear about your allergy, how awful! It’s weird that it should happen only in Cancun, though. But you can become allergic to things that you used to use without problems, so maybe that’s what happened? Unless the SPF50 sunscreen has a different formulation than the others you use, which means that there could be something in there that causes havoc on your skin. The only other thing I can think of is that maybe your sunscreen had expired. I would suggest you have allergy patch tests done so that you can determine what’s the ingredient in the sunscreen that triggered such a bad reaction.

    • Colleen says

      I think I figured out the reason for my reaction…in 2011, sunscreen changed due to the “broad spectrum” requirements. I started having this reaction after this formulation change was implemented. I think I FINALLY figured out what is going on!!

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Colleen, I’m glad you figured out the cause. The change was done for our good, but isn’t it awful when, after a reformulation, the product doesn’t work for us anymore?

  3. Alissa says

    Hello I just found your blog because I’m trying to gather as much info as I can to help me find a good sunscreen for my face. For years now I have been allergic to the sun, whenever I come in contact with sunlight, my skin gets a rash and becomes very itchy and has a burning sensation. Yesterday even when I had my SPF 60 Neutrogena sunspray on my face with a cap on, I still had a reaction. No sunscreen seems to work on my face and it is incredibly annoying to deal with. I’m assuming this kind I use is a type of chemical absorber? How exactly do I tell if a sunscreen is a physical blocker (based on the presence titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in the ingredients)? Should I try using baby sunscreen because they contain less chemicals? Do you have any suggestions as to what sunscreen is appropriate for people like me that are prone to sun poisoning?

    Please excuse my load of the questions and thanks for reading!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Alissa, I’m so sorry to hear about your problems. Neutrogena sunscreens are generally chemical sunscreens so I guess the one you used was too. A physical sunscreen can contain preservatives, thickeners, emollients etc, but only the sunscreen agents zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. If it contains avonbenzone, mexoryl or any other sunscreen agent, it is a chemical one.

      I would suggest you try a physical sunscreen especially formulated for children as those usually contain fewer, and gentler, ingredients, so the risk of a negative reaction is lower. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consult a dermatologist. Hope this helps.

  4. says

    This article was very enlightening. I am African-American and am allergic to any level of SPF, mineral-based make-up, and shea butter–particulary, on my face and mouth. How do I eliminate the other ingredients listed on products to determine if I’m allergic to them? Right now, if I try something new, I carry a tube of hydrocortisone cream. As soon as I start to itch/burn where the product was applied, I clean my face and apply the hydrocortisone cream to countact the reaction as quickly as possible. Do I really need a moisturizer with sun protection in it? Any other suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Sarita, yes, UV rays can cause premature aging and cancer so using sunscreen is a must. I’m sorry your skin doesn’t seem to tolerate it. The best way to determine what it is you are allergic to is to have allergy tests done.

      You can also compare the ingredients in the products that work for you with those in the products that irritate your skin to try and determine what the offender is. Of course, this method isn’t as effective as having allergy tests done, but it’s a start. I would also advise you to consult a dermatologist as he/she will be better able to recommend products that should work well for you. Hope this helps.

  5. Sarita says

    Yes, this is very helpful. I will look for a dermatologist in my insurance network. Thank you so much for your help.

  6. D'wayna says

    The only sunscreen that I’m not allergic to is Aveeno. I uses Aveeno:Hydrosport sunblock spray SPF 85! You can either find them online at Aveeno.com or at Walmart/Target

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      D’wayna, I’m glad you’ve found something that works well for you. Thanks for sharing.

  7. June says

    Ever since I was little I have always been allergic to suncream, soon after applying I get eczema on the inside of my elbow and behind my knees, and if bad sometimes all over my arms and legs, I have tried suncream for sensitive skin factor 90. Which doesn’t help. It’s annoying as it is summer and its a nightmare on holidays. Help me

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      June, I’m so sorry to hear that. It must be very frustrating. Have you tried a sunscreen with only zinc oxide as sunscreen agent, such as Sunumbra Sunkids SPF40? If even that doesn’t work, I don’t know what to suggest, apart from consulting a dermatologist.

  8. Poppy says

    Hi,

    I think you’ve just explained my problem! Ive always wondered why on earth sun cream is fine on my skin until I go outside. When I expose sunscreen covered skin to the sun I break out in a horrible rash. It’s like lots of tiny blisters which burn and itch, it lasts for days (I’m still suffering today from Thursday’s outing!) and is incredibly uncomfortable.

    I have very light blonde hair, blue eyes and naturally pale skin so I burn very easily, obviously skipping the sunshine isn’t an option! I’ve no idea what to do, my doctor offered no help when I visited. It’s gotten to the point now where I dread summer and can’t book holidays abroad for fear of spending days in pain.

