‘Margarita Burn’ Is Real, Doctors Warning Against Beverage

As the summer heat index ramps up across the country, dermatologists are warning poolside partiers to avoid spilling their margarita on their own skin. The combination of the spilled drink on skin under a hot sun can cause chemical burns if certain instances.

The culprit is the citrus in the margarita, which causes a condition known as phytophotodermatitis if it lingers on the skin under a heat source. Dr. Tola Oyesanya, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente, said the reaction is definitely not happy hour approved.

“There’s a reaction that occurs over 24 hours that can cause redness, burning, irritation, even blisters on the skin,” Oyesanya said. And unlike a typical sunburn, the citrus reaction (usually caused by lime juice in the case of tropical drinks like margaritas) develops more like a rash.

“This condition happens only where the certain chemical actually touched your skin,” Oyesanya said.

As ridiculous as it sounds, doctors are actually seeing an uptick in the condition, especially from vacationers returning from the beach.

“It’s also more common in someone who’s been drinking a margarita on the beach,” she said.

A spilled margarita is a likely culprit for sun irritation, but the symptoms can occur after touching some common veggies

Many plants and vegetables contain chemical compounds that cause sensitivity to sunlight. Such chemicals are known as photosensitizers. An example of a photosensitizer is psoralen.

“Limes are probably the most common cause of this condition,” although the chemical is also found in parsley, parsnips, and other plants, Oyesanya pointed out. Psoralen may also be present in some fragrances and some plant oils, such as oil of bergamot.

On exposure to UVA light, psoralen causes photochemical reactions in the skin. These responses damage skin cells and cause cell death, leading to the symptoms of phytophotodermatitis.

Luckily, prevention is as easy as ordering another drink. If you commit a party foul and spill a bit of margarita on your skin, just wash it off in a timely manner. It’s the people who are lounging, spilling a few sips here and there on their chests, and then leaving it there because the liquid felt cool on their skin that are getting burnt.

“If there are blisters involved or severe itching, it’s a good idea to contact your primary care doctor or your dermatologist,” she said. But if your case is mild, just use a cold compress and something hydrating for the skin, like aloe vera.

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