Skin allergies to cosmetics and skincare products are extremely common and are about as much fun as going camping in a hail storm. If you’ve ever experienced sore, red, itchy, scaly or puffy skin after using a skincare product, chances are it contains ingredients that have caused your body to have an allergic reaction.
The two main offenders when it comes to causing skin allergies are fragrances and preservatives. They are in just about every mass-produced, mainstream skincare product and cosmetic, and they can be an absolute nightmare if you have sensitive skin.
Fragrances, whether they are synthetic or natural in origin, can have a cumulative affect, which can eventually cause a skin allergy to arise. Artificial fragrances can be composed of more than 200 chemical constituents, including known carcinogens such as methyl chloride — very dodgy indeed. There is no current regulation for fragrance manufactures to disclose the ingredients or test for toxic synergies, so you’re on your own. It’s up to you to educate yourself and avoid the products containing them.
Mostly they will go under the guise of ‘parfum’ on the label of a product and be listed towards the end of the INCI. This may be a blend of essential oil constituents or it may be a proprietary formulation that is shrouded in secrecy as to what it actually contains. Often the manufacturer may not even be privy to this information.
Preservatives are a necessary addition in skincare products — without them, moulds, bacteria and fungus would contaminate the product, posing further health risks. Fortunately, are now a number of efficient natural preservatives (many of which we use in Mukti Organics products) including: citrus extract, grapefruit seed extract, rosemary extract, gum benzoin, tea tree extract, silver chloride and other patented synergies that are derived from oils and extracts that have potent anti-microbial, anti-bacterial properties.
With so many people suffering skin allergies, I believe cosmetics manufacturers should stop using broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents and known sensitisers, such as parabens (endocrine disruptors) and imidazolidinyl and diazolidinyl urea (formaldehyde releasers).
Until the day when there is more regulation in the cosmetics industry, it’s up to you to take action and avoid product that may potentially cause your skin to flare up.
What can you do to prevent skin allergies?
- Determine that you are actually dealing with an allergy or sensitising reaction to a product and not a skin disorder.
- Ascertain what ingredient/s or product/s is causing the problem and discontinue use. This can be done through a process of elimination and can be managed by a qualified health care practitioner.
- While you are combating a reaction, avoid using any other skin irritants and abrasive substances over the affected area.
- Avoid saunas — heat, steam, sweating and rubbing the affected area can re-trigger a reaction.
- If you do experience a severe allergic reaction in the form of hives, swollen eyes and skin and tingling red patches, consult your doctor or health care practitioner for alternative options.
- If after 4–6 weeks symptoms continue, see a dermatologist for an accurate evaluation.
- Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of ingredients to avoid due to the limitless combinations of cosmetic formulations on the market.
- Pay close attention to the cosmetics and skincare products you use. Read the ingredient listing thoroughly and use fewer products. Avoid products that contain fragrance, perfume or parfum. As there are literally hundreds of fragrances, it is easier to avoid all fragrances rather than do specific testing. Hypoallergenic products and those marked ‘fragrance free’ may still contain fragrances. Avoid products labeled as ‘unscented perfumes’.
- Wear gloves when using household cleaning products.
- Avoid products that have been preserved with parabens, imidazolidinyl and diazolidinylurea (Germaben II).
- Be aware of skin-to-skin transfer from topical applications on people you may come into close contact with.
- Specific epidermal and intradermal skin testing can assist with defining sensitivity to particular allergens.
- Avoid aerosol products.
- Contact the manufacturer if you are unsure if a particular allergen or sensitiser is included in a product. Not all manufacturers disclose their full ingredient list.
- If you know you’re prone to chemical sensitivities, patch test a small amount of the product on the inside of your forearm. Cover and leave for 24 hours. If you experience a reaction, discontinue use.
With correct management and education, allergic responses can be controlled and eliminated, enabling allergy sufferers to lead normal and productive lives. Thankfully, more responsible companies are manufacturing truly natural products that are free from harmful and synthetic toxic chemicals so more non-allergenic choices are becoming available all the time.
Have you ever experienced a skin allergy or reaction when using a cosmetic or skincare product? Please share your experiences with us in the comments section below. Thanks.