    Please help!

    Poppy x

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Poppy, I’m so sorry to hear about your problem. How awful and frustrating! And that’s too bad that your doctor couldn’t help! Have you thought about going to another doctor? Maybe someone else will know what to do in this case.

      In the meantime, I’d advise you to wear protective clothes, hats and sunglasses whenever you go outside. Another thing.. have you tried a sunscreen that contains only zinc oxide as sunscreen agent? If it’s the sunlight that causes the allergy, then even zinc oxide may not work, but it’s worth a shot. Maybe apply just a small amount on your arm and expose it to sunlight, so even if you get an allergic reaction, it would affect only a small area of your skin. I wouldn’t know what else to suggest, sorry.

  9. sher says

    Hi, I read on May 6 Victoria was looking for idea’s for a moisturizer, I have started using plain organic virgin coconut oil, 100% pure. I bought it at walmart in the cooking aisle. It was about 6$ for 20 ounces, which is quite inexpensive. It is solid at room tempurature, but when you scoop with your fingertips it softens and is easily applied. My new favorite moisturizer! Smells fun too!! Thanks for all the tips :)

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Sher, thank you for sharing. I’m glad you found a moisturizer that works so well for you.

      And you’re welcome.

  10. Shea says

    So I have a very bad reaction to sunscreen lotions twice now one of which put me in the E.R. After talking to a dermatologist and dog some research of my own. (Which I recommend). I came across a all natural sunscreen and found out there was a while line of products that they offer. I have worked outdoors in in the sun for the last 15 years and have been scared to use any sunscreen due to my previous expenses. When I found the Badger line of products it has helped me so much and work greatI use it everyday. For anybody wanting to take a look at the products and do you own research and talking to a dermatologist the website is http://www.badgerbalm.com .

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Shea, I’m so sorry to hear that! What an awful experience! But I’m glad you’ve finally found something that works well for you. Badger Balm makes some great sunscreens indeed. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Eithne Cunning says

    I have real trouble finding a sun cream. I have a drawer full of creams that claim to be hypoallergenic or dermatologically tested. I get runny eyes, headache,runny nose and shaky and very out of form when I try any of these. Don’t get a rash or blisters. But going to the sun soon. Would be grateful for any help.
    Eithne

  12. Eithne Cunning says

    I have a reaction to most makeup so it seems it is not the sun that affects me but the products that Input on my face. Thanks for any help you can give.
    Eithne

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Eithne, that’s terrible! I’m very sorry to hear that. Have you consulted a doctor yet? It may be that you are allergic to something and doing some tests to know what the cause is would be helpful. In the meantime, I’d recommend you use a natural sunscreen with very few ingredients. Also, make sure the only sunscreen agents it contains are Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide. Sunumbra and Badgers Balm are two good brands to consider. Hope this helps.

  13. Eithne Cunning says

    many thanks.Ihave just ordered one of the natural suncreams and will also arrange for a test.
    Eithne

  14. Kay says

    My skin seems to break out all of the time. Have been to doctors. They say it is contact dermatitis. Seems I am sensitive to many things (dust, pollen, floral scented items, etc). Sun and sunscreen seem to cause a reaction, but I noticed more breakouts on the day after I use it. Does this make a difference in diagnosis or treatment? Any suggestions? Trying many brands, and they ALL cause same problem.

    Things that have helped me….DO NOT scratch. It makes everything worse and secondary infections can ensue. I saw my regular doctor, as well as an ER doc, a dermatologist, and an allergist. Also, I returned to some of them when the first, second appts. did not help. Do your own research online and with trial and error. If I can’t sleep or stop the urge to scratch, I roll a frozen water bottle over affected surface. It helps with the inflammation and itching.

    Also, the spray on sunscreens may as well be called “sunscream” for me. They make the skin rash angry! I am not sure what is in it that I react to?

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Kay, I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s so awful! I’m sorry the doctors didn’t seem to help. Have you had allergy tests done? That’s the only way to determine for sure what you are reacting to. There are several ingredients in cosmetics that could cause irritations and allergies to very sensitive people, the most common of which is fragrance, so I would recommend you stick to fragrance-free products only. Also, chemical sunscreen agents can irritate skin, so use only sunscreens with physical agents (ie zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) and as few ingredients as possible so the chance of you reacting badly to them decrease. Badgers Balm and Sunumbra are two good brands to consider, if you haven’t tried them already. Hope this helps.

      • says

        Thanks very much for the referral!
        I loved Kay’s description of the sprays being called sunscream! I can just imagine her contact dermatitis skin’s reaction to the usual ingredients found in sunscreen sprays.
        We are determined to come up with a spray formula that doesn’t have them – the worst offenders being the petrochemical based propellants (mostly propane or butane) and very often alcohol too. Ouch!
        sue ingram´s last blog post ..Animal Testing PolicyMy Profile

        • beautifulwithbrains says

          Sue, you’re welcome.

