By definition, cosmetics are products that are applied to the
body, especially to the face, to improve its appearance. These
products include various hair dyes, eye makeup such as eyeliners
and eye shadows, lipsticks, foundations and nail polishes to name a
By definition, cosmetics are products that are applied to the body, especially to the face, to improve its appearance. These products include various hair dyes, eye makeup such as eyeliners and eye shadows, lipsticks, foundations and nail polishes to name a few.
The unwanted reactions due to use of these products that usually involve skin are called allergic reactions or cosmetic allergy. Men and women are both consumers of these products. Men usually use dyes for coloring facial and scalp hair and women use cosmetics for face, hair and nails. Certain professionals, such as male television news reporters and actors, use various cosmetics to improve their appearances in front of camera.
In the past, adults were the only users of cosmetics but nowadays, teens and some children are also consumers. Therefore, the benefit and harm of such products affect a wide range of consumers regardless of race, age and gender.
What are the symptoms of cosmetic allergy?
The symptoms of cosmetic allergy include skin irritation, itching, rash and swelling. The reactions are usually localized, meaning that allergies to hair dye causes a reaction of the scalp, and allergies to lipsticks causes swelling of the lips. The extent of skin reactions depends on the area of contact; the larger the area of the contact, the larger the reaction.
If you have allergies to eye makeup products, you may develop swelling and irritation of eyelids and even eyes. Swelling of the eyelids may also be due to contact with nail polish, if you scratch your eyelids while wearing the polish.
Using foundations, creams or facemasks can cause reaction to the entire area the products make contact with. The reaction to cosmetics is usually delayed and presents two or more days after the exposure. This type of allergic reaction is called allergic contact dermatitis.
Diagnosis of cosmetic allergy
The best piece of information that can identify the cause of the allergic reaction is history. Your allergist will ask series of questions to investigate the cause of your skin reactions. Some of these questions may include the following:
Have you used a new makeup brand recently? If so,
Does the start of your skin reaction coincide with the use of your new makeup?
Do your symptoms disappear on the days that you do not use makeup?
Let us assume that you were able to identify your new eye shadow as a source of your allergy. Now, the next step is to find out what ingredient of the product is the possible cause of the allergic reaction.
When you read the label of your cosmetic product, you should see the manufacturer’s instruction, stating: The first time user should apply a minute amount of this product to the back of the hand and observe for any reaction. Since the reaction is usually delayed, the reaction may take from two days to a week to appear. If you are allergic to the product, you may develop itching or irritation of the skin. The commercial form of this test is available and consists of 23 common chemical products, that you may come in contact with in a typical day. The test chemicals may be found in detergents, soaps, deodorants, medications, nickels, perfumes and many other projects.
The test is called a “patch test,” and your allergist applies the patch to your upper back. Forty-eight hours later, the patch is removed and the patch-exposed area is observed for any sign of allergic reaction. The patch-exposed area is evaluated one more time, 24 to 48 hours after the first evaluation.
Tips to minimize
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cosmetic allergy, and the best management is prevention. The following are few tips to minimize cosmetic allergy:
If you have no problem with your current cosmetic products, do not change them, if possible.
Always test your new product by applying a minute amount of the product on back of your hand and observe possible reactions for up to one week.
If you notice a reaction to a product, visit your allergist for a patch test. Your allergist can help you identify the possible ingredient of the cosmetic that had caused the reaction.
Note that the allergen that had caused your allergic reaction, for example formaldehyde in your eye makeup, may also be found in other cosmetic products. Therefore, it is important to read labels and call the manufacturers and compare various products and choose a product that is free of formaldehyde.
Obtain your cosmetic products from well-known manufacturers, even if they’re more expensive than unknown brands or generic products. There is a good chance that big manufacturers follow a guideline for safety and quality control of their products. You do not want to use a product that has not been tested and whose safety is in question.