The skinny on lime juice

Limes as a fruit have a fairly benign reputation. Few of us would regard them as a menacing presence on a day at the beach or by the pool. Yet it seems that lime juice and sunlight are a bad mix.

If you believe the beer commercials then consuming this beverage either leaves you surrounded with back-slapping “mates” or besieged by a bevy of beautiful women depending on the brand that you favour. It also seems mandatory for some beers that they be consumed in near-perfect tropical beach settings or by crystal clear pools where the fashion seems to be to wear as little as possible. All of this is fine until citrus enters the equation; specifically limes.

Some beers are recommended to be drunk with a wedge of lime. Usually this applies to beers that originate from Mexico which is why one skin specialist has come up with the name “Mexican beer dermatitis” for a skin condition that he has been treating.

The recommended way to drink these beers is to push a wedge of lime into the beer and then place your thumb over the bottle mouth and rotate the bottle side-to-side to mix the juice of the lime through the beer. Sometimes this will result in the beer and hence some lime juice frothing up out of the bottle and onto the drinker. If this happens in the sunlight this is where the problems begin.

Lime juice contains a substance called psoralen which has an extremely high absorbance for ultraviolet light. If the lime juice is left on the skin in the sun it can cause discolouration that while not harmful can remain there for months. Other studies have reported dermatitis resulting from lime juice on the skin in the sun.

Lemons also contain psoralen. So if you have an otherwise unexplained staining or skin rash think back to see whether you may somehow have been in the sun with lime or lemon juice on your skin.

If Peter Benchley had been fully aware of this citrus threat to your beach-going he may never have written Jaws but instead would have penned the far more terrifying Limes. Stephen Spielberg’s spine-tingling movie blockbuster adaptation complete with the Jaws theme music in the background and mechanised limes terrorising beach-goers would undoubtedly have thrust the director just as much into the lime-light.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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