          And it’d be great if you could come up with a spray formula without alcohol or other irritating propellants. Spray sunscreens are so practical but their formulas aren’t often very gentle.

  15. Kim says

    I found this article, but after reading the comments I’m glad my reaction to sunscreen isn’t even worse. “Blistering rash?” – ouch!

    When I use sunscreen, my skin develops an itchy raised rash. The irritation can last for days afterwards. My goal is to find a zinc-based one that, A) works, B) goes on evenly and smoothly (which is hard to find in my limited experience), and C) perhaps has a tint in it so that you don’t look like Caspar the Friendly Ghost.

    Does anyone have a particular brand they like?

    Thanks! Kim

  16. Colleen says

    I just purchased two different sunscreens…sunumbra and badger balm. I am hoping the all-natural ingredients does my skin well. Planning another vacation in September and don’t want to have to deal with puffy eyes from a reaction to sunscreen or a trip to urgent care for a shot due to the reaction.

  17. Carrie says

    So sad to have reactions to pure and free baby by neutrogena, there are so many ingredients I’m not sure what to look out for and stay away from other brands!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Carrie, I’m sorry to hear that. The Neutrogena pure and free baby line is pretty good, but the products have long ingredient lists, so there is a big chance that it’s one of the other ingredients in the formula that’s causing the problem. Try using a physical sunscreen with a very short ingredient list and see how that goes.

  18. Donna Hand says

    I developed an allergy to the sun/suntan lotions last year while I was in the Bahamas. I am 62 and never had a reaction before. My reaction is I itch all over where I have applied the sunscreen. It is absolutely horrible. I have spoken to my dermatologist and he told me I was allergic to the sun. A few weeks ago I went to the beach and did not use any sunscreen at all as a test. I had no reaction what so ever. Yesterday I went to the beach and applied CeraVe, which contains zinc oxide and titanium and almost lost my mind last night itching and it is continuing today. Someone suggested I use Waterbabies by Coppertone. Any suggestions? I’m headed back to the Bahamas in two weeks and my level of anxiety is high!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Donna, that’s awful, I’m sorry! It could be that it’s the combination of the sun and the sunscreen that it’s giving you a negative reaction. Does your sunscreen still makes your skin itch when you don’t expose it to the sun? If not, the sunscreen would need the sun to “activate” the allergic reaction, in which case you should see a different dermatologist who, hopefully, will have a better solution.

      As far as I know the Copperton sunscreens contain chemical sunscreen ingredients which tend to be more irritating than physical ones. If you’re determined to try them, do a patch test on a small area. In the meantime, I recommend you wear protective clothes, a hat and sunglasses whenever you go outside.

  19. Chariss says

    My husband is allergic to any suncreen, we found out maybe 6 years ago, my friend let us used her organic suncreen, I forgot the name of it, and he had a really bad reaction, itchy, and rashes all over, then the following year I bought huggies baby spray suncreen? And sprayed it on my husband lol and it did it again, and the third time he was just holding our sun who I applied some suncreen on and he started to get the rashes again, now every time we go out to go to the beach we never apply anything cause of him, and we don’t have a lot of money and he doesn’t have health insurance to go get check, what should we use? Any brands? My friend said to use coconut oil cause it has natural suncreen in it

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Chariss, I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s allergy. Have you tried a sunscreen that only contains Zinc Oxide? My favourite is from Sunumbra, because it is tinted and doesn’t leave an unattractive cast behind. Zinc Oxide shouldn’t cause allergies, but if your husband still develops an allergic reaction, then I wouldn’t know what to suggest apart from wearing protective clothing whenever you go outside, although that would defeat the purpose of going to the beach. Coconut oil, or any other oil, is not a good option because oils have very low SPF. Coconut Oil has a SPF of only 7! There are others ingredients, such as Vitamins C and E, that have some protective properties, but these are recommended to be used with sunscreen too.

  20. Tracey says

    Thanks for all the information and experiences everyone has shared is has been very helpful. My Dad has just had a nightmare weekend due to an itchy, hot, lumpy back chest and neck. We have been trying to figure out the cause and after reading all your information we now know it was the sunsceen. He brought his usual brand but they have changed it and the list of ingrediants is now huge compared to the previous one he was using.
    He will now be checking all the ingrediants on his sunscreen from now on and looking to find one with alot less chemicals.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Tracey, I’m glad this post and all the comments left by my readers helped. I’m sorry to hear your father had an allergic reaction to the new formula. It’s awful when a product that worked well for you gets reformulated and now gives you problems. Have you tried Badger’s Balm or Sunumbra? They both make physical sunscreens with short ingredient lists.

