Allergic reactions caused by skincare products, although very common, are not easy to deal with. They are very unpredictable, which causes stress and anxiety in some people. On top of that, allergic reactions are hard to diagnose. We use so many products on a daily basis that it becomes gradually harder to detect which product is causing the problem in the first place.
It’s important to be prepared for an allergic reaction and to be informed about the symptoms of one, as well as 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 properly treat them.
Let’s begin by properly differentiating the types of reactions that might occur on your skin.
The first kind is called irritative contact dermatitis, which happens when a product you use causes some kind of external damage to the surface of your skin. The damage can range from mere irritation or itchiness to a serious burn, right on the place where you applied the product. If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to remember that any kind of scratching will worsen their appearance and make your diagnosis harder to manage, so whatever you do make sure you avoid touching and scratching the area. Instead, visit your doctor for a prescription and stop using the product immediately.
The other kinds of reactions involve the immune system, and it’s what we know as an allergic reaction. These go by the name of allergic contact dermatitis, whose symptoms include swelling of the area, itching, redness, and irritation. In most cases, hives can also appear. Allergic reactions 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 of an allergic reaction are more severe than those of contact dermatitis. With an allergic reaction, the rash often spreads to other areas of the body.
Whatever the case might be, it’s not advised for you to do the diagnosing. You should never take any prescription pills or creams yourself if you notice some of the abovementioned symptoms. Instead, what you should do is visit a doctor. Not only is this the safest option, but it can also save you quite a lot of time, which means that you will recover much faster than if you were to go on a mission to diagnose yourself using Google.
Here are the most common symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis that can be caused by your skincare products:
Remember, allergic reactions don’t happen right out of the blue. It’s not often that you 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.
Since there are so many ingredients in our skincare products, it can be harder to detect which ones are causing your allergic reaction. Everyone’s skin is different, which only adds to this difficulty of diagnosing the problem.
There are, however, a couple of ingredients that are known to be problematic in regard to allergic reactions. Here are the ingredients to watch out for if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, if you’ve previously had an allergic reaction or if you generally want to avoid one in the future.
Probably one of the most problematic ingredients out there, fragrance can trigger allergic reactions for most people. Even though it’s always listed as one ingredient, fragrance contains a multitude of chemicals that can cause problems if you have a sensitive skin type.
If you notice that a product contains fragrance, it’s best to avoid purchasing it in the future. It’s easy to detect products that don’t contain fragrance inside – all you have to do is look for a ‘fragrance-free’ label.
You might be thinking that it’s safe to go for products that have the ‘unscented’ label on them, but this is not always the case. Products that claim to be unscented often have another kind of fragrance that is used to cover the smell of chemicals that often turns people off. Again, the safest option is to go for products that only have the ‘fragrance-free’ label or ones that are marked as ‘without perfume’.
We all love products that smell good, but not at the cost of the health of our skin.
Preservatives are another problematic ingredient. Preservatives 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 in order to give color to a product. These ingredients can come in many forms and under many names, but for people with sensitive skin, reds and yellows tend to cause the most amount of damage. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to stay away from them.
Keep in mind 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.
We think of natural ingredients as ingredients which are universally beneficial for all skin types. The truth is, natural ingredients can do just as much damage to the skin as can chemicals. Of course, the extent of this varies from ingredient to ingredient. Not all natural ingredients are created equal, just like not all chemicals are bad for the skin and body.
Natural ingredients may very well be the cause of your allergic reaction. The most notable example among natural ingredients is that of essential oils. Although these are not used that often as skincare products, some people do make the mistake of using them on the skin, and in the incorrect amount.
If you do decide to use essential oils on your skin, you need to make sure that you dilute them before using, since high concentrations can cause adverse reactions.
The most important step is to identify that you’re actually dealing with an allergic reaction and not simply contact dermatitis. Once you’ve done that, you need to identify which of the products you’re currently using is causing you to react in that way. It’s not easy to narrow down this list, but you should start somewhere.
Say you’ve noticed symptoms of an allergic reaction but you haven’t used a new product in a long time. If this is the case with you, then you’ll need to start removing products from your skincare one by one in order to pinpoint when the symptoms get better. Once you notice that your allergic reaction is withdrawing, then you’ll hopefully know which product is to blame. Keep in mind that people usually see improvements in a couple of weeks, so give yourself time.
Like we mentioned before, the easiest way to go about treating an allergic reaction is to actually go see a dermatologist or a doctor. They can do all the tests required so that you get your answer in no time.
We discussed how to identify the reaction, but what happens if you decide you want to treat it on your own? Is there something you can do right then and there so that you 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 upon applying a product topically on your skin, you should always wash it off with water so that it’s no longer in contact with your skin. When it comes to which product to apply afterward to soothe the area, there is no one correct answer. Different skincare companies have different kinds of creams that promise to help with this kind of reaction, so it’d be best if you consulted a pharmacist or a dermatologist.
The same applies to taking medicine in order to calm the allergy down. If you do 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 can help with itchiness and any uncomfortable feelings you might get. Some doctors also recommend soaking in baths.
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 end up costing you more money than you would’ve spent otherwise.
As we previously mentioned, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a reaction 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 the actual reaction lasts, it’s usually about 2 to 4 weeks. Even if you do get on 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.
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’re observant enough to notice that this has happened with a certain product, then, needless to say, 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 which are on the list above, then you’ll know the culprit of your allergy.
The best way to avoid allergies to skincare products is to stay away from the allergen. You can identify which allergen is causing you to have a reaction by doing a special test at your local hospital where a doctor would put small amounts of allergens on your skin and wait for a reaction.
Another way to avoid an allergic reaction in the future is by reading labels on products you’re planning to use carefully. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients a product contains, the less likely it is to cause a reaction. Looking for labels like ‘hypoallergenic’ can also be of help.
Don’t forget to introduce the products which you cut out during your treatment gradually into your new skincare routine.
Makeup is a great tool to use in order to express your creativity, but what happens when makeup causes you an adverse reaction such as an allergy?
Just like skincare products, makeup can also be the cause of your allergy. The symptoms are quite similar: red and flaky skin, itchiness and even blisters in some cases. The treatment is quite 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 about it.
If your allergy is lingering on 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, you should definitely make an appointment.
Although it rarely happens, some cases can lead to an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening. If you notice any symptoms such as difficulty breathing or chest tightness, seek medical care immediately.
On top of corticosteroids, oral medicine, and topical creams, your doctor might also prescribe barrier creams and lotions which can soothe dry skin. Some cases require an antibiotic prescription for a complete treatment plan.
Most of us have had an allergic reaction to something at least once in our lives.
Allergic reactions to skincare products are no different. Although they sound scary in theory, most usually go away after a couple of weeks. Despite the fact that you’ll have to be careful and avoid the allergen in the future, you don’t have to worry about any permanent damage to the skin.
Remember, some cases might be more extreme than others, so if you notice any unusual symptoms such as chest tightness and difficulty breathing, contact a doctor immediately.
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.