Allergy to make-up: how to recognize and how to protect yourself

Anti-cellulite, nourishing, moisturizing creams for face, hands and feet; tonics, scrubs, makeup removers and sun protection, shampoos and balms - all this is in the arsenal of almost every modern woman. To them you can add perfumes and all kinds of products from the group of decorative cosmetics. So it turns out that every day a modern woman, in order to look attractive, puts on a huge amount of cosmetics. But sometimes cosmetics can play a cruel joke and create an effect opposite to what is expected. For example, instead of masking skin imperfections or highlighting its advantages, cosmetics provoke the appearance of pimples, sores, inflammation, blemishes or itchy rashes. This could be an allergic reaction to cosmetics.

What is an allergy to cosmetics

Many women are familiar with the condition when, after applying makeup, the eyelids suddenly swell, the face begins to burn or itch. The reason for this may be cosmetics, or rather one or more of the ingredients that make up the cosmetic. Most of them are a complex mixture of perfumes, emulsifiers, sunscreens, pigments, metals, resins and preservatives. Many contain extracts of exotic plants, essential oils, which can also cause an allergic reaction. Cosmetic allergies can occur at any age, but are most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of 20 and 60.

Clinical features

Allergies to cosmetics can present with different symptoms. Some of them may occur immediately after applying the cosmetic, others after a few days. Common signs of allergies are burning, itching, and tingling of the skin. If the use of inappropriate products is continued, symptoms may also manifest as redness and peeling of the skin, pimples, watery vesicles, severe irritation. However, the first and most common symptom of a makeup allergy is redness and irritation of the eyes, as well as a rash. But defining these symptoms as an allergic reaction can be problematic.

For example, women who spend a lot of time in front of the computer, the discomfort in the eyes and redness can be attributed to the effects of working at the monitor. In fact, a similar reaction can occur to inappropriate mascara, shadows or cream.

Allergic contact dermatitis (a reaction resulting from exposure to an allergen) is much like eczema, a red, dry, itchy skin patch or scaly rash that appears at the site of cosmetic application. In rare cases, cosmetic allergy can cause a watery rash or even large blisters very similar to those that appear after contact with Sosnowski's hogweed. Also, an allergy to cosmetics can manifest itself in the form of urticaria, acne, folliculitis, and darkening of certain skin areas.

Distinguishing between allergic and non-allergic (irritant) contact dermatitis is difficult. A reaction caused by cosmetics can manifest itself as irritant contact dermatitis or as a specific allergy.

In the case of irritant contact dermatitis, the signs of the reaction appear directly on the area of ​​the body where the cosmetic product was applied and, as a rule, does not extend beyond it. The intensity of the manifestation of the reaction depends on the concentration of the irritant substance.

A specific allergic reaction, also known as allergic cosmetic dermatitis, usually occurs in people with a genetic predisposition to allergies. Skin changes can spread to other parts of the body. The intensity of the manifestation of the reaction, as in the previous case, depends on the concentration and amount of cosmetics used.

What can cause allergies

It should be noted that not only absolutely, but also products that a woman has been using for a long time can cause an allergic reaction. This can be explained as follows.

First, allergy symptoms appear at different rates for everyone. The most likely adverse reaction occurs in people suffering from seasonal allergies, asthma or eczema.

Second, the skin does not necessarily immediately signal an intolerance to a new cosmetic product. First of all, this applies to people with strong immunity. But over time, their immune system loses the ability to resist the wrong component in cosmetics and a severe allergic reaction occurs. That is, you can use the same lipstick every day for several months without any unpleasant symptoms, and then suddenly it will cause an allergy.

Expired cosmetics can also cause an allergic reaction. But a more common cause of allergies is a new cosmetic product. In this case, the symptoms may appear either within minutes of using cosmetics, or after several days or even weeks. But most often, an allergy to makeup manifests itself after about 24 hours. That is, the reaction to the shadow or primer used in the make-up on Saturday evening can very well manifest itself on Monday morning. Often this happens at the very first use of a new cosmetic product. The second time, the reaction may occur almost immediately or according to the same principle as the first time.

