January 19, 2019 at 05:00AM by CWC
The whole point of beauty products is, literally, to make us feel good—It’s things like sheet masks and facial oils and fancy serums exist in the first place. But every once in a while, our beauty products backfires. And instead of being left with shiny hair or smooth skin, you wind up with a rash. And, yikes.
In the same way you can be allergic to the ingredients on a restaurant menu, you can also be allergic to the ingredients in your beauty products. “When you’re allergic to a skin care product, your skin may become red and flaky—particularly the eyelids,” says Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD medical director of Mudgil Dermatology
There are hundreds of chemicals in cosmetics that could cause a reaction (insert plug for the importance of clean beauty *here*), but there are a few common culprits that tend to pop up more regularly on the labels of your skincare, haircare and makeup products. And for what it’s worth? You can have an allergic reaction to pretty much any type of beauty product, whether it’s natural, clean, or chemical laden, so spot-testing before slathering something on your face is always a good idea.
It’s also worth noting that there are two different types of reactions that can occur from your products: Irritant reactions and allergic ones. “An allergen is something where your immune system recognizes and has a response to,” says Austin-based dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain. “Versus an irritant which means its drying out your skin too much or its allowing your skin to lose too much hydration and it can look very much like an allergy, but usually it takes a few days of using something for an irritant dermatitis to occur, whereas an allergy will occur fairly quickly after the first or second application.”
While creating an exhaustive list of every allergen and irritant that may be lurking in your labels would essentially be the same as typing up every ingredient on the beauty aisle, we rounded up five of the most common worth looking out for. They can show up in everything from your shampoos to your creams, wipes, lotions, hair dyes, makeup and medications, so peeping the packaging ahead of application is key.
“It’s best to use products that are hypoallergenic, fragrance free, dye free,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, allergist/immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network.
“If you are having frequent reactions despite switching products I recommend patch testing by a board certified allergist or dermatologist so you know what to avoid.”
A few things worth looking out for on your labels:
Preservatives: Yes, they keep your beauty products from going bad, but they can also cause your skin to flare up. Most of them have long chemical names like “Quaternium-15” and “methylisothiazolinone” (among many, many others), and any number of them can cause a reaction. But that said, preservatives aren’t all bad, despite the fact that they may sound scary to consumers.”Pretty much every skin care product needs a preservative, especially if there’s water in it because you can get mold very, very easily,” says Dr. Lain. “So these preservatives are super important, but you can have an allergy to them, so that would be something I would be concerned about as well.”
Fragrance: There’s a reason why dermatologists say they wouldn’t use products with fragrance in them. Heavily scented products can trigger allergic reactions in the skin, leading to rashes and irritations—two things quite literally no one wants to deal with. “Fragrance is the first thing I think of [with allergies],” says Dr. Lain. “So many skin-care products that we use have certain fragrance in them, and fragrance can come from added fragrance or it from essential oils since all essential oils have fragrance in them.” Your best bet is to look for something unscented, and spot testing anything with an odor before going all in.
If you’re steering away from gluten on your plate, you should probably stay away from it in your products, too. But that’s only if you’re celiac or severely allergic to wheat, barley, rye, or oats. “There is some data showing that people who are celiac can get stimulated by topical gluten,” says
holistic dermatologist Alan Dattner
, MD. “So if you’re really celiac, those products make a difference.” Gluten can be lurking in makeup, skin care and haircare (plus a whole lot of other random, unexpected products
in your house), so if you’re seeing any sort of reaction on your skin it may be best to switch to pure oils like coconut and almond wherever you can in your routine.
And one more thing worth being aware of? Just because a product is “natural” or “clean” doesn’t mean it’s immune from being allergy-inducing. “People think that natural and clean somehow means chemical free, but every product has chemicals, whether its an essential oil or some other type of skin care product,” says Dr. Lain. “Everything is made out of chemicals.” So instead of relying on the fact that your products are clean/natural/organic/whatever as a promise that they won’t irritate your skin, be sure to check the labels, and, (say it with me now): Spot test! After all, it’s better “skin safe” than skin sorry.”
If you want a truly “clean” product that likely won’t leave you red and rash-y, try coconut oil, which can pretty much replace your entire routine—just ask Hilary duff. And because labels can be seriously confusing, here’s our guide to decoding what, exactly, all of those beauty buzzwords actually mean.
Author Zoe Weiner | Well and Good
Selected by iversue