Allergic Reaction to Skincare Products: Symptoms and Care

Allergic Reaction to Skincare Products: Symptoms and Care

Although very common, allergic reactions caused by skincare products and cosmetic ingredients are not easy to deal with. An allergic response can be very unpredictable, which undoubtedly causes stress and anxiety in some people.

On top of that, allergic reactions are hard to diagnose. We use so many skin care products on a daily basis that it becomes gradually harder to detect which one is causing the problem in the first place.

It's important to be prepared for a reaction. You should be informed about the symptoms and the proper treatment.

In this article, we'll do exactly that. We'll cover everything you need to know about allergic reactions, from the symptoms that come alongside them to how to treat them properly.

Types of Skin Reactions

The first kind is called irritant contact dermatitis, which happens when a skin care product causes external damage to the surface of your skin. The damage can range from mere irritation and itchiness to a serious burn or rash where you applied the product.

Whatever you do, avoid touching and scratching the area. Scratching will worsen their appearance and make your diagnosis harder to manage. Instead, visit your doctor for a prescription and stop using the product immediately.

The other kinds involve the immune system. These are what we know as an allergic reaction. They go by the name of "allergic contact dermatitis" and cause the following symptoms: swelling of the area, itching, redness, and skin irritation. In most cases, hives can also appear.

They can occur in any area of the body, although certain places, like the face, neck, and back, are particularly susceptible.

So, how can you tell these two apart? Generally speaking, the symptoms are more severe than those of irritant contact dermatitis. With an allergic skin reaction, the rash often spreads to other areas.

Whatever the case, it's not advised for you to diagnose. You should never take prescription pills or creams yourself if you notice some of the above-mentioned symptoms. Instead, visit a doctor. Not only is this the safest option, but you'll also recover much faster than if you were to go on a mission to diagnose yourself using Google.

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction Caused by Skincare Products

Here are the most common symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis that can be caused by your skincare products:

  • Dry skin
  • Blisters
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • A burning sensation or irritation
  • Increased sun sensitivity
  • Red skin or patches
  • Swelling

Remember, allergic reactions don't happen right out of the blue. You don't often get a reaction to a product you've just started using. Usually, most allergic reactions happen a few weeks after you've started using the product, which makes it harder for you to get a proper diagnosis. These symptoms can last from two to four weeks after you've started using the product.

Causes of Allergic Reactions from Skincare Products

Since our skincare products have so many ingredients, it can be hard to detect which ones are bad for your immune system. Everyone's skin is different, which only adds to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

There are, however, a couple of ingredients known to be problematic. Here are the ingredients to watch out for if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin or if you generally want to avoid a negative reaction in the future.


Fragrances can trigger reactions in most people, causing itchy skin and flare-ups. Even though it's always listed as one ingredient, fragrance contains a multitude of chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin.

If you notice that a product contains fragrance ingredients, it's best to avoid purchasing it in the future. It's easy to detect products that don't contain fragrance ingredients inside – all you have to do is look for a 'fragrance-free' label.

You might think it's safe to go for products with the 'unscented' label on them, but this is not always the case. Products that claim to be unscented often have another kind of fragrance covering the chemicals' smell. So again, the safest option is to go for products that only have a 'fragrance-free' label or are marked as 'without perfume.' That includes moisturizer, face wash, body wash, and more.

We all love beauty products that smell good, but not at the cost of irritated skin.


Preservatives are another problematic ingredient that can cause irritation. They are common and widely spread because companies use them to extend the shelf life of their products. However helpful these might be in some regard, they are also the cause of contact dermatitis.  

There are various kinds of preservatives, but the ones you should look out for go under these names: formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol, isothiazolinone, formalin, and quaternium-15.

Reading the labels of cosmetic products is not the easiest of tasks, nor is it particularly interesting. But once you get in the habit of doing so, you'll save your skin from a lot of damage and irritations.


Just like the name suggests, colorants are used to give color to a product. These ingredients can come in many forms and under many names, but reds and yellows tend to cause more severe reactions in people with sensitive skin. So if you have sensitive skin, it's best to stay away from them.

Remember that hair dyes also contain these colors, so if you can't avoid using hair dyes altogether, try to avoid any contact with your face.

Natural Ingredients

We think of natural ingredients as ingredients that are universally beneficial for all skin types. The truth is natural ingredients can do just as much damage to the skin as chemicals. Of course, the extent of this varies from ingredient to ingredient. Not all natural ingredients are created equal, just like not all chemical components are bad for the skin and body.

Natural ingredients may very well be the cause of your reaction. The most notable example of harsh natural ingredients is essential oils. Although these are not used that often as skin care products, some people make the mistake of using essential oils directly on the skin and in the incorrect amount.

If you decide to use an essential oil on your skin, dilute it first since high concentrations can cause an immune response.

