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Ingredients in Your Product

Have you ever thought about the ingredients that make up your cosmetics or personal care products? Ever think about the possibility you could develop an allergy to 1 or more of its ingredients?

Upon looking at one of my facial scrubs, I counted 30 different ingredients on the label!!! From a dermatology standpoint, any one of these ingredients can cause an allergic skin reaction.

The National Institutes of Health’s website, Medline Plus defines an allergen as a substance that can cause an allergic reaction. In some people, these substances can be recognized as foreign or dangerous and in others, these substances cause no response. Common allergens include:

  • Animal proteins or animal dander
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Food or medications
  • Dust or pollen
  • Chemicals
  • Perfumes
  • Plants

Allergens can be inhaled, ingested, injected or applied. So if you think about it, any product that comes into contact with our skin could potentially cause a skin reaction. This can include:

  • Shampoos, conditioners, hair products and treatments
  • Make-up, nail polish, hair dye
  • Laundry detergents, fabric softeners, cleaning products and fluids
  • Perfumes, lotions, creams

Remember when you developed an allergic skin reaction after using a hair dye or laundry detergent? That rash was so bad with intense itching!

Before the bad rash and intense itching occurs, your immune system needs to view the allergen as foreign after the initial exposure and has to go through a process of sensitization. Sensitization to an allergen does not happen overnight, it can occur anywhere from months to years. Once your body has become sensitized, the next exposure to the allergen will trigger a delayed type hypersensitivity response in the skin. Symptoms can be expressed as redness, raised plaques, itching and in severe cases, blisters or micro vesicles (think poison ivy rash).

It can take years of exposure to an ingredient before an allergic skin reaction occurs. Keep in mind, because of so many ingredients found in the products we use, allergies to 1 or more of the ingredients IS possible. One study performed at the Mayo Clinic looked at patch test results for 945 patients who had undergone patch testing to both standard and cosmetic series allergens from 2000 through 2007 (Wetter DA, 2010 ). These standardized allergens included ingredients that could be found in a broad range of cosmetic as well as personal care and household items. The study did have interesting results.

  • 68.4% of participants had at least 1 positive reaction to tested allergens
  • 47.3% of participants had at least 2 positive reactions to tested allergens
  • 49.4% of participants reacted to at least 1 preservative
  • 31.2% of participants reacted to at least 1 fragrance or botanical ingredient

Just remember, any ingredient found in the plethora of products we use, can be a potential allergen. To help minimize exposure frequency, you could consider using products made with fewer chemicals as well as smaller number of ingredients.

Going back to my 30 ingredient facial scrub, almost half of the ingredients are organic oils and fragrances derived from essential oils. The scrub is also labeled hypoallergenic. All these qualities seem to make this a good product to use, but I realize after some time of use, I could always develop an allergy to the product and any of its components. (This is your take away here!)

Have you had an allergic reaction after using a cosmetic, personal care or household product? How long had you used the product? Please share with us your experiences.