Did you know that your typical woman uses an estimated seven different cosmetics each and every day? That might sound like a lot, but when you realize that things used to protect or beautify the hair and teeth count as cosmetics, you may quickly come to believe that that estimate is on the low side. Let’s see: whitening toothpaste, hair detangling spray, hair gel, moisturizer, toner, foundation, blush, and no, I’m not done listing the cosmetics I use every day yet.
Over 5000 different fragrances are used in the cosmetics we rely on every day, and finding unfragranced products isn’t easy at all. Then you have parabens, methylisothiazolinone, formaldehyde, and other preservatives that have already earned a bad reputation yet still appear in many of the things we put on our skin and on our hair, as well as natural allergens such as lanolin and propolis. When you think about the amount of cosmetics we use, and how many potential allergens they contain, you may not think that the estimated 10 percent of women who end up with an allergic reaction to a cosmetic over their lifetime is all that high.
Do you think you might be facing an allergic reaction to a cosmetic product? Allergic reactions to cosmetics can range from a mild skin rash that may just have been caused by the heat or friction instead to anaphylactic shock.
Signs Of Cosmetic Allergies
You may break out in hives (urticaria) in reaction to a cosmetic you are using. Hives are itchy, look terrible and are really unpleasant, but if you work out what’s causing the hives, wash it off, get an over-the-counter antihistamine and stop using the product, you’ll be absolutely fine.
You may also get irritant or allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant dermatitis actually isn’t an allergic reaction as such, but rather a product that irritates your skin. Allergic dermatitis can strike if you are allergic to a particular ingredient, though a skin rash usually won’t show until about 12 hours after exposure (which means you may not identify the problematic product right away). Though symptoms differ slightly between allergic and irritant dermatitis (the former creates swelling, the latter dry and scaly skin), both lead to redness and itching. Another form of dermatitis is photcontact dermatitis, in which a particular ingredient only leads to problems on your skin once it is exposed to the sun.
Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction. Though you may have a rash and swelling, anaphylaxis is characterized by breathing difficulties, nausea and vomiting, and can even — as everyone well knows — be fatal. Swift action is key here.
Thankfully, anaphylaxis is a rather rare reaction to cosmetics. Other allergic reactions can also be pretty severe and unpleasant, however.
I Think I’m Allergic To A Cosmetic: What Now?
In case of severe reactions, head to the ER! In case of mild reaction, quit using the offending cosmetic product, and either see a doctor for your symptoms if you are worried, or simply watch the symptoms subside as the result of no longer using the cosmetic. You should really take note of the ingredients, so that if you have an allergic reaction to another cosmetic again in future, you can cross-check the list and try to figure out what the allergen is. You can also be patch-tested for allergies to specific ingredients, for which you will need to visit an allergist, so that you will know exactly what you are allergic to so that you can avoid it in future.
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