Skin Deep

If you’re basking in the sun, watch what you drink

Every year, I have at least one alarmed parent bring in their 18- to 25-year-old child with a strange rash on their skin after vacation. First, I ask where they went.

Then, I smile at the unsuspecting child and say, “So, how were the margaritas in ___?” And I’m right every time. (Tequila shots and margaritas seem to be the most common culprit.)

Vegetables and fruits can cause skin reactions when sun exposure is involved. The dark skin reaction is called phytophotodermatitis and presents as a brown, tanned looking patch on the skin, often in a strange shape.

Imagine squeezing a lime and having the juice run down your hand, and developing a dark patch in that dripping shape. I often see patients with this the week after spring break or Memorial Day weekend.

These are actually areas of skin that tanned better upon sun exposure than the normal skin did. In fact, these areas can become sunburned and blister, while other areas of skin show no sun damage. It is called phytophotodermatitis (Latin for a rash caused by plants and the sun.)

Citrus (especially limes), figs, celery, parsley and carrots (and other closely related fruits and vegetables) contain light-sensitizing botanical compounds. When these compounds are on the skin and exposed to ultraviolet light, the excessive tanning ensues.

So let’s say you’re drinking a margarita and a little drips on your leg or you’re drinking a Corona and you don’t wash the lime off your hands. Those drops or residue can leave a dark mark with the help of sunlight.

If you experience phytophotodermatitis, treat the inflammation immediately as you would a sunburn with aloe and an antioxidant serum containing vitamin C, such as IS Clinical C and E Serum Advance+.

Do not try this as a way to increase tanning. If you do, you risk uneven pigmentation.

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