  21. AnneMarie says

    The only sunscreen I can use is Neutragena for Sensitive Skin. Otherwise I must cover up from head to toe,

  22. Carys says

    Hey,
    Over the last few years I’ve developed an allergy to sun creams around my face/neck (not really tried elsewhere). I’ve just tried the Piz Buin allergy sun cream and have come up with a reaction really quick! My oh has suggested the protecting dry oil stuff, so I’m wondering if anyone knows if this is a good option. I’ve got a moisturising lotion from boots with UVA and UVB protection (no idea what SPF) that I will use on my face as I’ve used this before, but need something for elsewhere (though it might be cheaper to use the moisturiser as its only £1.50 for 150ml!)

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Carys, I’m sorry to hear about your allergy. The best thing would be to have allergy tests done to determine what the culprit is. In the meantime, I’d suggest you take a look at the sunscreen ingredients in the Boots cream and find a sunscreen that has the same actives. Or you can just use the Boots cream all over your body. Just make sure you slather it on liberally or you’ll never reach the level of SPF stated on the bottle.

  23. Nou says

    Hi!
    I’m allergic to sunscreen but don’t know what I’m allergic too. I don’t know if its because of the SPF or the brand itself. I know I’ve tried banana boat and I got bumps all over my body. My skin also reacted on a spaying tanning bottle. So I’ve stopped using sunscreen ever since. Now I want to buy some but don’t know where to start. Should I look for the sunscreen for sensitive skin only?

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Nou, it’s impossible to tell what it is you are allergic to without having allergies tests done, which I recommend you do. In the meantime, I would recommend you stick only to physical sunscreens (those that only contain mineral UV filters Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide) as they tend to be much less irritating than chemical ones. Hope this helps.

  24. Bejou says

    Over the years over discovered finally that titanium dioxide is the problem for me. I found Eminence brand products – their organic sunscreen contains no titanium dioxide and works like a charm! No reaction whatsoever!!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Bejou, I’m glad you were able to identify the culprit and found a sunscreen that works well for you. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Kate says

    Hi. My 7 year old son was just diagnosed with a Balsam of Peru Allergy. I am having difficulty finding a sunscreen and also any lice prevention products that are safe for his skin/hair. Can you recommend any? Also, I was interested to read one of the earlier comments about having terrible reactions when the person was in Cancun. We go there every other year and his skin is the absolute worst when we are there, using the same products we use here.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Kate, I’m sorry to hear about your son’s allergy. Unfortunately, there are so many substances that you have to avoid when you have this allergy. Have you tried Sunumbra Sunkids or Badger’s Balm Organic Sunscreen Base? They contain only a bunch of ingredients and aren’t scented, so hopefully, your son won’t react badly to them.

      I’m not really sure why his skin gets worse in Cancun. A theory may be that there are some plants there, or maybe some pollen in the air, or things like that that aren’t present at home that make his allergy worse.

  26. Patty Yost says

    I have just started identifying that I have allergies and ended up in the ER like many-
    I have noticed a zinc sunscreen that goes on clear- any comments?

    Thanks

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Patty, that’s terrible! I’m so sorry. Zinc Oxide shouldn’t cause any allergic reactions and can, by itself, protect against the entire UV spectrum. But you may want to do a patch test, just in case.

  27. Alenka says

    Hi, I suffer with Endometriosis stage 2. I can’t use Benzophenone or oxybenzone, bisphenol-A (BPA) and parfumed+ alcohol as I have sensitive skin. I looked at some organic placess here in UK, but all of them have eiter all these ingrediants or some. Is there anything I can use without any of these suplaments. We are going on honeymoon end of August, so need to be ready. Thank you

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Alenka, I’m sorry to hear about your problem. Is Badger’s Balm Organic Sunscreen Base available in the UK? It is unscented and contains only a handful of ingredients. If you want something tinted as Zinc Oxide can leave a white cast on skin, I recommend Sunumbra, although I think you can only get that online.

      Enjoy your honeymoon!

    • Nichole says

      I don’t know if it’s available in the US but I have had good luck with Cleure sunscreen. I have a terrible allergy to salicylic acid and all benzoates cause a very unattractive rash and hives – but I’ve not reacted to the Cleure sunscreen. It’s very expensive, but I have very fair skin and burn terribly without something, so I just grin and bear it (note – some of their products do use benzoates – like their body lotion, so it pays to read the ingredients before buying). I also just bought a tube of Kiss My Face Sunscreen with Hydresia. It does not use benzoates, either. I’m not sure whether either of these products are available in the UK but I feel your pain on the frustration of trying to avoid benzoates in skin products! I hope you find something that will help.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Laura, I love Liz Earle. I haven’t tried the sunscreen though and I’ve heard it’s been discontinued while they work on a new and improved version.

