(Don’t) wear sunscreen

I’ve known for the past few years that I have a terrible allergic reaction to sunscreen. Basically, when I put it on my face, my skin starts to feel like there is acid burning through me. It is quite nasty. As such, I have been buying this more expensive L’Oreal Ombrelle sunscreen that doesn’t have the ingredient in it that I’m allergic to (namely, octyl methoxycinnamate.)

This weekend in Pemberton it was incredibly sunny and bright. We were all putting on sunscreen like mad to avoid burning. I was using my Ombrelle. All was good.

Monday when we were back in Vancouver, I was sitting at my desk at work when I noticed that my face was itchy and bumpy and raised. I went to the pharmacist who suggested I used a mild moisturizer, which is what I did. It didn’t really help.

Tuesday wasn’t any better, except that it was more itchy.

Wednesday I went back to the pharmacist, who gave me a free sample of an anti-histamine to see if that would help. It didn’t.

Today I went to the walk-in clinic after work. The doctor there looked at it and told me that it is quite probably a reaction my skin had to the combination of my sunscreen and the amount of sun I got.

Basically this means I am also allergic to my new(er) sunscreen, but only if I’m out in the sun. Awesome. Skin Cancer here I come.


  • drtrauma

    June 3, 2005 at 4:13 am


    What a devilish catch-22 situation you find yourself in.

  • cyn

    June 3, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    i can’t wear anything with PABA in it, and have actually paid $30 for a good sunscreen that doesn’t make me break out. i also use parasols. when your skin freaks out like that, use bottled water to wash your face for a few days. keeping the skin chlorine free helps it recover faster.

    • Jenny Lee Silver

      June 3, 2005 at 2:30 pm

      Parasols are fun. 🙂 Generally if I’m walking around town I have a good hat with a wide brim. Unfortunately that’s difficult to do when mountain biking, the helmets do have visors but they’re not huge.

      I’m planning to look around for other types of sunscreen, maybe some of the major expensive cosmetic places will have something I can use. I’ve already gone through all the drugstore brands, they’ve mostly got the Octyl M. stuff in them.

    • Jenny Lee Silver

      June 5, 2005 at 5:27 am

      I did some research online and discovered that the best stuff to use, (as in the most effective sunscreen in existance as well as the gentlest thing for your skin) is straight up Zinc Oxide. That’s the white stuff that you always see on the noses of lifeguards. Up until a few years ago, it was totally opaque like that, but now they’ve micronized it so that it basically disappears when you rub it on your skin. Plus, it doesn’t soak into your skin but actually creates a physical barrier. It’s the stuff you use on babies, which should be an indication of how gentle it is. I bought some from a health / drug store and tried it, it disappears nicely and didn’t seem to bug my skin at all. I think I’m sold.

      Make sure if you want to get some it’s micronized (so it doesn’t look like a white cream that never comes off.)

      • cyn

        June 5, 2005 at 1:41 pm

        thanks- i’ll look fot it! it’s got to be cheaper than my current one… even though it smells of botanicals and is a lovely soft moisturizer too. time to pinch pennies!