Last week I started using a new sunscreen - the Australian brand Ultra Violette Extreme Screen - which I loved by the way! Creamy texture, dreamy coconut fragrance, and very high SPF.
As the week wore on I became more and more tired and the dermatitis on my hands flared up. I did not at the time think that this might be related to my new sunscreen - but some desperate google research to uncover the cause of this latest skin reactivity resulted in this surprising discovery - yes, sunscreen can cause tiredness and dermatitis.
I suffer from a salicylate intolerance which was only diagnosed a few years ago. The exact percentage of the population that is salicylate intolerant is unknown as this intolerance is under-diagnosed. I had never heard of it myself until after years of severe skin rashes I insisted on seeing a specialist and received the diagnosis.
Salicylates are naturally occurring substances which occur in foods like blueberries, olives and avocados. And organic versions of these foods are higher in salicylates because salicylates are nature's own pesticide. Salicylate intolerance can manifest in many ways, For me it results in rashes and tiredness - these are the symptoms I experience if I eat too many foods high in salicylates. The tiredness stems from my liver being overloaded as it tries to rid my body of the excess salicylates.
This latest outbreak, therefore, was curious because I had been very careful with my diet all week, as always, to avoid foods high in salicylates - berries, avocados, olives, spinach. It was in my search to discover any foods high in salicylates that I might have inadvertently been consuming that I stumbled on the fact that some sunscreens are also high in salicylates.
Now, to be clear, the salicylates in the Ultra Violette sunscreen are not bad for the average person. Salicylic Acid (also known as Beta-hydroxy Acid, BHA) is found in many cleansers and products such as Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. While Salicylic Acid is an excellent treatment for clogged pores and acne, it is bad news for those of us with a salicylate intolerance. These ingredients can build up in our system and eventually cause problems.
I decided to share my story in our blog in case there may be Founder's Formula followers who are suffering unexplained dermatitis or tiredness, and I want to suggest that maybe you might check your sunscreen. If you have an undiagnosed salicylate intolerance your sunscreen could be making you tired.
I also wanted to share my story because Australian Universities have implicated salicylates in children's behavioural issues. So slathering kids in sunscreen is an excellent idea, especially in a place like Australia, but just be sure to check the ingredients first.
Ingredients to avoid are homomenthyl salicylate (homosalate), ethylhexyl salicylate (octyl salicylate) and trolamine salicylate.
All Founder's Formula products have been carefully formulated with a low salicylate load with the exception of those products where we explicitly state we have added Salicylic Acid (BHA).
Author note: Dr Annie Holden is an anthropologist and the founder of Founder's Formula. Annie lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.