One of the telltale signs that a cosmetic product is causing an allergy is the fact that the rash or other unwanted symptoms go away after the product is discontinued. But even if the allergy has gone and you have probably already figured out which product caused it, that's not all that should be done in such a situation. At the next stage, it is necessary to figure out which particular component in the composition of the cream, eye shadow, lipstick or other product caused an undesirable reaction. This knowledge will help in the future to avoid products that contain an allergen.

Hazardous components in cosmetics

If a certain cosmetic product causes an allergy, the cause should always be sought in its chemical composition. The most common culprits for an adverse reaction are the metals found in some types of cosmetics. As a rule, these are nickel and cobalt. They can be found in many eye shadows, antiperspirants and hair dyes.

The second most common cause of allergy to cosmetics is preservatives, which are added to many products to extend their shelf life. The strongest allergens from this group are parabens, formaldehyde, methylisothiazolinone. Preservatives are found in almost everything from wet wipes to hair products.


Another dangerous ingredient is fragrances added to cosmetics and personal care products. Although additives from this group are generally not dangerous to health, they can cause a strong reaction in people with sensitive skin.

Also among the substances potentially dangerous for allergy sufferers are propylene glycol, which is used in cosmetics to maintain its moisture, and lanolin - a fat obtained from sheep's wool.

And one more important point. An allergic reaction can occur not only after contact with synthetic components. The fact that the label of a cosmetic product says that it is on a natural basis is not yet a guarantee of protection against potential allergies. Many organic ingredients and essential oils are also strong allergens. It should also be remembered that extracts of some plants (especially citrus fruits and St. John's wort ) can cause photoallergic reactions.

Or maybe the reason is not cosmetics?

Sometimes symptoms that resemble makeup allergies may not be due to cosmetics at all. This may be a manifestation of increased skin sensitivity, which may appear for various reasons. Most often, they lie inside the body, or rather, in substances obtained from food. Modern food contains a lot of preservatives, pesticides and other ingredients hazardous to health. According to a study by a cosmetics company, both internal factors (unhealthy food, parasitosis, helminthic infestations, persistent infections, alcohol and spice abuse, hormonal imbalance) and external factors (wind, sun, poor ecology, dust, air-conditioned air) can cause skin hypersensitivity., detergents). But experts call stress the most important enemy of the skin. In a state of chronic stress, the rate of cellular metabolism decreases, which in turn causes the accumulation of toxins in the skin cells, giving it yellowness. And constantly high levels of adrenaline increase the risk of eczema.

Hypoallergenic cosmetics

People who are familiar with the problem of allergy to cosmetics often buy products from the hypoallergenic group in the future. Do they really protect against allergies?

If a cosmetic product is labeled as hypoallergenic, it only means that tests have shown that this product causes allergic reactions much less often than a similar product from the regular series.

However, buyers need to understand that in most cases, there is nothing behind the inscriptions “hypoallergenic”, “natural”, “pure”, “organic” other than a marketing ploy. And not all manufacturers carry out real laboratory tests confirming the hypoallergenicity of products.

How to prevent allergies to cosmetics

There are recommendations that can be followed to avoid hypersensitivity to substances contained in cosmetics.

