Are you allergic to your cosmetics?

It has been estimated that one to two people in every 100 are allergic to cosmetics or toiletries. Everyone has different sensitivities; what you have reactions to may be very different to someone else’s sensitivities. For this reason it is important to identify what causes your particular reaction. Allergies occur when the body’s immune system wrongly identifies a substance – known as an allergen – as harmful. Labels on cosmetics and body care products are often a tough code to crack and with the myriad of ingredients contained in these products, it is often hard to recognise what causes a reaction. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ingredients that tend to cause adverse skin reactions…

Symptoms of reactions

Everyone’s skin is different and therefore will react differently to cosmetics. Whilst an ingredient for one person may cause redness, for another person it may cause eczema or flakiness. It is important to know what is normal for your skin. Below are a few examples of symptoms that could point to an allergic reaction:

  1. Contact dermatitis/eczema
  2. Itchy or sore skin
  3. Red, bumpy skin which becomes flaky and dry
  4. Blistering on the skin
  5. Swelling or oozing

Any part of the body coming into contact with cosmetics or toiletries can be affected, but it is usually the face and hands. If you suffer from allergic symptoms, or believe cosmetics have triggered a skin allergy, see your GP who may refer you to a dermatologist for a patch test. This means applying small amounts of allergen and observing the skin’s reactions over several days. Most rashes caused by allergic reactions to cosmetics will vanish after a week if you stop using the product. Treatment with a steroid cream can ease symptoms.

Ingredients that can cause reactions

mascaraThe most common causes of skin allergies are fragrances and preservatives – although people can become allergic to virtually any chemical, natural or man-made.

A lot of fragrances on products are just labeled as ‘parfum’ as by law, only 26 particular fragrances have to named on labels. In addition, fragrant plant extracts, such as tea tree, lavender and citrus, can also cause problems and usually listed under their Latin name.

Preservatives that may cause allergies include imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium 15. In recent news there has also been lots of reports on two preservatives found in many cosmetics and toiletries that may cause allergic reactions; Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone/Methylisothiazolinone.

Both chemicals have been linked to reactions, but MI – a clear, colourless liquid appears to pose the biggest problem. Experts say MI is second only to nickel in causing contact dermatitis. MI is used to kill bacteria, mould and viruses in water-based liquids or creams, extending their shelf life.

Tips to avoid skin reactions

Unfortunately there is no foolproof way of avoiding skin reactions. Allergies can occur at any time, so it may be the case that something you weren’t allergic to one year, can suddenly become a problem and vice-versa.

The best way to avoid skin reactions is to know which ingredients cause particular problems for you. It is also worth investing in products that do not contain common known skin allergens. For example, fragrance free cosmetics and products containing natural preservatives are a good choice. It is also worth noting that just because something is labeled as natural or organic, does not necessarily make it less likely to trigger allergies. That’s why it is so important to know your skin and what is ‘normal’ for you. Once you have identified this, you can ensure you pick the best skincare options for you.

We will be trying the range – pictured below –

What Skin Needs™ is an incredible range of natural, functional skincare products designed to provide effective solutions to skin problems including irritation from warm and cold weather, cracked skin, dry skin, and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis.  The active ingredient in the range is Plantolin™ – a patent-protected active plant extract, scientifically proven to soothe, renew and protect.