Some individuals are more prone to sunburn than others, especially those with light-coloured skin. However, for those with sun allergy, even a few minutes in the sun can leave their skin feeling itchy and inflamed. If you’ve read our previous post, you’ll know that certain medications can cause sun allergy, also known as photosensitivity. But did you know that foods you eat on a regular basis could do the same? Compounds found in lime, celery, and parsley could cause you to have a bad reaction to the sun,¹ and the same goes for certain herbal remedies sold at drugstores.² On the contrary, certain compounds found in fruits and vegetables can have the opposite effect, offering some protection against UV-induced skin damage.

If you’ve ever touched lime, and then exposed your skin to the sun, you may have experienced phytophotodermatitis.³ Your skin may have started to burn and you may have ended up with a rash.⁴ The same phenomenon can occur after handling celery or parsley.³ Artificial sweeteners including calcium cyclamate, cyclamates, or sodium cyclohexylsulfamate can also contribute to photosensitivity,⁵ along with the popular herbal remedies, St. John’s Wort² and Gingko Biloba.⁵

Carotenoids, like β-carotene found in carrots, have been shown to offer protection against UV radiation. These compounds make their way into the skin after being digested, and individuals with high amounts of carotenoids in their skin are less susceptible to sunburn. However, consuming large amounts of carotenoids can alter your skin colour.⁶

If you struggle with sun allergy, avoid lime, celery, parsley, St. John’s Wort, and Gingko Biloba before spending time in the sun. This is especially important if you are also currently taking a medication that can cause photosensitivity.

Sources:

  1. Page, E. H. (2016). Photosensitivity. Retrieved February 17, 2017 from http://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/professional/dermatologic-disorders/reactions-to-sunlight/photosensitivity.
  2. Lee, E. (n.d.). Beware of Sunburn Boosters. Retrieved February 17, 2017 from http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/beware-of-sunburn-boosters#1.
  3. Parsons, J. (2015). ‘Margarita dermatitis’ caused by sun, lime juice. Retrieved February 17, 2017 from https://www.bcm.edu/news/skin-and-hair/avoid-margarita-dermatitis.
  4. Baugh, W. P., Barnette, D. Jr., Kucaba, W. D., Chen, C. L., and Baugh, N. A. (2016). Phytophotodermatitis. Retrieved February 17, 2017 from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1119566-overview.
  5. Wisconsin Department of Health Services. (2015). Medications and other Agents that Increase Sensitivity to Light. Retrieved February 17, 2017 from https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/radiation/medications.htm.
  6. Alaluf, S., Heinrich, U., Stahl, W., Tronnier, H., and Wiseman, S. (2002). Dietary carotenoids contribute to normal human skin color and UV photosensitivity. J Nutr 132(3):399-403. Retrieved February 17, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11880562.