Skip to content

Allergies Health Center

Select An Article

Skin Reactions to Beauty Products

Font Size

Beauty products -- everything from shampoo to makeup to cologne -- can help you feel on top of your game. They can also cause irritated skin or an allergic reaction. In one FDA survey, up to 25% of people said they had a skin reaction to at least one beauty product.

Problems can range from simple rashes to full-blown allergic reactions. Symptoms can start right after you use something new -- or after years of using a product with no problems.

Recommended Related to Allergies

Managing Allergies at Work

It's hard enough to cope with allergies on the weekend, but dealing with allergies at work is even more challenging. Ask anyone who's ever dozed off in the middle of an important meeting because of allergy symptoms or medications. "Allergy symptoms are the No. 2 reason adults miss work," says James Sublett, MD, a board-certified asthma and allergy specialist in Louisville, Ky. The average worker with allergies misses about one hour per week over the course of a year. But that sick time is...

Read the Managing Allergies at Work article > >

There are two types of skin reactions to beauty products. One, called irritant contact dermatitis, happens when something actually damages your skin. Your skin might burn, sting, itch, or get red right where you used the product. You might get blisters and have oozing, especially if you scratch.

The other kind of reaction actually involves your immune system. It’s called allergic contact dermatitis and symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, and hives. Your skin can get red and raw. You can get an allergic reaction on any part of your body, although it happens most often on the face, lips, eyes, ears, and neck.

It can be hard to tell the two types of reactions apart. You can even have a reaction that’s a combination of the two.

Fragrances and preservatives are often to blame. Even products that say they are "unscented" can have a fragrance used to cover up chemical scents. You may not smell it, but it's there, and may cause an allergic reaction.

To be sure there's no perfume, look for products marked "fragrance-free" or "without perfume."

Almost any product that has water must have some preservatives. The most common are parabens, imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, phenoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde. All have been linked to skin allergies.

Beauty Products to Watch for

The beauty products most likely to cause skin reactions include bath soaps, detergents, antiperspirants, eye makeup, moisturizers, shampoos, long-wearing lip stains, nail polish (especially those that have formaldehyde), and fingernail glue containing methcrylate.

Hair dyes can also cause skin reactions, especially those containing p-phenylenediamine as well as ammonium persulfate used to lighten hair.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
 
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?
 

blowing nose
Article
woman with sore throat
Article
 
lone star tick
Slideshow
Woman blowing nose
Slideshow
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

cat lying on shelf
Article
Allergy prick test
VIDEO
 
Man sneezing into tissue
Assessment
Woman holding feather duster up to face, twitching
Quiz