Skin Allergies

Cosmetic Allergy

Overview of a Cosmetic Allergy

Any type of beauty product can cause an allergic reaction, including shampoo, makeup, or fragrances. Symptoms can be mild to severe and can occur within minutes of application or years after using the product.

  • Nearly 1/3 of Americans have experienced at least one allergic reaction to a cosmetic.
  • Symptoms range from rashes to serious allergic reactions and can begin right at application or even years after using a product.
  • The products that cause the most problems include: soaps, detergents, deodorants, eye make-up, moisturizers, shampoo, lipstick, nail polish and nail glue.

Symptoms of a Cosmetic Allergy

There are two types of symptoms that can occur. Irritant contact dermatitis is when the reaction causes damage on the skin, including burning, itching, stinging, and turning red. Blisters and oozing are common if you tend to scratch. The other type is called allergic contact dermatitis and the symptoms can include redness, swelling, hives, or itching. This type of reaction can occur anywhere on the body. These two types of reactions can be difficult to differentiate. It is possible to have a combination of the two reactions.

Causes of a Cosmetic Allergy

Products and preservatives are the cause of most allergic reactions. Even products that are unscented may still have a small fragrance to mask the other smells. Check your labels to ensure they are “fragrance-free” or “without perfume”. Also, any product that contains water probably has preservatives in it too. These preservatives are links to skin allergies. The beauty products that are most likely to cause a reaction are soaps, detergents, deodorants, eye make-up, moisturizers, nail polish, and lip stains.

Prevention of a Cosmetic Allergy

When choosing your cosmetics, there are a few things to do in order to avoid an allergic reaction. While you are deciding on a product, it is best to look for products that have the least amount of ingredients. If this is a new product that you are using, do a patch test on a small part on the inside of your elbow and wait 72 hours before using the product. If there is no reaction, then you can use the product as directed. When using a fragrance, just spray it directly onto your clothes instead of your skin. Remember that there are no guidelines on what cosmetic companies have to put on their labels, so even if it says that it is non-irritating or a variety of other synonyms, there is no guarantee that is true.

Treatment of a Cosmetic Allergy

The first step to treating an allergic reaction to a cosmetic is to stop using the product immediately. This alone may stop the reaction, but other medications like hydrocortisone cream may also help in easing the inflammation. If the reaction is extreme, your allergist may need to prescribe a special cream.

Contact Dermatitis Allergy

Overview of Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into direct contact with an allergen. The reaction can be a red, itchy rash. To treat the rash, you must avoid the allergen completely.

  • Contact dermatitis, more commonly called a rash, is when your skin gets red and tender after coming in contact with an allergen.
  • Common triggers are: poison ivy, hair dye, nickel, leather, latex, citrus fruit, fragrances, and medications.
  • Usually only the rash occurs on the second instance of touching the item. Chances are you may not have realized it the first time that you came in contact.
  • Symptoms include: dry skin, hives, oozing blisters, skin redness, burning skin, itching, sun sensitivity, and swelling.

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms occur in the location where the allergen came into contact. Symptoms may include a red rash, dry or cracked skin, bumps, blisters, swelling, oozing, burning, and itching. When symptoms become serious, you need to consult your allergist. Severe symptoms include loss of sleep, no relief within three weeks, signs of infection, or if your nasal passages are inflamed.

Causes of Contact Dermatitis

The cause of the reaction is typically because of rubbing alcohol, solvents, bleach, shampoos, plants or fertilizers. Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common allergic reaction and occurs when the irritant damages the skin. Some people will have a reaction after one exposure, but sometimes they happen after repeated exposure. In allergic contact dermatitis, the reaction can be triggered by anything that enters the body.

Risk Factors

Certain jobs will increase your risk of the allergic reaction. For example, if you are a cosmetologist, health care worker, mechanic, or cleaner, you are likely to be in contact with many irritants. These conditions will put you at a higher risk for an allergic reaction.
Complications of Contact Dermatitis

The main complication for contact dermatitis is when the spot becomes infected. If you have a reaction, it is essential that you do not scratch the spot. When the spot becomes wet and oozes, the bacteria will grow and cause an infection.

Prevention of Contact Dermatitis

The best prevention of the allergen is to avoid the allergen completely. Identify what the substance is that causes the reaction and avoid it. If you come in contact with the substance, you should wash your skin so that the substance is off of your skin. If your clothing or other items have also come into contact with the allergen, wash those as well. If you are allergic to metal in buttons, you can apply a patch to cover it. If you work around plants that you are allergic to, such as poison ivy, you may want to apply a barrier gel. Wear protective clothing when you are in an environment where a reaction may occur.
Treatment of Contact Dermatitis

To begin treatment, avoid the allergen, if possible. Then you can apply an anti-itch cream to the area, or take an anti-itch drug. You will want to avoid scratching the affected area as to avoid an infection. A cool, wet compress or cool bath may help ease symptoms too. If home remedies do not help, consult your allergist. The allergist will be able to help by prescribing an oral medication or a steroid cream.

Hives (Urticaria) Allergy

Overview of Hives (Urticaria)

Hives are itchy welts and are a common allergic reaction. The most common treatment for hives is an antihistamine medication. They can be triggered by anything, from foods to medications.

