Lifestyle & Human Interest

Photos Show What Can Happen If You Handle Lemons or Limes and Go Outside


Summertime is full of citrus in one way or another. It’s a popular seasonal print, an essential part of a classic margarita and the backbone of lemonade.

It’s highly acidic, though, and when you’re using lemons or limes, you want to be careful that you don’t have any cuts or scrapes that the juice might get into — it burns!

But the juice can also chemically burn you in a way that you might not expect. The conditions have to be just right in order for a person to suffer from “phytophotodermatitis,” but during the summer those conditions are often met.

The reaction happens because of compounds known as “furocoumarins” found in lemon and lime juice (as well as in parsley, parsnips, figs and celery) combined with sun exposure. According to dermatologist Dr. Joyce Park, not everyone suffers the same way.

“If someone’s skin is super sensitive and they get a bad case of phytophotodermatitis, they may develop a serious blistering rash,” she told BuzzFeed.

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The condition is also known as “lime” or “margarita” burn. People who have experienced this phenomenon are using social media to warn others and share their own stories.

“This is my half joking/half serious PSA to my friends,” wrote Meaghan Huet. “Watch out for citrus! If you’re gonna make ceviche/margaritas/other delicious things, wash your hands with soap AND water (not just a rinse), before you go out in the sun.”

“These are my hands 2 weeks after I made ceviche (wasn’t even a mohito involved ?). The citrus will react with the sun and give you a chemical burn. It’s not fun. And it doesn’t even get red on the day it’s happening – only starts to show 24 hrs later.”

“What happened to my hand, you ask?” Ashley W shared. “Did you know that limes can cause extremes burns if any juice or oil is left on your skin and is exposed to the sun?”

“Making guacamole on Sunday gave me a painful 2nd and 3rd degree burn all over my hands.”

“I got second degree burns on both hands from squeezing limes and then going out in the sun … so no woodworking for a little bit,” Kate Harrow posted.

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“Yea that’s a thing. Hopefully the swelling goes down soon.”

“Today in ‘you learn something new every day’ news, I didn’t just miss a spot when applying sunscreen to earn this burn, I got it because I hand-squeezed citrus fruit,” another poor soul wrote. “It’s a chemical burn called Phytophotodermatotis, or ‘margarita burn’ (I, sadly, was making salsa, not margaritas).”

“The juice and oil from limes (and several other fruits and veggies) contain chemicals that make human skin extra sensitive to sunlight. Just ‘rinsing off the lime juice’ isn’t good enough if you’re going to be in the sun, clearly. Let my blistery right hand save you from future pain!”

The photos are all effective deterrents from trying something like this at home, but thankfully there are some steps you can take if you do find yourself suffering from lime burn.

According to Dr. Park, “You can use over-the-counter hydrocortisone or a prescription-strength steroid ointment from your doctor to help the healing process.”

Just remember to wash your hands well after using citrus and you should be able to avoid this painful blistering.

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