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The products we apply to our skin, especially on the face, can be as harmful as they are helpful. Makeup, skincare products, hair care products, these can nourish your skin and make you feel beautiful. However, certain ingredients can leave you with irritated skin.
One or two pesky cosmetic ingredients your skin doesn’t sit well with can leave you a simple rash or a full-blown allergic reaction. If you fail to get to the root of the problem, months of hard work and consistent improvement will all be wasted. Plus, there are new skin problems that you must attend to.
How Common Are Skin Allergies?
Ever used a new foundation one night, only to wake up the next day with itchy skin and red patches over your face? Studies show that 28.8%, or more than 1 in 4 people, get a skin-related allergic reaction to ingredients used in skin care and cosmetic products.
The causes of skin rashes or allergies can be difficult to pinpoint at first, but with patch testing, observation, and a visit to a dermatologist, you can find the particular ingredient(s) quickly. People with sensitive skin should be especially wary of what they put on their bodies.
Cosmetic Ingredients That Can Cause Skin Allergies
It’s understandable to like and buy products because of the scent. After all, it can be off-putting to apply products that smell like damp soil on your face. However, it’s time that you reconsider purchasing products that have “fragrance” listed on the ingredients for this can be harmful to your sensitive skin.
The fragrance is made up of several chemical compounds on its own to mask the smell of chemical scents. This skincare additive can irritate sensitive skin and cause swelling and itching. From now on, opt for fragrance-free products. Apply fragrance on your clothes, not directly on the skin.
Preservatives are used to keep your products from going bad quickly, and almost every skincare and beauty product needs this to prevent molds from forming. But, this can also be the culprit to sudden flare-ups for people with sensitive skin. There are also cases where preservatives can cause contact dermatitis.
While these are vital in keeping your products fresh and safe to use, do avoid using products that contain sensitizing preservatives known to irritate the skin, such as parabens, isothiazolinone, Quaternium-15, formaldehyde, and phenoxyethanol among others.
Sulfates, specifically sodium lauryl sulfates, can cause irritation, redness, and disruptions of the natural oil balance on the skin and hair, especially on people with sensitive and eczema-prone skin.
SLS can be found in shampoo, detergents, body wash, cleansers, mouthwash, toothpaste, and even foundation. SLS is also known to trigger acne around the mouth and chin.
It is recommended that you look into the ingredients list and check if your products have SLS. You can switch to products that have the “sulfate-free” label for gentler treatment.
With all the rave about “natural” and “organic” labels, it may be tempting to purchase these products instead of their unnatural counterparts. However, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re entirely safe to use on sensitive skin. The common perception is that if a product is labeled as such, that means they won’t cause any reaction since it doesn’t have any chemical components. But the truth is, essential oils can contribute to major skin irritation and allergic reactions, mainly if applied on the skin without any dilution.
A diluted version of essential oils contains low concentration, which can help prevent any unwanted reaction on the skin. But for people with very sensitive skin, the best move would be to avoid essential oils altogether, especially those in the citrus family.
Acids work well on sloughing off dead skin cells without causing microtears on your skin as some physical exfoliants do. However, frequent application of chemical exfoliants might do more harm than good.
Acids such as salicylic acid, beta-hydroxy acids (treatment for acne and oily skin), topical retinoids (promotes collagen), and glycolic acids (the active component in most chemical peels), can cause irritation, redness, and even burning when overused.
Make sure to consult with a dermatologist before using acids. Ask about usage instructions. Usually, you’ll be advised to use it a few times, then gradually build up to more, or decrease to every few days to find the right balance your skin can tolerate.
The skin on the underarm area is sensitive. If your skin gets irritated and you experience redness and peeling each time you use your antiperspirant, chances are you’re allergic to products containing aluminum compounds. The more powerful antiperspirants you use to protect your armpits from sweat, the more likely you are to have a skin reaction.
This is where “natural” products come in handy (for your armpits, at least). But take note that natural deodorants do an excellent job in masking the odor, but not so much in preventing pit stains. If pit stains are your primary problem, you can look into sensitive skin antiperspirants that contain only low levels of aluminum which your skin can tolerate.
Not to be confused with petrolatum, which can be found in Vaseline, petroleum distillates is a colorless solvent that may cause contact dermatitis. This ingredient is produced in oil refineries where chemical feedstock and automobile fuel are also processed. That should be enough to explain its effects on your skin.
Petroleum distillates are commonly found in cosmetics, such as mascara, foundation, lipstick, as well as in personal care products.
What’s irritating your skin?
Learning and understanding as much as you can about cosmetics ingredients, or about any products you use on your skin are just as vital as knowing what these products can do for you. Care for your skin just as you take care of your body.
Patch test products first, behind your ear or on the back of your wrist, before applying it on your whole face. This way, you can determine whether a specific compound in that product causes an allergic reaction to your skin. If you find your skin condition is aggravated by it, stop using it. If you don’t notice any signs of irritation, then you can continue using it. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to consult with a dermatologist.
Julia is a beauty and lifestyle writer. She’s a contributor for VMV Hypoallergenics blog. She likes reading skin care tips, traveling with her friends and exploring new places.