Are you allergic to your SPF?

Sunscreen is the answer to protecting you from the sun’s harsh rays, but it’s not always the answer to healthy skin. 

Enter sunscreen allergies.

Sunscreen allergies can range from moderate to severe (hot tip: don’t Google) and can cause several different types of dermatitis, resulting in rashes, blisters, eczema, inflamed skin and more. 


And even worse for our vulnerable little ones. 

So let’s take a deep dive.

What causes allergies and who’s likely to get them?

A small percentage of us have allergies to the active ingredients in sunscreen, and typically it’s those present in chemical sunscreens. 

In fact, for young children, some experts recommend only wearing physical (mineral) sunscreens like MOTHER to avoid possible allergic reactions. On top of this, anyone who has a history of eczema, rosacea, or other skin conditions should opt for physical/mineral SPFs to avoid making sensitive skin worse. 

The Skin Cancer Foundation also suggests that out of an abundance of caution, pregnant mothers should use a physical sunscreen instead of a chemical one. (And we can’t help but notice that if you’re pregnant and opting for MOTHER SPF, it’s very on-brand 😉)

What active sunscreen ingredients should you avoid?

Chemical sunscreens have a list of dubious ingredients associated with them. But the ingredients most commonly associated with nasty flare-ups are:

And compared with the dubious ingredients associated with physical sunscreens? 


(smug hair flip)

What other ingredients could be responsible for allergies?

Interestingly, allergies to the other ingredients used in sunscreen are more common than the active ingredients themselves. 

Ingredients like fragrance and preservatives. 

These two are common causes of contact dermatitis, and once you know what’s in them, it’s really no surprise. 

Fragrances are chock-full of synthetic chemicals that are often petroleum-based, and like many preservatives, are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

What are the signs and symptoms of a sunscreen allergy? 

Put your food down for this one. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Red skin, itching, or rash
  • Hives, raised bumps, swelling
  • Blisters filled with fluid
  • Bleeding, scaling, pain

  • Typically, a sunscreen allergy presents in two different ways: a contact allergy or a contact photoallergy. 

    A contact allergy is simple: you can get a rash or a reaction where you apply the product.

    A contact photoallergy, however, may take a little longer to develop. It’s the result of a reaction between the product, your skin and the sun, so it’ll only appear once your skin’s been hit by the sunlight. A rash or allergy will appear on the area the sunscreen’s been applied to, but in some cases, may spread beyond this

    So how can you avoid a sunscreen allergy?

    Firstly, best practice is to do a patch test before using any new product on your skin.

    Secondly, go for a physical/mineral sunscreen with the active ingredient of zinc oxide (🙋‍♀️) or titanium dioxide.

    And not just any old physical sunscreen. One that’s good for you, good for your skin, and has clean, nourishing ingredients without any villains lurking on the ingredient list (here’s looking at you, fragrance).

    Overall, avoiding a sunscreen allergy is pretty simple in most cases: go for physical/mineral, not chemical.

    And if you need help with a recommendation, you know where to find us 😏


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