  • Hives, also known as urticarial, is an outbreak in pale bumps that appear out of nowhere, usually as a result of the body’s reaction to an allergen.
  • Hives typically itch and burn where they appear.
  • They can appear on the face, lips, tongue, throat, ears and everywhere else on your body and can also vary in size.
  • They are typically a temporary problem that can be easily fixed with an allergy medication.

Symptoms of Hives (Urticaria)

Hives are described as red, itchy welts. They are typically oval or shaped like a worm. Most hives will go away within 24 hours or can last months.

Causes of Hives (Urticaria)

Hives can be triggered by a number of things. If you have an allergy to food, such as fish or nuts, then you may experience hives. Nearly any medication can cause a reaction, including aspirin or ibuprofen. Other common allergens, such as insect stings can cause a reaction. Environmental factors, other medical conditions or genetics can also be the cause of hives; it is not only related to the allergen.

Risk Factors of Hives (Urticaria)

You are at a higher risk for hives if you have had them before, if you have other various allergic reactions, have lupus or a thyroid disease, or have a family history of hives.

Angioedema, sometimes called “giant hives” are a severe case of hives. In these cases, you may need to go to the emergency room. The symptoms usually affect layers of skin and can be seen around eyes, cheeks or lips. Angioedema can appear separately or with hives. The welts are larger, and thicker than regular hives.

Prevention of Hives (Urticaria)

To prevent hives from occurring, you will want to avoid the allergen. If you are unsure of what the triggers are, then you will want to keep a diary to see what is causing the problem.

Diagnosis of Hives (Urticaria)

Your physician will want to check your medical history to see the causes of the reaction. To confirm the diagnosis, your allergist may recommend a skin test, so they can see what allergens are causing the reaction. If this is not able to be done, then they will recommend a blood test to see how the antibodies are reacting.

Treatment of Hives (Urticaria)

Often times, the hives will clear up without treatment, but sometimes treatment is required. Anti-itch drugs are helpful in reducing itching on the skin, which will decrease your chances of getting an infection. Anti-inflammatory drugs will help with the redness and itching. Consult with your allergist to find out which treatment is best for you and your symptoms.

Metal Allergy

Overview of a Metal Allergy

A metal allergy is one of the most common types of skin allergies, and is commonly attributed to nickel that is found in metals. Nickel is used in many of our everyday items, such as coins, jewelry or cell phones.

  • Long-term exposure to a metal that you are allergic to can cause your skin to become dark and leathery.
  • Symptoms include: rashes, redness, swelling and pain.
  • The most common reaction comes from when people wear nickel, such as jewelry.
  • A nickel allergy can be felt as soon as 15 minutes within touching it if you are sweating. If you are not sweating, it will likely take a few hours to notice a rash.
  • If you must be in contact with metals such as nickel, then it is best to coat it with a clear spray, or clear nail polish.

Symptoms of a Metal Allergy

Symptoms may occur as fast as 12 hours, but typically you will notice symptoms between 12 and 48 hours. The reaction will typically last between two and four weeks. Symptoms include rash, itching, redness, dry patches or blisters.

Causes of a Metal Allergy

A metal allergy occurs when your body views the metal as a harmful substance. When the harmful substance comes into contact with your body, the immune system has a reaction. Once you have the sensitivity to metal, you will always have this sensitivity. The reaction may occur on any exposure, and is oftentimes inherited. e

Risk Factors of a Metal Allergy

There are a variety of risk factors that are associated with metal allergies. If you have an ear or body piercing, the prolonged use of metal may cause a reaction. Some occupations have more exposure to metal than others. Occupations such as metalworkers, tailors, and hairdressers, come into frequent contact with metal. Females have a higher chance of being at risk for a metal allergy, and an even higher risk if they are overweight. Another major risk factor of having a metal allergy is if there is a family history of metal allergies.

Prevention of a Metal Allergy

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction to metal is to avoid it. Look for hypoallergenic jewelry because they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. When getting piercings, be sure to choose the studio carefully. Choose a studio that uses sterile, surgical-grade stainless steel needles. When purchasing your piercing jewelry, choose one that has documentation of metal content on the packaging, as some metals may not cause a reaction. Creating a barrier may also work. This can be done through sewing on a patch to zippers or putting a clear coat on jewelry.

Diagnosis of a Metal Allergy

Typically the diagnosis can be completed by viewing the affected area. In some cases, where the rash is not as apparent, your allergist may request that a patch test be complete. In a patch test, the allergist will place the allergen on your skin and wrap it up for a certain amount of time, usually two days. The allergist will then read the test and confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of a Metal Allergy

There is no cure for a metal allergy, so the best option is to treat the symptoms. Your allergist may prescribe one of the following to improve symptoms: corticosteroid cream, nonsteroidal cream, oral corticosteroid, or an oral antihistamine. Using a soothing lotion may help with itching. Wet compresses are also used to relieve itching and help dry blisters. Phototherapy is a treatment that exposes your skin to artificial ultraviolet light and may help to improve a metal allergy.