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Mallorca acne: symptoms and treatment

by Josephine Andrews
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Mallorca acne (also summer acne or acne aestivalis) is a special form of sun allergy (polymorphic light eruption). It is caused by solar radiation in combination with fatty care products (e.g. sun cream). Signs include small, itchy lumps and spots on the skin. The symptoms usually subside within a few days if those affected avoid the sun. Read here how Mallorca acne develops, what it looks like and what you can do about it!

ICD codes for this disease:

ICD codes are internationally valid codes for medical diagnoses. They can be found, for example, in doctor’s letters or on certificates of incapacity for work.


quick overview

  • Description: Skin reaction in which the sebaceous glands become blocked and inflamed by exposure to sunlight in combination with care products containing fat.
  • Symptoms: Small nodules (papules) on the skin, bumps (hives), severe itching
  • Treatment: Avoid re-exposure to the sun and oily sunscreens . In some cases, the doctor prescribes medication (e.g. anti-inflammatory creams, antihistamines, antibiotics).
  • Causes: Solar radiation (UVA radiation) in combination with oil-based care products such as sunscreen and oily skin
  • Diagnosis: Discussion with the doctor, examination of the skin for changes
  • Prevention: Gradually get your skin used to the sun, avoid greasy care products, make sure you have enough sun protection (e.g. fat-free sunscreen, clothing)

What is Mallorca acne?

Mallorca acne (also called summer acne or acne aestivalis) is a special form of what is known as polymorphic light eruption (PLD). Doctors understand this to mean inflammation of the top layer of skin (eczema) caused by exposure to the sun (UVA radiation).

In the case of Mallorca acne, fats and other components (e.g. emulsifiers) in care products (e.g. sunscreen) in combination with sunlight presumably lead to the sebaceous glands – more precisely the sebaceous gland follicles or hair follicles that enclose the sebaceous gland and open as a pore on the skin’s surface – opening become clogged and inflamed.

The inflammatory reaction on the skin is then noticeable in the form of small knots, skin spots and pustules, which are usually very itchy. These occur mainly on the neck, chest, back, upper arms and shoulders.

Characteristically, Mallorca acne usually appears a few hours to a few days after the first extensive sunbathing of the year in spring or at the beginning of the summer vacation. It is therefore also called summer acne and usually occurs seasonally: beginning in spring, with the peak season in summer and ending in autumn. It is one of the most common light-related skin diseases (photodermatoses or light dermatoses) in Central Europe.

Who is affected?

Younger people and especially women between the ages of 20 and 40 are most frequently affected by Mallorca acne, who tend to have oily skin and are unprepared for prolonged exposure to strong sunlight.

How does Mallorca acne differ from sun allergy?

A sun allergy is not actually an allergy, but rather a skin reaction triggered by sunlight (polymorphic light eruption). Mallorca acne is a special or sub-form of this polymorphic light eruption. It is caused by the interaction of sunlight (UVA light) and fatty substances (usually care products such as sunscreen).

In this aspect, Mallorca acne can be distinguished from a sun allergy. For people with sun allergies, the skin reaction is triggered solely by the sun’s rays.

The means of prevention also differ for the two skin changes: Dermatologists recommend sun creams with a high sun protection factor for people who are prone to sun allergies . In the case of Mallorca acne, on the other hand, fat- and emulsifier-free sunscreens with high UVA protection and antioxidants (alpha-glucosylrutin and licochalcone A) are suitable.

How does Mallorca acne differ from conventional acne?

Both the appearance and the underlying cause of Mallorca acne differ from classic acne (acne vulgaris). With Mallorca acne, there are no (or only sporadic) blackheads. These, on the other hand, are typical of classic acne. Acne vulgaris occurs when a skin pore becomes clogged with sebum and becomes inflamed. In the case of Mallorca acne, on the other hand, the sebum follicle becomes inflamed by UV radiation.

What does Mallorca acne look like?

The symptoms of Mallorca acne at a glance:

  • Severe itching
  • Small nodules on the skin (papules)
  • Small (pus-filled) blisters (pustules)

After sunbathing, Mallorca acne typically causes small lumps, usually only a few millimeters in size (the size of a pinhead), pustules, reddish skin patches and sometimes wheals (punctiform to plateau-shaped elevations) on the skin, which itch badly. These appear skin-colored or slightly reddish. Sometimes the skin changes also have a narrow reddish edge.

Body parts exposed to the sun are particularly affected. Mallorca acne is therefore particularly evident in the area of ​​the hair follicles on the neck, décolleté, back, upper arms and shoulders. The nodules rarely occur on the face, abdomen or lower legs.

In contrast to other forms of acne, no purulent “pimples” (efflorescences) appear in summer acne, and there are no or only isolated blackheads (comedones).

What can you do against Mallorca acne?

The symptoms in people with Mallorca acne usually disappear by themselves after a short time. In rare cases, however, the itchy nodules and pustules persist for several weeks. It is important to note the following so that the complexion improves quickly and no permanent skin damage such as scars remains:

avoid the sun

In order to treat Mallorca acne, it is first and foremost important to avoid exposure to the sun. Stay in the shade if possible and wear light clothing to protect your skin.