  1. Do not use cosmetics after the expiration date. Any cosmetics can be used only for a limited time. The packaging of each product shows the production date and the expiration date. In addition, many cosmetics have a pictogram in the form of an open container and a number. So these are the numbers that indicate how many months after opening the package you can use the product. After the expiration of this period, in order to avoid an allergic reaction, it is better to discard the cosmetic product.
  2. Store properly. Proper storage of cosmetics helps prevent premature spoilage and thereby reduce the risk of allergies. Proper storage of cosmetics involves protecting them from exposure to excessive heat, direct sunlight and increased dampness.
  3. Keep clean. Makeup applicators and brushes can quickly accumulate dirt and bacteria that can cause an unwanted reaction. Therefore, they should be washed frequently and dried thoroughly. Makeup brushes are best placed in a glass or other container with the bristles up, this helps to ventilate them and prevent the growth of bacteria.
  4. Pencil is safer than liquid eyeliner. Fans of liquid eyeliners should be aware that such products are much more likely to cause allergies than regular eye and eyebrow pencils. The fact is that wax is used in cosmetic pencils, and this eliminates the need to add preservatives, which cannot be said about liquid products. In addition, liquid cosmetic products may contain latex, which also causes allergies in some people.
  5. Avoid waterproof makeup. And the point here is not so much in the cosmetics itself (it may not cause any undesirable reaction), but in the products for its removal. Waterproof make-up removers are usually more aggressive and often contain ingredients that irritate the skin and mucous membranes.
  6. Powdered forms instead of creams. Practical observations show that cosmetics in loose form (for example, the same powder, shadows, blush) are much less likely to cause allergies than similar products in creamy or liquid form. It's all about the difference in the chemical composition of dry and liquid products.
  7. Always remove makeup at night. The most common cause of irritation or allergic dermatitis is the reluctance to remove makeup before bed. Many girls and women believe that nothing bad will happen if yesterday's makeup is washed off in the morning. But the longer cosmetics are in contact with the skin, the higher the risk of irritation, inflammation of the eyelids and redness of the eyes. Even if there was no decorative cosmetics on the skin, be sure to rinse your face with clean water before going to bed. If it is necessary to remove cosmetics, then special products are used for this, and after that, experts also advise rinsing the skin with clean water. And only after that you can apply a nourishing night cream.
  8. Pay attention to the composition of cosmetics. Buy cosmetics that are free of fragrances, preservatives, and other potentially harmful ingredients. It is important to remember that all the ingredients on the product label are listed in descending order of their quantity.
  9. Review your menu. This point may seem inappropriate to someone: what is common between nutrition and allergies to cosmetics. Do not forget that any allergy is the result of malfunctions in the immune system. To strengthen the immune system, you need to eat right and balanced every day. In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables contain many substances that are good for the skin. We should not forget about the invaluable role of water in maintaining the beauty and youthfulness of the skin. And the younger and more beautiful the skin looks, the less cosmetics will have to be used, which means that the risk of an allergic reaction is also minimal.
  10. Undergo a laboratory test of stool for intestinal dysbiosis with sensitivity to antibiotics or phages, for antigens to giardia, opisthorchia, toxocara, pinworms, roundworms, blood for persistent infections: Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, virus herpes subtype B, toxoplasma, mycoplasma and chlamydia.

What to do if you have an allergy

If you experience allergy symptoms after applying makeup or using a skin, hair or nail care product, first what you need to do is stop using cosmetics completely for a while or exclude a product that, in your opinion, contains an allergen.

An ointment containing hydrocortisone can relieve itching while moisturizing the skin. During this period, it is very important to stop drinking alcohol and products that can increase allergies. Well, be sure to contact a dermatologist and an allergist.

There are folk remedies that can help alleviate cosmetic allergy symptoms at home. So, to remove irritation from the skin, you can put a napkin soaked in cool water on your face. With the help of wet lotions, you can remove irritation from the eyes.

If allergy symptoms are very severe, an antihistamine can be taken. But in any case, it is important to try once again not to touch the itchy area, and even more so not to scratch it - this will only aggravate the problem even more.

According to the latest data, about a third of newborns in Europe have a tendency to allergies, which is due to genetics. Over time, the number of allergy sufferers, according to experts, will increase. And this means that in order to avoid an undesirable reaction, it is important to avoid allergens not only in nutrition, but also in cosmetics.