Photoprotection including sunscreen use in children is encouraged by health campaigns. While sunscreen chemicals are common causes of photoallergic (PA) contact reactions in adults, limited data are available in children.


To assess the frequency of PA and contact allergy (CA) to sunscreens in children aged < 18 years undergoing investigation for suspected photosensitivity.


Retrospective analysis of data on children who underwent photopatch testing to a standard series of nine ultraviolet (UV) filters and to sunscreen products in a single photoinvestigation centre (2000–11). Duplicate series of UV filters and the children's own sunscreen products were applied to the back, with readings taken at sample removal, and at 24 and 48 h after 5 J cm−2 UVA exposure of one series.


The analysis comprised 157 children (aged 3–17 years, 69 male and 88 female). In total 10 children (6·4%) showed positive photopatch responses to UV filters and/or their sunscreen products (4·5% to UV filters, 5·7% to their sunscreen products). The responsible UV filters most often identified were benzophenone-3 and octyl methoxycinnamate. Additionally, CA reactions were observed in nine children (5·7%), with 16 children (10·2%) showing PA and/or CA to UV filters and/or sunscreen products.


This is the largest series of photopatch testing reported in children, and shows that both sunscreen PA and CA are quite frequent in those undergoing photoinvestigation. Photopatch testing should be considered in children presenting with features of photosensitivity.