If you develop itchy, red rashes on the skin after using a cosmetic product (soap, lotion, makeup product or fragrances, you may be allergic to an ingredient present in the product. Allergic reactions to cosmetics are common. An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a foreign substance that typically harmless (an allergen).
Allergic reactions to cosmetics may appear as hives, itchy skin, a rash, flaking or peeling skin, facial swelling, irritation of the eyes, nose and mouth, and wheezing. In severe case, one may develop anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. This is severe allergic reaction that can lead to symptoms like lack of consciousness, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, lightheadedness, chest pain, a rapid, weak pulse, nausea, and vomiting. In such case, one should seek medical attention immediately.
Be aware of the common allergens found in cosmetics
The US FDA has classified common allergens found in cosmetic products into the five categories: natural rubber, fragrances, preservatives, dyes, and metals.
Latex: Some cosmetic products that may contain natural rubber latex include hair bonding adhesives, body paints, theatrical cosmetics, eyeliner, and eyelash adhesives. Natural rubber latex contains antigenic proteins that may cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to latex. Allergic reactions to latex can appear as skin irritations or rashes, respiratory problems, and even anaphylactic shock (a severe allergic reaction in which blood pressure drops suddenly and the airways narrow, making breathing difficult).
Fragrance allergens: Following extensive research, the European Commission has listed 26 fragrance ingredients as allergens. Among these, the most frequently reported fragrance allergens are Amyl cinnamal, Amylcinnamyl alcohol, Benzyl alcohol, Benzyl salicylate, Cinnamyl alcohol, Cinnamaldehyde, Citral, Coumarin, Eugenol, Geraniol, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (HICC) (also known as Lyral), Isoeugenol.
In addition to contact dermatitis, fragrance allergens may affect the respiratory system in some people and cause shortness of breath, coughing, phlegm, a runny or stuffy nose, headache, chest tightness, and wheezing.
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Preservatives: The list of preservatives found in some cosmetic products that are identified as common allergens include methylisothiazolinone (MIT), methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT), formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing ingredients like Bronopol, Diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and Quaternium-15.
Dyes: P-phenylenediamine (PPD) and coal-tar are common allergens used in hair dyes and black henna tattoos.
Metals: Allergens listed under this category include nickel and gold. Nickel contamination is widely found in cosmetics in which iron oxides is used such as foundations, eyeliners, and lip products. One in eight women is estimated to have a nickel allergy. Research suggests that titanium dioxide, used as an active ingredient in sunscreens, can abs orb gold particles from jewellery and cause contact dermatitis in gold allergic patients.
Tips to prevent allergic reactions from use of cosmetics
To prevent allergic reactions, first you need to know what you are sensitive to or allergic to. Always reading the product ingredient panel and avoiding ingredients you know or think you are allergic to. Always check the ingredient list before you buy any cosmetic products to find possible allergens. You may find terms like hypoallergenic, fragrance-free or for sensitive skin on some products, but that doesn't mean allergen-free. It is always better to check the specific ingredients present in the product, if identified.
Also, you should read the label on products and follow instructions as directed by the manufacturer before applying. It is a good idea to test a small amount of product first to ensure that you're not allergic or sensitive to the ingredients in the product.