  28. Hannah says

    Im really struggling to find a sun screen. Up until last year I could use any the majority of creams all over my body. I do have eczema so am a little careful. Now if I use cream my face swells esp under my eyes, eyes become itchy/gritty & my eczema plays up.
    I tried so many different brands some for sensitive and some for normal skins. I would be grateful for any advise!!
    Hannah´s last blog post ..New Collection: Too Faced Pretty Rebel Fall 2013My Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Hannah, I’m really sorry to hear about your problem. I’d recommend either Sunumbra sunscreens, or the physical ones (those with only Zinc Oxide) by Badger’s Balm. They only contain a bunch of natural ingredients so the risk of them causing a negative reaction is very small.

      • Hannah says

        Thank you so much! It has been getting me down. My GP wasn’t helpful & gives me antihistamines & steroid tablets each time. Ive ordered a zinc based one called Blue Lizzard so waiting for delivery but in the mean time will try what you have recommended….watch this space!! Thank you again xx
        Hannah´s last blog post ..Product Review: Labrosan Pina Colada Lip BalmMy Profile

        • beautifulwithbrains says

          Hannah, you’re welcome. Blue Lizzard makes some great sunscreens too, but I prefer Sunumbra and Badger Balm because they have fewer ingredients. I hope it will work well for you.

          • says

            Hannah and Colleen- I too get TERRIBLE puffy eyes and an itch mouth from sunscreen. I have been experimenting with different brands and I am do excited to hear about badger balm and the others. I am going to order them right away! Also, my reaction usually starts the day after and can somewhat be prevented by a full shower as soon as possible with special attention to the face. Anyway, thanks so much for your recommendations! I live in Hawaii so I need a solution!

            • beautifulwithbrains says

              Kate, I’m sorry you are having problems finding a sunscreen that works for you too. I hope Badger Balm worked well, without side effects.

  29. Colleen says

    I just read Hannah’s comment. Hannah, I have had the same problem the last year and a half. I haven’t seen anyone mention puffy eyes, and seeing your comment made me empathize with you!!! I don’t have skin problems, but for some reason, I suddenly had a bad reaction to sunscreen; I too used to be able to use any kind on my face. I have spent over $100 trying to find the right sunscreen for me. I think I finally found it with badger balm and sunumbra. I have not been able to use it multiple days in a row to see if it really does work for me with no allergic reaction though. I will say one of the recent ones I used, neutropenia sensitive skin, didn’t work for me and made my eyes extremely puffy from one day of use. It is so refreshing to have a blog like this to try and narrow down my problem…I would have never found badger balm!!!

    • Hannah says

      Colleen…same as you! Ive nearly spent £100 on different sunscreens that say they are for sensitive skin with no luck & sick days off work!! Ive ordered Badgers Balm, but like the Blue Lizzard brand it will take weeks to get here! Im so glad of the support!!!! xx

  30. Catherine says

    I’m allergic to all kinds of sunscreen and I don’t know what kind of
    Substance I’m allergic to and I get a burning in my face area and I get a rash
    I did a allergies test but it wasn’t for sunscreen.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Catherine, I’m sorry to hear that. I’d suggest you get another allergy test done to determine what it is you allergic to. In the meantime, I’d try a physical sunscreen with very few ingredients, such as Sunumbra SPF 30 sunscreen or Badger’s Balm Organic Sunscreen Base, as they are less likely to contain something that may trigger a negative reaction.

  31. Tess says

    I find that I’m only allergic to sunscreen on my lips. Since I found this out, I stopped using SPF lip balms. Now I have discovered that even putting face moisturizer containing SPF on my face has caused a reaction to my lips. I’m not sure what to do now.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Tess, I’m sorry to hear that. Moisturizers with SPF usually contain chemical sunscreen ingredients. Check if this is the case with yours. If so, switch to a moisturizer without SPF and use it in conjunction with a Zinc Oxide based sunscreen. I’d also recommend you have allergy tests done so you know exactly what ingredients to avoid. I hope this helps.

  32. sammy says

    I have been using Clinique even better moisturizer with spf20 and sometimes Olay for sensitive skin spf 30 and usually don’t have a problem, but sometimes I do get a rash or break-outs when I go out into the sun, and I think it may be because I sometimes also use makeup and/or acne medication so I think for me it is the combination of certain products that cause me problems but I can’t figure out what combination is the issue. Do you know if certain sunscreen ingredients interact badly with certain acne ingredients (like sacylic acid)?
    and If I were to move to something like sunumbra, how is that for acne prone skin? do you use it under or over makeup (foundation)? Thanks in advance.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Sammy, I’m sorry to hear about your problem. I have never heard of sunscreen ingredients causing rash or breakouts when used with salicylic acid or other anti acne ingredients. But I know that salicylic acid shouldn’t be used together with alcohol, retinoids, benzoyl peroxide or any other product that’s drying to the skin. Do you use any of those?

