Being an esthetician for the past 27 years, I thought I had encountered most every skin condition and issue on the planet but this summer, I personally experienced something I had never even seen or heard of before. It’s a skin condition called phytophotodermatitis. Let me first give you the back story—as it’s a funny one.
I went to Nantucket for a weekend this past summer with my best girlfriends. And as always, my friends drill me for free advice on how to best care for their skin. One of my friends showed me this area on her hand between her thumb and forefinger that had pigmented with brown discoloration. She said she didn’t do anything at all to that area of her hand and it just showed up one day (four weeks prior) and had only faded ever so slightly. I was baffled and had no clue where she got it from. At the end of the weekend, I flew back to Austin and noticed that I had brown discoloration on my thigh, a similar look to what she had on her hand. What was this? Did I catch some strange disease from my girlfriend’s hand that transferred to my leg? (The photo above shows my thigh and my friend’s hand.)
After a few weeks, it really hadn’t faded much on my leg so I met up with a dermatologist friend of mine to have her assessment. She took one look at it and immediately said, “You must have gotten lime or lemon juice on your leg and went in the sun.” What? I had never even heard of such a thing. I thought back to when it appeared and it was right after I got back from Nantucket where I spent a few days at the beach in direct sunlight drinking water with lemons. At some point I must have squeezed the lemons into my water and wiped my leg or something. Crazy!
I soon called my girlfriend to share the news and see if this made any sense regarding her situation on her hand. Low and behold, yes. She did a few tequila shots while out in the sun and she noticed the discoloration on her hand the morning after. In the case of doing tequila shots, you first lick the area in between your thumb and forefinger, and then you sprinkle salt on that area, drink the shot and then bite in to a fresh lime wedge to get the juice into your mouth. It was on the second shot that she did immediately after that caused the problem. With all the fresh lime juice in her mouth, she immediately licked her hand again, poured the salt, did the shot and ate more lime juice. The pure lime juice, that was in her mouth, transferred from her tongue onto her hand while she was out in the sun and caused her skin to pigment. Not only did she wake up the next morning with discoloration on her hand—but with a big headache, too!
Phytophotodermatitis is a condition where chemicals in citrus fruits (limes, lemons and even celery), cause a chemical reaction on the skin when it interacts with UV sunlight. It’s also referred to as “lime disease” (not to be confused with Lyme disease). The result can be blistering and burns, but in mild cases like ours, can simply form brown pigment. It will eventually fade on its own but it can last for months.
Now that I know what it is, she and I are simply treating it how I would any brown spot that appears on the skin which is to use Vitamin C&E Treatment, a stable, no-sting vitamin C serum with melanin-suppressing properties to get it to disappear. It’s now mid-September and while it’s slowly fading for both of us, it’s still going to take a while.
So there you have it. You learn something new every day.
Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.
For more expert advice check out the blog. Also sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!