Cosmetics can help women feel on top of their game, but they can also cause irritation especially on sensitive skin. According a dermatology study published in 2010, more than a third of over 900 research participants had at least one allergic reaction to cosmetic ingredients.
There are two types of skin reactions to beauty products. One is called irritant contact dermatitis, which causes your skin to burn, sting, itch, or get red where you applied the product. The other type is allergic contact dermatitis, symptoms of which include redness, swelling, itching, and hives. It’s difficult to tell the reactions apart because you can even have a reaction that’s a combination of the two.
What is in makeup?
Cosmetics contain a mixture of perfumes, emulsifiers, sunscreens, pigments, metals, resins, and preservatives, as well as other inert materials. Sometimes they contain various exotic botanical substances like essential oils. You can have a reaction from any one or combination of these ingredients.
Cosmetic skin reactions occur mostly on the face. Women are more frequently affected than men and the rashes produced by the reaction often appears as a scaling, dry, itchy red area. Occasionally, cosmetic reactions can appear as hives (contact urticaria) which can either be allergic or nonallergic. Less commonly, reactions may appear as blackheads, folliculitis, and darkened skin.
Products to Avoid
Beauty and cosmetics that are most likely to cause a reaction include soaps, detergents, antipersperants, eye makeup, moisturizers, face powders, lipstick, and nail polish, among others. Hair dyes can also cause skin reactions, especially those that contain phenylenediamine as well as ammonium persulfate. Cosmetics that have alpha-hydroxy acids can cause problems for some people such as redness, swelling, blisters, and itching, especially those with AHA levels over 10%.
Mica: Allergen or Not?
Cosmetics often have a shiny silicate called mica, which is found naturally as crystals or as tiny scales in various rocks known as “nature’s glitter” which gives a shimmer to cosmetics. However, it is not on published contact allergen lists. While it is not listed as a common contact allergen, mica is from rocks, and there is a chance of contamination with nickel or cobalt, which are both top allergens. However, see a doctor immediately at first sign of any allergic reaction, be it from a cosmetic that contains mica or not.
Once you have confirmed with a doctor the cause of your skin irritation, stop using the product right away. Some hydrocortisone preparations may cause side effects for sensitive areas like the face, so check with the doctor first before using any creams.
- Look for products with less ingredients as this will lower your chance of getting a reaction
- Do a patch test before using any product. Place a small amount on the inside of your elbow and wait for 48 to 72 hours. If you have redness, and other symptoms, do not use that product.
- Not all products with the label “hypoallergenic” “dermatologist tested” or “ non-irritation” can be safe on the skin.