The People's Perspective on Medicine

Sunscreen Allergy Makes Her Red

Q. Can you tell me what to do about sunblock? I have become increasingly sensitive to the sun, although I always wear sunblock. The problem is that I seem to be very allergic to the ingredients that make sunblock work. I have even tried hypo-allergenic brands, but my face gets bright red and puffs up no matter which brand I try.

Could you recommend any kind of sunblock that won’t ruin my skin? The skin on my face seems the most sensitive. I always wear a big hat when I am out in the sun, but even so my face breaks out in the sun. When I use sunblock on my arms and my legs, for example, I don’t seem to have the same reaction.

A. You may be allergic to one of the chemicals that protects against ultraviolet radiation from the sun or to a fragrance or preservative in the formulation. The word “hypoallergenic” on a label does not guarantee a skin-care product is safe for everyone. The face is especially sensitive.

A sunscreen containing only physical blockers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide would be worth a try. Look for Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock SPF 30 or Estee Lauder Advance Suncare. And keep your hat on. Even though it is not protecting you completely, it is unwise to rely too heavily on sunscreens.

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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