Your Fave Summer Cocktail Could Actually Be The Cause For This Uncomfortable Rash

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The summer is full of weird health things. One day, you'll be sunbathing and feeling fine. The next, you'll be covered in a rash that just won't go away. But there's one particular skin condition that is rife in the hotter months and rarely discussed; the margarita dermatitis rash. I know, up until now, you've probably never heard of it, but unfortunately, it's something that is all too easy to get. So, what is what is margarita dermatitis?

The condition — which is officially called phytophotodermatitis — "occurs when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation while photosensitising compounds are on the surface," dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah recently explained to Fashionista. This then causes what is known as a "phototoxic inflammatory reaction." In other words, a kind of chemical burn.

But why is this particular condition so worrying? Because "photosensitising compounds" are found in your favourite summer drinks. Citric acid is one of the main culprits that can cause this nasty rash when combined with strong sun rays — and that could prove hugely problematic for cocktail lovers. As you're probably aware, citric acid is used in drinks like margaritas, which, as you may have guessed, is why the condition was given its summer-friendly nickname.

But it's not just citric acid that yo've got to watch out for. A list of other potentially irritating photosensitisers (which are also known as psoralens) reads as follows: celery, parsley, figs and carrots, and other acidic fruits and vegetables, reports ABC News. Scary, huh?

The (not so) funny thing is is that you may have had margarita dermatitis in the past and never realised it.

You see, the reaction between the sun, photosensitiser, and your skin, results in a blotchy red rash that could be mistaken for sunburn. It mainly appears on hands but has also been seen on arms and legs. Basically anywhere that juice could land if spilt.

"The reaction is phototoxic, creating a brown, purplish discolouration that is very alarming to people," another dermatologist, Dr. Meghan O'Brien, told Shape, adding that it's also common to experience blisters appearing on the skin too.

Being aware of the condition can help prevent it from happening to you. Obviously if you're playing bartender for the day, given what you've just read, ensure that you are wearing adequate UVA-based sunscreen and wash your hands thoroughly if you do come into contact with any of the irritants.

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However, it's not just food and drink that can cause margarita dermatitis. It turns out, skincare products can trigger the rash as well. So when slathering yourself in body lotion, check the ingredients list on the side of the bottle to see if citrus in particular is included. If it is, it's probably best to avoid it during the summer.

If you do start to notice a rash developing and think that you might have margarita dermatitis, there are several things you can do. Noticing it within 48 hours means you can use a topical steroid such as hydrocortisone to reduce any inflammation. (Note that the inflammation will usually last for around five days.) You can also try a cold compress or oral antihistamine, reports Houston's Baylor College of Medicine.


Worryingly, there have been more extreme cases of margarita dermatitis. In 2015, one man ended up with second degree burns from the condition. In cases such as this, a trip to your local hospital will be required.

Luckily, the damage rarely has a lasts forever. You may experience hyperpigmentation from between a few weeks to a few months but this will fade over time. But thanks to cosmetic innovations, you can speed the process along with a lightening cream that contains Vitamin C.

Of course, you can still have fun and eat and drink whatever you fancy. But it's better to be safe than sorry and remain vigilant when squeezing those limes and lemons. After all, no one wants their summer to include memories of a trip to A&E.