      Zinc Oxide is great for people with acne and can be used under makeup. Just choose a product with a lightweight texture. Most sunscreens with Zinc Oxide tend to have a thick consistency which may feel uncomfortable, especially on oily or acne-prone skin. If you want to try Sunumbra, the sunkids version would be more suitable for your skintone because the texture is thinner.

  33. Rose says

    I have been googling to see if I can find out why when I now use products containing spf’s my eyes burn and water constantly (my nose runs as well). The two products that I had been using (previously with no reaction at all) were Estee Lauder double wear foundation (I switched to the only one they had that had no spf and it was OK, Invisible Wear ) and neutrogena healthy defence moisturiser. I am always careful not to get anything in my eyes. I want to change to a mineral powder makeup but everything seems to contain some sort of spf. BTW I live in NZ.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Rose, I’m sorry to hear about your problem. It sounds like you may have developed an allergic reaction to one or more of the chemical UV filters used in those products. A mineral powder instead uses Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide as sunscreen agents so they are unlikely to cause a negative reaction. I’d also recommend you take a look at the sunscreen agents in the EL foundation and neutrogena moisturizer so you’ll have a better idea of what to avoid in the future. Hope this helps.

  34. Actor Person says

    New to this — your advice is very helpful!

    Because of my rosacea and unexplainable breakouts, I just took the North American Contact Dermatitis Group Standard Series patch test, as well as the Cosmetic Series. Turns out I’m allergic to DMDM Hydantoin, which was in the Olay Complete All Day UV Moisturizer SPF 15 for Sensitive Skin that I’d used every day for five years (and have been off of for a week now). However, in trying to switch to a non-DMDM Hydantoin moisturizer such as Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 15 (or I was also considering La Roche Posay’s brand for rosacea) this week, I’m suddenly breaking out. Could that be because of the biting cold weather that just swept through my town — or because the Aveeno uses Avobenzone rather than zinc oxide?

    The Standard Series tested for Oxybenzone/Benzophenone-3 (mine was negative), but I can’t find any indication that it also tests for Avobenzone or Octinoxate. Why would that be the case, if people tend to react to them more often than other SPFs?? And if I’m correct about that, might there be a way for me to find a patch test that doesn’t cost another $1800, but just has those two ingredients?

    …And while I’m looking for answers in these patch tests, might you have suggestions of any non-DMDM Hydantoin, non-Avobenzone, non-Octinoxate SPF facial moisturizers — that are also non-comedogenic? I know that’s a lot to ask, but my career (not to mention daily happiness) depends on it…

    Thank you for any advice you can offer!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Actor Person, I’m sorry to hear that you are allergic to DMDM Hydantoin, but at least now you know what is causing the problem. Unfortunately, the North American Contact Dermatitis Group Standard Series patch test leaves out many common allergens. If you want to be tested for one that’s not included in that, you’ll have to consult a dermatologist. I’m not sure how much that would cost, though.

      I’m never heard about avobenzone causing breakouts, but it can definitely cause irritations and allergies. Thing is that it is one of the very few ingredients that protects against UVA rays. The other one would be zinc oxide, but it’s not often included in facial moisturizers. So, my advice would be to use a physical sunscreen (my favourite is Sunumbra, which is non-comedogenic) and follow that up with a moisturizer without SPF. Hope that helps.

      • Actor Person says

        Great to know about avobenzone — perhaps, then, it’s not the cause of the breakout, and the new nighttime coconut oil moisturizer was the culprit instead. I’ll look for a zinc oxide sunscreen anyway, if those tend to be non-comedogenic. Thanks for your advice!

        • beautifulwithbrains says

          Coconut oil is definitely comedogenic, so it’s very likely that was the culprit. But switching to a zinc oxide sunscreen would still be a good idea. Zinc Oxide is gentler than chemical sunscreen agents and, unlike them, it works from the moment you apply it, so you don’t have to wait the usual 20 minutes before heading out the door.

          • says

            I have an allergy to salicylides and react to benzoates, too. I have been told that this is not uncommon in people with salicylate sensitivities, but I had some frustrating trial and error. I use Cleure sunscreen (zinc based, no salicylates or benzoates) and their day and night creams and my skin and overall health are much improved (one warning about Cleure – while all products are salicylate free, some do contain benzoates; thankfully they list the ingredients for everything on their site). It’s expensive but it’s the only solution I’ve found.

            • beautifulwithbrains says

              Nichole, I’m sorry about your allergy. It must be very frustrating for you. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you, even though it is pricey. And thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  35. Eva says

    Hi,
    Can please let me know which Sunumbra sunscreen I should use under my makeup?

