In summertime, margaritas can come with a dark twist: blistering burns all over your hands.
That’s what happened to health-care worker Courtney Fallon, who squeezed “hundreds of limes” to make margs for her Memorial Day party.
After prepping the tequila elixir, the New Yorker filled up some to-go cups and then lounged by the pool, soaking up some rays.
The next morning, Fallon woke up with her hands covered in bubbled blisters and skin that felt as if it was “on fire,” she tells Prevention.
But this was no sunburn — it was what’s dubbed a “margarita burn.”
The official medical term for the condition is phytophotodermatitis, a surprisingly common skin reaction that can manifest as anything from painless pigmentation to excruciating blisters, says Clarissa Yang, MD, chief of dermatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
How bad it hurts depends on your skin tone and your level of exposure to the irritant.
“When you get a substance on the skin that’s photo- or UV-sensitive, it creates a phototoxic reaction after sun exposure, the severity of which will be proportionate to how much of the agent touched the skin,” Yang says.
Because reaction time is usually delayed — anywhere from one to three days, per Yang — it can be difficult for patients to realize what’s happening.
Yang says that she has seen reactions that look like streaks, where lime juice may have run down the arm, or just brown spots, where some juice may have splattered. Although lime reactions seem to be the most publicized, there are numerous foods that can cause skin trauma including parsley, carrots, celery and mango peel, she says.
If you find yourself burning away in Margaritaville, the treatment she recommends is seeing your doc for a prescription cream and using aloe vera to take away the pain in the meantime.
Better yet, prevent it from happening in the first place: “Just wash your hands,” Yang says.