Unmasking Makeup Allergies: Causes and Solutions

We all appreciate a good foundation that covers up all the marks of a sudden breakout. Makeup comes in handy for days of breakouts. But sometimes, the ingredients used in the cosmetics cause your skin to itch, sting and turn red.

Diagnosing the makeup allergies can be tricky especially when you already have a skin condition, or when you are exposed to other potential allergens. We talked to several allergists and dermatologists about ways to figure out if your newfound rashes are due to your cosmetics products.

Signs of a Makeup allergy

Some ingredients found in the skincare products are one of the major cause of dry or flaky skin. They can also flare-up certain conditions which makes it a bit difficult to determine the real problem.

Allergies are different from other reactions. For example, the skin irritation, redness, and flaking skin without the itch caused by active ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic and retinoic and acne breakouts are because of clogged pores, not allergies.

Allergic reactions from makeup often appear as itchy, red and flaky rashes that, sometimes, crack. In the most severe cases, allergic reactions can cause blisters, when infected. These rashes, typically, appear only where you apply the makeup. However, they can appear anywhere on the skin. Mostly, it’s the eyelids and the skin around the eyes that get affected from allergy because the skin there is 5 times thinner than the skin on the rest of the face.

Sometimes, it takes some time and requires several applications for the skin’s reaction due to makeup to manifest itself. In many cases, it can be weeks, months or, sometimes, years before you start seeing symptoms.

Who is more likely to develop a Makeup Allergy:

There are several factors that can make your skin more susceptible to makeup allergies. These factors include genetics, skin integrity, environment and level of exposure to allergens.

If we use certain chemicals for a long time, eventually we pass the threshold of immunity and start showing signs of an allergic reaction.

Those who have sensitive skin to start with, have asthma, seasonal allergies, compromised immune systems, and other inflammatory skin conditions are especially susceptible to makeup allergies. Moreover, people with a history of eczema are vulnerable due to the weak skin barrier. Therefore, ingredients can penetrate into the skin and work deeply.

Which Ingredients to Avoid?

There are a lot of potential allergic ingredients that are used in conventional makeup products. Fragrances come at the top of the list of such ingredients. They are present in almost all sorts of beauty and skincare products. They often contain a bunch of strong chemicals such as alcohol, styrene and phthalates, that can cause headaches, skin irritations and nausea. These ingredients can cause photodermatitis; increase sensitivity to the sun.

Other allergic ingredients include:

  • Preservatives like DMDM hydantoin, parabens, and formaldehyde.
  • Colouring agents
  • Rubbers found in latex sponge and mascara tips
  • Hair dyes

Natural ingredients, alongside synthetic chemicals, have also been linked to makeup allergies, particularly for people with extremely sensitive skin. Some of the natural allergens in the beauty products are:

  • Tea tree which is a common skin irritant.
  • Willow bark can dry and irritating to the skin.
  • Essential oils such as lavender, sandalwood, oregano, vanilla etc.
  • Coconut and honey-derived products

Apart from these, the following ingredients used in makeup can also cause skin allergies and irritations.

  • Lanolin or Wool Alcohols:

It is usually used as a lubricant and emollient. It is found in blushes, foundations, eye shadows, eyeliners, mascaras, moisturizers, lipsticks, face masks and lip balms.

  • Nickel:

It is a common contaminant. It is usually found in pigments used in hair dyes, eye shadows, antiperspirants, and costume jewellery.

  • Balsam of Peru:

It is a fragrant resin which has a scent like cinnamon and vanilla. It is normally added to hair products, essential oils, sunscreens and baby powders.

How to Treat Makeup Allergies?

It depends on the severity of the situation whether you can treat an allergic reaction due to cosmetic products or not. Try a cool compress to treat the area before applying topical creams such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone. Also, over-the-counter oral antihistamines can also be used to deal with inflammation.

For worse cases, typically, when the irritation is combined with swelling in your lips, tongue, eyelids or mouth, and you feel it difficult to speak or even breath. The best thing to treat such a case is calling 911 or rushing to your physician and let them take care of you.

Fortunately, such severe cases are rare and most people experience only mild irritation that usually resolves itself if you leave it alone and don’t use any product. If you see any such reaction, you should stop using that product or ingredient right away to be safe from big trouble and ruining your skin for good. Skin inflammation and chronic irritation cause skin thickening, discolouration, redness, or collagen breakdown, which, in turn, leads to wrinkling, skin ageing and fine lines.

Which products to Use to avoid allergies?

It is important that you do your own research and consult your dermatologist if you have a history of allergies before you decide to use any beauty or skincare product. You can test the product yourself by applying a small amount of it on your forearm and wait for a day or two. If you see your skin reddened, swelled while feeling the itching and burning sensation, then do not use that product again.

When you identify any allergy-causing a product, it is better that you use only those products that are labelled as paraben, fragrance, and phthalate-free, and hypoallergenic or sensitivity-tested. However, not having these ingredients, doesn’t guarantee that you will not experience any allergic reaction. The best way to avoid makeup allergies is either not doing makeup or using makeup that has the fewest ingredients.

You can opt for natural, mineral makeup products or cosmeceuticals because they have gentler and cleaner formulations along with various other skincare benefits. Go for dermatologist-tested and clinically proven products that have no plant or natural allergens. Keep in mind that expensive doesn’t always mean safer or better.

Wanda Scribner

Wanda Scribner is a co-founder of Divas Hair Care. She is from Houston and has a passion for hairstyling. She knows quite some things about different types of hair and the ways to manage them and make the most suitable hairstyles with them. She has a 19 years old daughter on whom she has implemented the unique hairstyle ideas that come to her mind. She has grown tired with her mom trying new hairstyles on her, but Wanda has not.

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