Sunscreen Allergy: A Review of Epidemiology, Clinical Characteristics, and Responsible Allergens

Elyse Scheuer; Erin Warshaw


Dermatitis. 2006;17(1):3-11. 

In This Article

Prevalence of Contact Dermatitis from Active Sunscreen Agents

The prevalence of allergy in the general population to sunscreen agents is unknown. Among individuals referred for patch testing, the prevalence of allergy to active sunscreen ingredients is low, probably less than 1%. The North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG), a research organization of American and Canadian dermatologists who specialize in patch testing, periodically reports findings from their combined data sets. NACDG screening agents for sunscreen allergy have included benzophenone (added in 1998) and cinnamic aldehyde. From 1998 to 2002, the prevalence of reactions to benzophenone was 0.6%;[11,12] 59% of these reactions were deemed to be of definite, possible, or probable relevance. From 2003 to 2004, the prevalence of allergy to benzophenone was reported as 0.5% (Erin Warshaw [NACDG member], personal communication, March 2005). From 2003 to 2004, 70.3% of reactions to benzophenone-3 were considered to be of definite, probable, or possible relevance. The prevalence of patch-test reaction to cinnamic aldehyde (which is not specific for chemical sunscreens but which may also indicate a perfume or flavoring allergy) was 3.6% from 1998 to 2002[12] and 2.3% from 2003 to 2004.