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What causes sunscreen reactions?

Reactions to sunscreen are rare and can be a result of a sensitivity or allergy to any of the many ingredients used in these products. Some people may have a reaction to the following:

  • Added fragrance  - Our Rosé S'il Vous Plait SPF30 Gentle Mineral Sunscreen is unscented
  • Preservatives - We do not use synthetic preservatives like parabens 
  • Some UV absorbers - We steer clear of toxic sunscreen actives like oxybenzone, octinoxate and PABA

Sensitivities to sunscreen are complex and can range from mild to severe. Reactions can be linked to a range of co-factors, including sunlight or other allergens, and can also be caused by or made more severe if the sunscreen is used with some medications or other topical creams and lotions. 

Some reactions occur soon after applying the sunscreen, while others (e.g. allergic reactions) can develop after a couple of days or even years of using the same product.

Reactions occur in a very low proportion of the population – fewer than 1% of all users – but while uncommon, it can be very upsetting for those affected.

As with all products, use of sunscreen should cease if an unusual reaction occurs. Individuals or families experiencing reactions should seek a referral to a dermatologist to understand what may have caused the reaction and gain advice on ingredients that should be avoided in the future.

How can I avoid a sunscreen reaction or allergy?

As sunscreens contain multiple active ingredients, it can be difficult to determine whether you will have a reaction – and, if you do, what component of the sunscreen caused it. For this reason, we recommend performing a patch test before applying any sunscreen. If you have a known sunscreen allergy, the best way to avoid a problem is to not use any product containing the substances you are sensitive to.

How do I perform a patch test?

  1. Apply - Squeeze out a small amount of sunscreen into your hand and rub onto an inconspicuous area of skin. The underside of your arm is a good place for it.  
  2. Wait - Wait and see if any reaction occurs. 
  3. OK To Go - If nothing happens over 2 days, then you can apply the sunscreen to the rest of your body.

Excerpt derived from Cancer Council Australia

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