lime disease sunburn from limes

Is Your Cocktail Causing a Sunburn?

If you’ve ever been on a tropical vacation that involved margaritas, you might have heard of “lime disease.” The skin condition, officially called phytophotodermatitis (and not to be confused with the tick-borne Lyme disease), occurs when the juice from limes or other citrus fruits reacts with sunlight on the skin to cause irritation and even second-degree burns, often in a dripping pattern on the hands and arms.

I’m pretty sure I’ve experienced “lime disease” myself. Last summer, after a weekend of sipping margaritas in Montauk, a particularly bad flare up caused the skin around my lips and eyes to sting, swell, and turn bright pink. Then, it happened again at a friend's recent bachelorette party in Miami: After a day of drinking Coronas with lime by our hotel’s pool, my lips felt like they were on fire—despite reapplying SPF 15 lip balm like it was my job. After ruling out sunscreen, makeup, and allergies, I realized the cause may have been my preference for citrusy drinks.

Now I’m careful to wash my hands (and avoid my eyes completely) after touching lemons and limes, and I always wipe off the rim of my glass or bottle before sipping. Sunscreen may have been what saved me from the severe blisters that others have developed after a run-in with phytophotodermatitis, like the five California girls who were sent to the hospital a couple years ago after juicing limes in the sun. Turns out the perfect pairing for my beverage of choice isn't just a side of chips and guac, it's also an easy-to-apply sunscreen like Supergoop! Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist with Vitamin C and an SPF-infused lip balm like Coola’s Liplux.

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