How to Diagnose an Allergic Reaction

You need to work out whether you're dealing with an allergic reaction and not simply contact dermatitis. Then, once you've done that, you need to identify which of the products you're using is causing you to react in that way.

It's difficult to narrow down this list, but we have a few pointers.

Say you've noticed symptoms but haven't used a new product in a long time. If this is the case, you'll need to start removing products from your skincare one by one to pinpoint when the skin gets better.

Once you notice your skin allergies improve, you'll hopefully know which product is to blame. Remember that people usually see improvements in a couple of weeks, so give yourself time and let your skin heal.

As we mentioned before, the easiest way to treat an allergic reaction is to see a board-certified dermatologist or a doctor. They can do all the required tests to get your answer in no time.

How to Get Rid of an Allergic Reaction on the Face

What happens if you decide to treat it on your own? Is there something you can do to start to see an improvement?

The first thing you should do is stop using the product that's causing you the reaction in the first place (assuming you've identified the cause of your problems).

If you notice an immediate reaction after applying a product topically on your skin, wash it off with water so that it's no longer in contact. When it comes to which product to apply afterward to soothe the area, there's no one correct answer. Different skincare companies have different kinds of creams that promise to help, so it's best to consult a pharmacist or a dermatologist.

The same applies when taking medicine to calm the allergy down. If you have a severe allergy, then it might be necessary to take some pills. You can find out the dosage of the pills and what kind you should purchase once you go to the doctor.

Wear loose clothing if your allergy is located somewhere on your body. Taking cold showers or using a cold compress can help with itchiness and any uncomfortable feelings. Some doctors also recommend soaking in baths.

Skin allergies are preventable, reversible, and easily treatable, so it's nothing you should worry about. At the same time, you shouldn't take it lightly. That will prolong your treatment and cost you more money than you would've spent otherwise.

How Long Does an Allergic Reaction on Your Face Last?

As we previously mentioned, it's unlikely that you'll notice a problem right away. It usually takes a few hours to a couple of days for your body to respond in such a way.

When it comes to how long it lasts, it's usually about 2 to 4 weeks. Even if you get medication and topical treatment, some allergic reactions can last for weeks. It doesn't mean that the treatment isn't working; it's just the nature of the condition.

A Skin Reaction to a New Product

It comes as no surprise to you by now that introducing new products in your skincare routine can lead to a skin allergy. If you notice this has happened with a certain product, then stop using the product immediately.

On top of that, you should note what kind of ingredients the product has so that you know which ones to avoid in the future. If you see some ingredients on the list above, you'll know the culprit of your allergy.

How to Avoid Skin Allergies

The best way to avoid skin allergies is to avoid allergens. You can identify which specific ingredients are causing problems by doing a special test at your local hospital, where a doctor puts small amounts of allergens on your skin and waits for a response.

Another way to avoid an allergic reaction in the future is by reading the labels on products you're planning to use carefully. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients a skincare product contains, the less likely it is to cause a problem. Looking for labels like 'hypoallergenic' can also be of help.

You can also try a patch test before using any skin care product. Patch testing can identify adverse reactions before you use the products all over your face.

Don't forget to introduce the products you cut out during your treatment gradually into your new skincare routine.

Can Makeup Cause an Allergic Reaction?

Makeup is a great tool to express your creativity, but what happens when makeup causes an adverse reaction, such as an allergy?

Just like skincare products, cosmetic products can also cause irritation. The signs are similar: redness and flaky skin, swelling, itchiness, and even blisters in some cases. The treatment is similar to that of an allergic reaction caused by skincare, so you can apply the same tips.

In both cases, the wisest thing to do is to see a doctor. This will help you avoid more reactions from cosmetic products in the future.

When to See a Doctor

If your allergy is lingering for weeks at a time, it might be a sign that you should visit a dermatologist. If the symptoms are persistent, are bothering you, or are interfering with the quality of your life, make an appointment.

Although it rarely happens, some cases can lead to something called anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening. If you notice any signs, such as difficulty breathing or chest tightness, seek medical attention immediately.

On top of corticosteroids, oral medicine, and topical creams, your doctor might also prescribe barrier creams and body lotions which can soothe dry skin or an itchy rash. Some cases require an antibiotic prescription for a complete treatment plan.


Although allergic reactions to skincare products and beauty products sound scary in theory, most usually go away after a couple of weeks. Despite the fact that you'll have to avoid the allergen in the future, you don't have to worry about any permanent damage to your skin.

Remember, some cases might be more extreme than others, so if you notice any unusual signs, such as chest tightness and difficulty breathing, contact a doctor immediately.


Understanding allergic reactions to skin care product

Content and reactivity to product perfumes in fragrance mix positive and negative eczema patients

Skin Reactions to Beauty Products

Allergens in Cosmetics

This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.

Back to blog

Items You May Like