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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Charlie Duffield

What is margarita burn? Skin condition caused by citrus and the sun

There’s nothing more refreshing than sipping an ice-cold cocktail on a warm summer’s evening.

However, cocktail lovers need to be careful when drinking in the sun, especially if the drink contains citrus juice.

As well as being wary of alcohol content, those enjoying a few drinks are at risk of developing ‘margarita burn’.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is “margarita burn’’?

Margarita burn is a genuine skin condition that dermatologists have reported seeing during the summer months.

The burn, also known as phytophotodermatitis, is a specific type of sunburn that happens when citrus juice on the skin is then exposed to the sun.

Symptoms of margarita burn include redness, itchiness and more severe reactions such as fluid-filled blisters, raised bumps, swelling and pain. It’s worse on skin that is sweaty or wet.

The most severe cases may develop into severe blistering which will need hospital treatment, but typically margarita burn clears up within a few days.

What other items can cause sunburn?

Adults drinking cocktails aren’t the only ones at risk. Anyone slicing lemons for lemonade, for example, who doesn’t wash their hands thoroughly before touching their children, could end up with citrus juice left on their skin.

Furocoumarins in citrus fruits are the primary cause of margarita burn, but the chemical compound is found in other foods as well, including carrots, celery, figs, fennel and parsnips.

Those who have sensitive skin are more at risk, and could experience the condition from gardening or handling produce containing furocoumarins.

Dr. Keira Barr, a dual board-certified dermatologist and founder of Resilient Health Institute, told Healthline: “This chemical can become activated by UVA rays.

“The furocoumarin is absorbed into the cells of the top layer of the skin, your epidermis, resulting in burning, redness, and blisters.

“The degree of photosensitivity is based on the amount of juice and its concentration. People who were squeezing a lot of limes or had a drink spilled on them and then had a lot of sun exposure may have significant blistering, like a second- or third-degree thermal burn.

“They might have open sores and wounds that require medical attention.”

Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling citrus fruits, avoid touching other people if you’re preparing food, and make sure to cover up if you’re drinking or eating al fresco during the summer months.

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