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

    Eva

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Eva, you’re welcome. That depends on your skin type. The SPF30 version has a thicker, more moisturizing version that’s suitable for dry skin, whether those with combination or oily skin would prefer the Sunkids one, which is more lightweight.

  36. Stephanie says

    I’ discovered I was allergic to sunblock/anything with SPF about 20 years ago. Super annoying allergy considering that it’s very hard to avoid other people’s sunblock, especially since they started offering them in spray form. I break out anytime I come in contact with a sunblock residing surface, even if I’m wearing clothes (unless I thoroughly wipe it down beforehand). The only sunblock that has worked for me is the Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby 60 SPF cream. It never fully rubs in, but it’s better than nothing. It also seems to be the sunblock of choice for others I’ve met with same allergy. Hope that helps.

    • Gio says

      Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your recommendation. I’m sure other people with your same problem will find it helpful. I’ve googled the sunscreen and found out it is a physical one, which means that the only sunscreen agents it contains are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These weren’t that used 20 years ago, but more and more of them are coming out lately, so if the fact that the Neutrogena sunscreen never fully rubs in annoys you, you can try another zinc oxide based sunscreen. Just makes sure it contains only those two sunscreen agents and always try a sample first, just to be on the safe side. But if that doesn’t bother you, the Neutrogena sunscreen is a good option and the slight residue it leaves on the skin is a small price to pay for its effectivess.

  37. Rini says

    I believe I am allergic to Zinc Oxide & possibly titanium oxide. I have tried various sunscreens but I always break out in rashes & that includes make up that contains spf. I have also tried mineral sunscreens that contain just Zinc Oxide & titanium Oxide but I still break out. It seems impossible to find sunscreen without these two ingredients therefore I cannot test my theory for certain.

    • Gio says

      Rini, I’m sorry to hear that. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are two of the gentlest sunscreen agents, so it’s too bad they don’t work for you. Have you tried sunscreen with Mexoryl? The La Roche Posay Anthelios line contains that. I don’t think all their sunscreens contain Titanium Dioxide, so it should be safe for you to use, but you may want to double check the label, just in case. I’d also recommend you visit a doctor to have patch tests done, so you can determine for certain what it is you are allergic to.

  38. Rini says

    Hi Gio, Thank you for your reply. I will definitely look into The La Roche Posay Anthelios range. However as to visiting, a doctor, this is something that I have done on many occasions only to be told that they only refer a person to a dermatologist/allergy testing if the allergy is life threatening. I suppose this is just something that I will have to live with. If you can think of any other sunscreen range without Zinc oxide and titanium oxide, please do let me know. I have been looking for a non greasy face sunscreen for a very long time.

    • Gio says

      Rini, that is such a shame. Even when not life-threatening, allergies can still affect the quality of your life, and is therefore important to know what the culprit is. I wonder who makes silly rules like that.

      You’re welcome, and if I can think of any other sunscreens, I will surely let you know.

  39. Dawn Eskins says

    I spent most of childhood in the sun and never had an allergic reaction in the sun until about 7 years ago.
    After enduring hives and blistering allergic reactions, and changing to multiple brand names- I discovered that some chemical allergies can stay in your skin and re-emerge for years. This makes the allergen diagnosis especially difficult.
    From there, I spent some time going without sunscreen and then slowly reintroduced each category of sunscreens. The problem quickly became clear- ANYthing containing the word -benzo or anything that mentions anti-aging (Parsol 1789).
    I’ve been using Neutrogena Sensitive skin with good results and recently discovered Aveda tinted facial moisturizer works great.
    Problem is, the edges of my hands and top knuckles of my fingers continue to blister and my wrists itch. If I apply heavy amounts of hydrocortisone while in the sun that keeps it from stinging. I have assumed this is the result of the sunscreens I used (before identifying the problem) that are still in my system. Would you agree with that assumption?

    • Gio says

      Dawn, I have never heard of sunscreens staying in the body for so long before. As far as I know, you can become allergic to anything at any time and, once that happens, every time you come in contact with that particular substance, a negative reaction occurs. But it’s weird that the same formula should irritate your fingers but not your face. I recommend you consult a dermatologist immediately. He/she will be better able to tell you what’s going on and recommend products that you can safely use.

  40. eilis says

    I’m allergic to sunscreen but cannot figure out what it is… It’s one of the worst things to be allergic to in my opinion because I always get sunburnt and there’s a higher chance of getting skin cancer. My sunburn right now is so bad my skin is purple… This has never happened before but the sunburn’s keep getting worse as the years go on… It’s tough but you learn to function!

