Mom: Kids sunscreen sparked allergic reactions

July 1, 2011 4:20:08 AM PDT
Before you head out this holiday weekend, we have a warning about the ingredients in your sunscreen. Adverse reactions to sunscreens are not that uncommon, but you may not know you're allergic until it's too late.

If you're heading to the beach, lake or pool this weekend, sunscreen likely will be in your bag. But one family says you should be considering for more than just the SPF.

Like any responsible mother, Sharon Sachs makes sure her kids are protected when they're out in the sun. So she was prepared for a pool party two weeks ago.

"I just bought a new fresh sunscreen," Sharon said.

But she wasn't prepared for what she believes happened as a result.

"When I saw my watch, that's what really freaked me out," she said.

Sachs says she bought Coppertone Kids Continuous Spray SPF 50. She applied it to her children and a few hours later...

"I noticed my skin was like leather," she said.

Both she and her kids had an adverse reaction on their legs, arms and feet.

"The skin was flaking off on them; they were scaly," said her husband, Damon Sachs.

Her son's shirt was damaged, her bathing suit discolored, the face on her watch left cloudy and her platinum ring dulled.

"It was the whole band, and the diamond had a film on top of it that I couldn't get off," she said.

She and her husband blame the sunscreen.

"It just blew my mind that here's a kids' product causing this reaction," Damon said.

Sachs and her kids went to the doctor and were diagnosed she says with contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction. Dr. Ida Orengo is not their family doctor, but says considering all of the ingredients in sunscreens, reactions are not unheard of.

"In general most of the population will tolerate most sunscreens very well but there are a few patients who have sensitive skin," Dr. Orengo said.

But what alarmed the Sachs was the damage to the metals and glass.

"If it will do that to my watch, what is it doing to my kids?" Sachs wondered.

In response Coppertone sent us a statement that reads in part:

"Coppertone takes consumers' experiences of our products seriously and makes every attempt to investigate to obtain the key facts. Coppertone products are used across the nation by millions of consumers. Our formulations are rigorously evaluated by independent dermatologists and scientists to ensure they are safe and effective."

"Is it really safe?" Damon said.

Now the Sachs have all kinds of questions they never thought about before and suggest other parents consider the same questions.

"Before you apply the product that you just grab off the shelf, and it says for kids or babies, you do some research," Damon said.

At Coppertone's request, the Sachs sent the bottle of sunscreen for testing. The family just wants to be reimbursed for their expenses, which were about $600.

Dr. Orengo still recommends using sunscreen, saying even if you have an allergic reaction, it's better than getting skin cancer.

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Read full statement:

Coppertone takes consumers' experiences of our products seriously and makes every attempt to investigate to obtain the key facts. We received a report through our customer service center and have promptly responded, seeking additional information.

Coppertone products are used across the nation by millions of consumers. Our formulations are rigorously evaluated by independent dermatologists and scientists to ensure they are safe and effective for consumers, when used as directed.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), contact dermatitis has many causes and should be evaluated by a licensed dermatologist.

Coppertone products provide safe and effective, broad spectrum protection from the sun, which is important as families prepare to enjoy time outdoors for the Fourth of July.

Further background:

Avobenzone is a key ingredient in sunscreens and may stain clothing when it is mixed in water with a high mineral content, which is common in regions throughout the country. Here are some tips to treat stains:
  • Wash clothing with a heavy-duty detergent.
  • If the water has a high iron content, use water softener (not to be confused with fabric softener). Be sure to wash and rinse clothing in water with water softener.
  • Waterless hand cleaners are sometimes effective.
  • Heat and chlorine bleach make the problem worse if problem is from iron content. If stain is still present, launder with a commercial rust remover. Commercial rust removers are for use only on white or colorfast fabrics.
  • If iron content in water is not an issue: pretreat the stain with a heavy duty liquid detergent or make a paste with powder detergent/water and let this set on fabric at least 30 minutes or overnight for touch stains. Then launder as usual. Check clothing before drying. If stain remains, repeat.
  • It may also be effective is to soak clothing in a strong solution of a bleach for colored fabrics then launder as usual.


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