Patch test reactions associated with sunscreen products and the importance of testing to an expanded series: retrospective analysis of North American Contact Dermatitis Group data, 2001 to 2010

Dermatitis. 2013 Jul-Aug;24(4):176-82. doi: 10.1097/DER.0b013e3182983845.


Background: Both active and inactive ingredients in sunscreen may cause contact dermatitis.

Objectives: This study aimed to describe allergens associated with a sunscreen source.

Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of patients patch tested by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group between 2001 and 2010 was performed.

Results: Of 23,908 patients patch tested, 219 (0.9%) had sunscreen coded as an allergen source. Patients who were male, with occupational dermatitis, or older (older than 40 years) had significantly lower rates of allergic reactions to sunscreens; the most commonly affected areas were the face and exposed sites (P < 0.0001). The top 3 most frequent allergens in sunscreens were benzophenone-3 (70.2% for 10% concentration, 64.4% for 3% concentration), DL-alpha-tocopherol (4.8%), and fragrance mix I (4.0%). Less than 40% of positive patch test reactions were detected by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group screening series of 65 to 70 allergens.

Conclusions: A supplemental antigen series is important in detecting allergy to sunscreens.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Allergens / analysis
  • Benzophenones / adverse effects
  • Benzophenones / analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatitis, Contact / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Contact / epidemiology*
  • Dermatitis, Contact / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Patch Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sunscreening Agents / adverse effects*
  • Sunscreening Agents / analysis


  • Allergens
  • Benzophenones
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • oxybenzone