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Allergic contact dermatitis to sunscreen

What is the prevalence of allergic contact dermatitis as a reaction to sunscreen chemicals? Previous studies have found that allergic contact dermatitis to sunscreen is rare, although irritant reactions are more common, with reactions to excipients in sunscreens occurring twice as frequently as reactions to sunscreen actives.

In a presentation at the 2018 Dermcoll on the Gold Coast in May, researchers discussed a recent review of a database at the Skin and Cancer Foundation Inc in Melbourne from 1993, including over 9,000 patients. It found that only 1.1 per cent of those patch tested had positive relevant reactions to sunscreen chemicals. Those with reactions to sunscreen had an average age of 44 years.

The researchers also performed a retrospective review of the likely sources of sensitisation in the 84 patients sensitised in 2014. These included shampoos and conditioners, wet wipes, liquid hand and body washes, moisturising lotions, face and hand creams, occupational products such as paints and biocides, and facial cleansers and scrubs.

Researchers said that, ironically, this epidemic has also raised awareness of the importance of considering allergic contact dermatitis as a diagnosis, especially in patients who do not have a history of atopic eczema or other skin rashes.

Read more recent research on dermatitis.


R. Davenport, A. Palmer, R. Nixon. Allergic contact dermatitis to sunscreens in 2018. The Australasian College of Dermatologists. 2018 Dermcoll abstract number 44.

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