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Are You Allergic to Your Sunglasses?

woman allergic to her sunglasses rubbing bridge of nose

Is it possible to be allergic to your sunglasses? 

An allergic reaction to sunglasses is uncommon and not exactly an allergy to sunglasses. It is feasible that you are sensitive to the metals or plastics found in your sunglasses frames or lens coatings.

And though also rare, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to the silicone nose pads found on many sunglasses. 

If you experience redness or irritated skin where any part of your sunglasses touch your face, you might have a condition called contact dermatitis. 

Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash that develops when your skin is directly exposed to an irritant or allergen. You can prevent contact dermatitis by learning what you’re allergic to and selecting sunglasses that don’t contain those materials.

What causes an allergic reaction to sunglasses?

Practically any materials used to make sunglasses can cause allergic contact dermatitis. This is when the skin’s outermost layer becomes inflamed by direct contact with an allergen. It’s the immune system’s reaction to being exposed to a trigger.

Symptoms you may experience if you are allergic to your sunglasses frames include:

  • Itching, which can be severe

  • Redness

  • Bumps, blisters or hives

  • Swelling

  • Rash or sores

  • Dark circles under your eyes

  • Light sensitivity or excessive tearing

It is possible to have an allergic reaction after only a single exposure, especially if it’s a strong allergen, but you also can develop an allergy after recurrent exposure over a period of time.

What this means: Even if you’ve worn a pair of sunglasses several times without issue, you can develop an allergy to the frame materials.

Your sunglasses frame materials — or any chemical used in manufacturing them — could cause skin sensitivities or an allergic reaction.

What sunglasses materials are most likely to cause allergies?

Plastics, rubber, solvents, dyes and waxes have been known to trigger allergies in some people. The most likely culprit, however, is nickel. Nickel is a common allergen, and sensitivity is often triggered by exposure to costume jewelry made of nickel. 

Plus, many metal sunglasses frames contain nickel alloys.

Some plastics found in sunglasses frames can also cause irritation, as can the silicone used in nose pads.

In some studies, ultraviolet (UV) stabilizers (which absorb UV radiation and prevent it from passing through the lenses) have been found to be allergenic. But allergic reactions to lenses are much rarer than reactions to frames.

SEE RELATED: What sunglass frame types are hypoallergenic?

How to prevent and treat an allergic reaction to sunglasses

Avoiding contact with materials known to cause irritation is the easiest way to prevent sunglasses frame allergies and related problems. 

First, you must understand what’s causing an allergic reaction. An eye doctor or dermatologist can help determine the root cause of your sensitivities.

Sometimes friction from improperly fitted frames or excessive sweating can cause symptoms similar to those of an allergic reaction. These, however, are irritants rather than allergens. Adjust your sunglasses frames and these issues should vanish.

You also can see an allergist or dermatologist for a series of skin tests to identify substances to which you are allergic. If it’s nickel, you can replace your sunglasses frames with titanium or stainless steel.

Hypoallergenic sunglasses frames are also a great option for people who are sensitive to plastics. And, vinyl nose pads can be used in place of silicone ones. 

If you do experience an allergic reaction to your frames, immediately remove your sunglasses and apply a cool compress to your eyelids to temporarily relieve symptoms.

You also can use soothing aloe vera gels, calamine lotion or a topical corticosteroid cream, which should provide longer-lasting relief. 

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