Sunscreen Allergies

Sunscreen protects your skin from harmful rays, but dermatologists say for some people the sun screen itself can be harmful. As 10 O'clock News Reporter Ric Blackwell shows us, some people are allergic to sun screen and don't even know it.

It looks like sun bathers are getting the message: lather on that sun screen generously, but as more people reach for the lotion, dermatologists say they're seeing more patients show up with reddened skin -- not from sunburns, but from sun block allergies. People like Rachel Charles.

Rachel Charles: "I used some sunscreen and the same day Ibroke out in a rash all over my body."

Geraldine Gilligan's sunscreen also left her with a rash. It was all over, it was visible, it was uncomfortable and it was itchy.

Long Island College Hospital's Doctor Cliff Bassett says even more troubling is many people don't know they're allergic to sun screen, and so, they keep re-applying it.

Doctor Bassett: "It can be extremely uncomfortable. It can cause puffiness, swelling to the point where people need to use eyes compresses and other measures such as antihistamines and other things, even steroids to control the reactions."

Doctor Bassett says a simple patch test can determine if you're at risk.

Doctor Bassett: "There is excellent testing to find out even at home through a patch test to determine whether the product is safe or effective or will work for you as well as reduce your chance of having any allergic reactions."

Today, Rachel is undergoing a patch test. Once she learns what's causing her allergies, she'll switch sunscreens. But sunblock might not be the only problem. Many shampoos, moisturizers and make-ups contain sunscreens. A patch test can also find out if that's the problem.

Signs of a sun block allergy include a skin rash, puffy eyes and acne. And since different sun screens have different chemicals, many patients don't know what specific ingredient they're allergic to.