An allergy to suncream is a type of contact dermatitis. Most reactions to suncream are irritant contact dermatitis.
Allergic contact dermatitis caused by suncream is very rare, with one study finding only 0.8% of people experienced it.1
The symptoms of a suncream allergy are similar to the symptoms of contact dermatitis.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- An itchy rash
- Changes in your skin tone, such as it changing to red if you have a light skin tone, and dark brown, purple or grey if you have a darker skin tone
- Dry skin.2
If you have a reaction to the suncream you are using, stop using it right away. Talk to your pharmacist about medicines that can help you treat symptoms of your suncream allergy.
They can give you emollients, a type of moisturisers, for dry skin. They may also recommend topical corticosteroids to reduce swelling and itchiness.2
If your symptoms don’t go away, talk to your GP. They may offer you other treatments such as corticosteroid tablets, to further help your symptoms.2
If you think you are allergic to suncream, you can ask your GP for a referral to an allergist. This is a specialist who can identify allergies. There are a wide range of suncreams with many different ingredients, so they can help you to find one that works for you.3
If you want to limit using suncream, you should use other methods to avoid the sun. Wear long sleeves, hats and sunglasses. Avoid direct sunlight, especially during 11am—3pm. UV blocking clothing can also help protect you from the sun.4
Reviewed by: Mital Thakrar
Review date: April 2023
Next review: April 2026
Information and support, including a helpline, for anyone with allergies.NHS Inform
Information and support if you live in Scotland, including advice on diet and lifestyle.NHS website
Information about allergies, including symptoms, living with allergies and treatments to manage allergies.
- Beleznay K, de Gannes G, Kalia S. Analysis of the prevalence of allergic contact dermatitis to sunscreen: a cohort study. J Cutan Med Surg. 2014;18(1):15-19. doi:10.2310/7750.2013.13041
- Contact dermatitis. nhs.uk. Published October 19, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2023. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/
- Keyes E, Werth VP, Brod B. Potential allergenicity of commonly sold high SPF broad spectrum sunscreens in the United States; from the perspective of patients with autoimmune skin disease. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2019;5(4):227-232. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2019.05.006
- Sunscreen and sun safety. nhs.uk. Published January 18, 2022. Accessed April 5, 2023. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/seasonal-health/sunscreen-and-sun-safety/
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