Protecting Your Skin from the Sun When You Are Allergic to Common Sunscreens

It is common knowledge that prolonged exposure to the sun can damage your skin and increase your chances of melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancer types. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from melanoma is to wear sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF). However, if you are allergic to common forms of sunscreen, you will have to find other ways to get a high level of protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

How to Tell If You're Allergic to Sunscreen

While sunscreens can differ by fragrance, moisturizer content, and application method, most of them have common ingredients that fight UV rays. These chemical ingredients can irritate your skin and cause you to have an adverse reaction. They include avobenzone, cinnamates, esters, oxybenzone and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction including itching, swelling, red blotches, rashes, and fluid-filled blisters that develop on your skin soon after you apply sunscreen. If you experience a photoallergic reaction, the skin where the sunscreen was applied will develop rashes when exposed to the sun.

As soon as you suspect that you are allergic to sunscreen, you should call your doctor to schedule an allergy test.

Use Physical Sunscreens

If you have ever watched competitions that feature athletes swimming great distances in open water, you will notice that they have brightly colored paste on their noses and lips. The substance is a physical sunscreen that does not contain the chemicals present in most of the protective products you see lining drugstore shelves.

Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, substances that reflect the sun's UV rays away from your skin. When you wear physical sunscreens, your skin does not absorb radiation.

You can find physical sunscreens at pharmacies and health food stores. Many brands of physical sunscreens contain other natural ingredients that can help to sooth your skin, such as organic aloe, green tea extract, and hemp seed oil.

Wear Protective Clothing

While keeping your skin covered can help to shield your skin from the sun and block radiation, some garments provide additional protection. Many retailers, especially outdoor outfitters and athletic apparel stores, sell clothes that shield you from ultraviolet rays to prevent skin damage and sunburns.

When you shop for protective clothing, look for garments that have a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. The UPF is similar to SPF. The higher the rating, the better the UV protection. Purchase clothes with a UPF rating of at least 30.

Wear Appropriate Accessories

Although this also applies to those who can wear regular sunscreen, it's worth mentioning here that it's important to have the right sunglasses. While generic sunglasses provide some amount of protection from the sun, you should make sure your protective spectacles fit the following criteria:

  • Have oversized frames that also protect your temples
  • Cover your eyes and eyelids
  • Have labels that indicate they can block at least 99 percent of UV radiation

Wearing a cap in the sun is also a must if you are at a higher risk for sun cancer. Your hat should have a wide brim that can effectively shade your head and shoulders. Large, floppy beach hats are ideal, but you can also get adequate protection from some fedoras and Panama hats.


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