An allergy is our body’s natural response to protect us from danger when our body thinks it’s under attack. When this happens to the skin, the reaction is usually red, itchy, and puffy. If the allergy is caused by something that touched the skin, it is called contact dermatitis. Allergies are not the same for everybody, and not everyone has an allergy.
Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by chemicals while allergic contact dermatitis is the body’s response to an allergy trigger. There is also something called airborne contact dermatitis which is caused by something in the air that lands on the skin such as pollen, powder, fibers, or even smoke. Manifestations of severe allergies may appear as hives and is also called angioedema.
Now that we got the definition of allergy out of the way, let’s talk about makeup allergy or allergy to cosmetic products.
We can define makeup allergy in more detail as untoward reactions to substances in cosmetics. It is, however, important to distinguish makeup irritation from an actual makeup allergy. These adverse reactions are not surprising given that cosmetics contain a complex mixture of substances and chemicals and we can easily be incompatible with any of the those ingredients.
To put in more simply, an irritation is something that happens the first time a cosmetic product is used on the skin, whereas a cosmetic allergy is something that is brought by repeated exposure to the allergy trigger or irritant. People with sensitive skin are more prone to these conditions.
The signs and symptoms of cosmetic skin reactions vary, but the most common manifestations on the skin are:
- Dry areas
- Red and itchy areas
- Eczematous dermatitis localized in one area only
- Swelling or welts
- Stinging sensation immediately following cosmetic application but can be delayed up to a couple of days
- Darkened skin color in the affected area
The best way you can avoid skin irritation and allergies is by reading the label. Do a little research if you’d like and find products that claim they are natural, pure, and best of all, hypoallergenic. Check the order of the ingredients – the first ingredient mentioned makes up most of the cosmetic while the last ingredient mentioned has the least amount.
Do not diagnose yourself of having a skin allergy. A dermatologist should be able to examine any patient first before making a confirmatory diagnosis.
If the diagnosis is confirmed to be a makeup or cosmetic allergy, the first sensible thing to do is to stop using the product responsible for the reaction for at least 2 to 3 weeks. If the reaction disappears and comes back when the product is used again, then you can assume what the culprit is. If the reaction is persistent, however, it might be a sign that something else is causing the reaction such as other types of dermatitis.
Usually there is no treatment needed for mild cosmetic reactions because it usually goes away when the person discontinues using the product. More serious reactions, however, may need the attention of a dermatologist for a proper prescription drug. Hydrocortisone cream is usually recommended by the dermatologist as topical treatment.
Unfortunately, there is no governing body responsible for regulating and certifying makeup brands. No, it is not in FDA’s remit. Even though choosing makeup is a personal choice, it is important to remember that for each purchase there is a risk involved. Makeup or cosmetics is a fun and colourful hobby, but we have to be responsible enough and be vigilant as consumers for the sake of our health.
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