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 linked 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.

Cosmetic Allergy FAQ

What is cosmetic allergy?

An allergy to cosmetics may appear as itchy skin, rash, hives, peeling skin, wheezing, anaphylaxis, or irritation of the eyes and nose.

How do you treat cosmetic allergies?

The first step to treating cosmetic allergies is to remove the allergen. Once you have stopped using the cosmetic, the allergic reaction should be over.

How do you know if you’re allergic to makeup?

You will know that you are allergic to make up if you apply make-up and then experience itching, stinging, burning, or if your skin turns red.

What cosmetic ingredients cause allergic reactions?

The most common are parabens, imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, phenoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde.