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Contact Allergies to Beauty Products: Eye-Opening Triggers

You could be surprised at some of the everyday beauty products that can harm your skin.


Everything from facial cleansers to eye shadows to perfume to hair dyes can trigger an allergic reaction (chronic contact dermatitis.) And the skin on your face is the most common place to experience this.


The reaction can start within a few minutes of trying a new product or after years of using the same brand without a problem.


The skincare and make-up products most likely to trigger skin reactions include soaps, body washes, mascara, antiperspirants, moisturizers, shampoos, long-wearing lipsticks, acrylic nails, fingernail glue, and hair dyes.


Contact dermatitis, a type of eczema, is a skin reaction brought on by substances your body is sensitive to. It’s very common and affects almost everyone at some point in their lives.


There are two main types of contact dermatitis: ALLERGIC and IRRITANT.


Irritant contact dermatitis develops to an irritating substance within a few minutes or hours after exposure. But it can also take days or weeks for skin symptoms to occur. The reaction involves the skin only and is not truly allergic. Sometimes the only symptom is reddened or dry skin without obvious itchiness and swelling. Or maybe you have the case of small pimples that can be mistaken for mild acne.


Allergic contact dermatitis is much less common and is a true allergy to a substance. The reaction is often more severe with intense itching, redness, swelling, and hives. It typically takes up to 48 hours for symptoms to develop after exposure. The allergic reaction can happen right where you tried the product – most often on the face, lips, eyes, ears, and neck. Although, any part of your body can be under attack.


Fragrance, chemicals that create a scent, in the beauty products is a common trigger. Note, “unscented” or “fragrance-free” may still contain fragrance ingredients such as herbal components or oils that may bring on an allergic reaction in some people. So that fresh, good smell of the cleanser may, in fact, be what's triggering your skin issues.


Preservatives are a close second. Parabens, imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, Phenoxyethanol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde are all linked to allergic reactions. COLORANTS like reds, yellows, and carmine (natural red) tend to be common triggers. Artificial dyes are used in just about everything from foods to drinks to cosmetics to medications but, in fact, could be very harming to your health.


To avoid skin reaction:


  • Always read labels. Avoiding highly allergic preservatives will lower your risk of developing a reaction.

  • Do a simple patch test. Apply a small amount of a new product to a discreet patch of skin, like on the inside of your elbow. In the next 24 hours look for signs of redness and irritation.

  • Apply perfume on your clothes. We’ve all heard that perfume works much better if applied to "pulse points” or directly to the skin rather than clothes. However, there is a downside to such application – allergic reactions due to fragrance sensitivity.

Often, stopping the use of the product will clear away the rash. However, if the rash or other symptoms continue to develop or become worse, check with a specialist what allergy testing and treatment are available.

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