    • Gio says

      Eilis, oh no! That’s too bad! I’d recommend you visit a doctor to have allergies tests done. That way, you’ll be able to find the culprit and avoid sunscreens that use it. Another thing you can do in the meantime is check the ingredient lists of the sunscreens that didn’t work for you, and see which sunscreen agents they have in common. That way, you’ll have an idea of what to avoid. And, if you haven’t already, try a zinc-oxide based sunscreen like Sunumbra. That usually works even for people who are allergic to most sunscreen agents.

  41. Ana says

    I recently went to the beach a week ago and used banana boat kids sunscreen now I have never ever broken out in hives ever. I normally use smaller doses in sunscreens 15,20 but this sunscreen was a 50. I honestly cannot figure out for the life of my why I broke out in hives nor can I figure out what ingredients bothered me since it was kids sunscreen. I have heard of suddenly developing allergies as you get older so maybe it is quite possible? The only problem I am having is trying to figure out which sunscreen to use because the kids sunscreen like I said was gentler and didn’t have any of the chemicals you listed besides Titanium. I am so lost and confused…..

    • Gio says

      Ana, I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t be sure, but it could have been an allergic reaction indeed. To know for certain, you’d have to get tested though. In the meantime, I’d recommend you switch to a Zinc-Oxide based sunscreen. Sunumbra has a few that are really good, and Badger Balm also has one. None of them contain fragrances or preservatives. They’re very gentle.

  42. adrian says

    I’m allergic to the following ingredients:
    · Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate

    · The plant family Asteraceae (Compositae) – includes Calendula, chamomile, sunflower, safflower and yarrow

    · Methyl-isothiazolinone/methylchloro-isothiazolinone (also called Kathon, Euxyl K100,Acticide, Algucid CH50, GR856, Grotan TK2, Metatin GT, Mitco CC, Mx323, Parmetol)

    · Chromate

    · Lanolin (wool alcohol, wool wax). Also called Amerchol, Modulan and Lanacol

    · Fragrance

    · PTBP Formaldehyde Resin

    And cant find any sunscreen that im not allergic too

    • Gio says

      Adrian, it must be so frustrating for you! It seems like every product has at least one of these ingredients. Have you tried Nia24 Sun Damage Prevention Broad Spectrum Sunscreen or MyChelle Sun Shield, SPF 28 with ZinClear. They shouldn’t contain anything you’re allergic to, although you may want to double check in case I missed something.

  43. Samantha says

    Hi guys, thanks for sharing.
    So I’m 15 years old, Ghanaian (African) and was diagnosed with atopic dermatitic – photosensitive/phototoxic dermatitis a few months ago.
    My derma advised that i ditch my sunscreen, Queen Elizabeth Cocoa Butter, and use my 100% pure Shea Butter instead( he said I can heat in some lemon leaves if i want to get rid of the shea smell).
    The thing is dmy skin actually hurts when ever i go out in the sun if its just bare. I’ve been tryinf to find a different sunscreen besides my Up and Up SPF 50 sunscreen. But noone sells sunscreen in this country ! really I ‘ve searched everywhere ! Any natural alternatives ? I don’t want the shea to darken me.

    So I went back to my Up and Up cause of frustration and and now I have rash and blisters everywhere and swollen lips ! Gah.
    Can I use my corticosteroid (mometasone furoate 0.1%) over my shea butter to protect my skin ?

    I’m so sorry this is so long.):

    • Gio says

      Samantha, sorry to hear about your problem. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a natural substitute for sunscreen. Some plants have some UV protective properties, but they are really low, like the equivalent of SPF4, when doctors recommend you use at least SPF15. It’s awful that sunscreens aren’t available in your country, but maybe you can buy them on the internet? Sunumbra makes some great sunscreens. They are zinc oxide based, so they shouldn’t cause any problems for your skin, and very effective.

      I’m not a doctor, so I can’t really prescribe medication or give any professional advice. Personally, I don’t think it is a good thing to use corticosteroid daily, but you may want to check that with your doctor.

      • says

        Thanks for the recommendation again Gio. I really feel for Samantha as I so love being in the sun. I want to encourage her to use at least an SPF30 when in the sun, but MOST importantly, to use HIGH protection against UVA rays.
        The other thing I discovered is that the Up & Up sunscreen has a whole variety of chemical sunscreens, one of which is Oxybenzone. People suffering from phototoxic dermatitis are especially advised to avoid this chemical sunscreen ingredient.
        We do ship our sunscreens all over the world but I am unsure if any have been sent to Ghana to date. I would like to encourage Samantha to try Sunumbra and order over the internet. Alternately she can make contact and we can organise to send her some?
        Sue Ingram´s last blog post ..AliceMy Profile

        • Gio says

          Sue, I’m pleasure. I hope she will. Wearing a high SPF sunscreen is so important to keep your skin safe and healthy.

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