You should definitely avoid direct sunlight until the pustules have healed!

Avoid oily care products

It is also important to avoid oily sunscreens and other care products such as after-sun products, creams or lotions when dealing with Mallorca acne. Instead, water-based gels or creams are suitable for skin care.

Anti-inflammatory creams and gels

Applying anti-inflammatory creams such as zinc ointment has an anti-inflammatory effect and reduces itching.

Do not scratch the affected parts of the house. This increases the risk of the inflammation getting worse and only makes the itch worse.

home remedies

If the itching is severe, you can apply cold compresses, as well as an aloe vera gel or witch hazel gel. They cool and inhibit inflammation. Applying quark should also alleviate the symptoms.

To do this, spread some low-fat quark about a centimeter thick on a clean kitchen towel and fold it in. Then place the quark wrap on the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes.

Cooling pads placed on the affected area of ​​skin also help against the itching. Important: wrap the pad in a towel so that the skin is not damaged by the cold.

Home remedies have their limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not get better or even get worse, you should always consult a doctor.


Only in severe cases does the doctor treat Mallorca acne with medication. Possible options include skin peeling treatments or creams with vitamin A acid (e.g. tretinoin, adapalene). If further infections (superinfection) develop from the skin changes, the doctor may administer antibiotics in tablet form.

In very severe cases, the doctor also prescribes cortisone preparations in the form of fat-free lotions or ointments. Rarely, antihistamines (antiallergic drugs) are used to relieve severe itching.

What are the causes of Mallorca acne?

The cause of Mallorca acne is not yet clearly known. The typical skin reactions probably arise because hair follicles become clogged and inflamed. The cause for this is suspected to be, among other things, the interaction of UVA radiation, the body’s own sebum and/or components (e.g. emulsifiers) in fatty cosmetics and care products such as sunscreen and lotions.

Among other things, these factors are said to lead to the formation of aggressive pollutants (hydroperoxides and other free radicals), which combine with the skin fat from the sebaceous glands. This leads to an excessive inflammatory reaction of the skin (autoimmune reaction). Emulsifiers or fats in body care products intensify this reaction and the typical symptoms occur.

Experts suspect that certain people have a genetic predisposition that their immune system overreacts to these substances.

Certain detergents, household cleaners or perfumes rarely trigger Mallorca acne in combination with sunlight.

How does the doctor make a diagnosis?

The symptoms of Mallorca acne usually go away on their own after a while. A visit to the dermatologist is still useful to rule out other skin diseases, such as contact acne (acne venenata), which occurs after contact with certain substances (e.g. in cosmetics). Especially if the symptoms do not go away on their own after a while, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

If you notice skin changes after sunbathing that itch badly, your family doctor is the first point of contact. He will refer you to a dermatologist if necessary and for further examinations.

conversation with the doctor

Before examining the skin, the doctor conducts a detailed discussion with the person concerned (anamnesis). Among other things, he asks questions about existing skin problems and changes, for example where and when they occurred and what exactly the symptoms are (e.g. itching).

Physical examination

The doctor then examines the skin for visual abnormalities (e.g. discolouration, deformation, injuries). He examines the skin closely (e.g. with a special skin magnifying glass or a microscope) and feels it if necessary. The doctor can usually diagnose Mallorca acne based on the typical skin changes (visual diagnosis).

What skin changes do you look for?

In order to describe Mallorca acne as precisely as possible and to find clues to the triggering cause, the doctor pays attention to the following:

  • Type of skin change: Is it a nodule (e.g. warts, skin cancer), blisters (e.g. neurodermatitis or shingles), dandruff (e.g. psoriasis) or spots (e.g. hives)?
  • Skin color: Is the skin red?
  • Skin condition: are nodules palpable?
  • Demarcation from healthy skin: Are the edges of the skin inflammation clearly demarcated from healthy skin?
  • Size and extent of the lesion: Are the lesions on the neck, chest, back, upper arms and/or shoulders?
  • Additional complaints: Does the affected area of ​​skin itch, burn or hurt?

How long does it take for Mallorca acne to go away?

In most cases, the skin irritation resolves spontaneously within a few days. Damage to the skin, such as scars, remains only very rarely (eg when those affected scratch themselves severely). The prerequisite for healing is that those affected avoid the sun and avoid fatty care products. The symptoms rarely last for several weeks. At that point you should see a dermatologist.

How to prevent Mallorca acne?

If you have oily skin, are prone to acne or have already had Mallorca acne, the following tips will help:

  • Slowly and gradually get your skin used to the sun’s rays. At first, go out in the sun for just five to ten minutes and then back into the shade.
  • If possible, avoid going out in the sun at midday, but preferably in the morning or afternoon.
  • Also protect your skin with clothing and headgear (e.g. sun hat).
  • Use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (broad spectrum UVA+B) without fats or emulsifiers. This also applies to other body care products, such as after-sun products.
  • It is best to only use body care products that are free of fat and emulsifiers a few days before sunbathing or going on holiday.

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