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Title : Cosmetics Allergy and How to Prevent It Previous topic PreviousNext Next topic

Cosmetics are defined as a preparation applied to the body, especially the face, to improve its appearance. These are used to beautify, cleanse or protect the hair, skin, teeth or complexion. Cosmetic surgery modify or improve the appearance of a physical feature, defect, or irregularity of a person. Products such as moisturizers, shampoos, deodorants, make-up, colognes, and other cosmetics have become part of our daily grooming habits.

An average adult uses at least seven different cosmetic products each day. Although cosmetics can help us feel more beautiful, they can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Certain ingredients used in cosmetics, such as fragrances and preservatives, can act as antigens, substances that trigger an allergic reaction. A chemical used in hundreds of beauty products is being blamed for a massive rise in dangerous allergic reactions. Although the prevalence of cosmetic allergy in the general population is unknown, several studies suggest that up to 10% of the population will have some type of reaction to a cosmetic over the course of a lifetime. This figure may be much more as many mild reactions occurring at home are self-diagnosed and often self-treated.

Symptoms of a Cosmetic Allergy :

There are two reactions that might occur following exposure to cosmetics: IRRITANT CONTACT DERMATITIS and ALLERGIC CONTACT DERMATITIS. Contact dermatitis is a condition marked by areas of inflammation (redness, itching and swelling) that form after a substance comes into contact with your skin.

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.  It develops when an irritating or harsh substance actually damages the skin. Irritant contact dermatitis usually begins as patches of itchy, scaly skin or a red rash, but can develop into blisters that ooze, especially if the skin is further irritated from scratching. It generally occurs at the site of contact with the irritating substance. Areas where the outermost layer of skin is thin, such as the eyelids, or where the skin is dry and cracked are more susceptible to irritant contact dermatitis.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis involves your immune system. Symptoms Allergic Contact Dermatitis include redness, swelling, itching, and hives. Your skin can get red and raw. This occurs in people who are allergic to a specific ingredient or ingredients in a product. 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.

Causes of Cosmetic Allergy :

Common cosmetic causes of allergic reactions include fragrances, preservatives, emulsifiers, lanolin, and other chemicals present in skin care products, makeups, hair products especially hair dyes, nail care products, sunscreens, toothpastes, mouthwashes, personal cleansing products, shaving preparations, depilatories, epilating waxes, and bath oils/salts. Irritation is usually due to surfactants (soaps, cleansers), alcohols, or alpha-hydroxy acids (fruit acids) that are contained in some cosmetic products. With irritant contact dermatitis, the skin breaks down when it comes into contact with harsh substances, most often chemicals that directly injure the outer layer of the skin, resulting in symptoms.

How to Diagnosed Cosmetic Allergy :

Reactions are diagnosed by the appearance of symptoms and your history of exposure to various cosmetic products. If you have a reaction, stop using all cosmetics. The most important thing is to stop using whatever's causing the reaction right away. When your symptoms are gone, start using them again, one product at a time.  This may be enough to fix the problem. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can also help ease inflammation. Don't apply a hydrocortisone cream to your face without checking with your doctor, because it can cause light spots on your face. Contact dermatitis should clear rapidly once the cosmetic allergen is removed. In more severe cases, a prescription steroid cream may be required, as well as antibiotic medication if the skin becomes blistered and infected. Consult a dermatologist who can do a patch testing to confirm your allergy and suggest an alternative product.

How to Prevent Cosmetics Allergy :

There are several steps you can take to try and avoid cosmetic allergy reactions.

1)  Read the list of ingredients on all cosmetic products and know the names of the allergens you need to avoid.  If you find an ingredient that has caused a reaction in the past, don't use that product.

2)  When considering a new product, do a "mini-patch test" first to see if it causes a reaction. Put a sample of the product on your inner wrist or elbow and wait 24 hours to see if a reaction occurs.

3)  Choose products that don't have a long list of ingredients to minimize the potential allergens.

4)  Apply perfume to your clothes rather than your skin, and allow the perfume to dry before putting on the clothes.

5)  Be especially careful with makeup because it stays in contact with the skin for a long time.

6)  Look for products that are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic. However, be aware that these may still cause reactions.

7)  If you have an allergy to the "natural" ingredient, you could have an allergic reaction. For instance, lanolin, extracted from sheep wool, is an ingredient in many moisturizers and a common cause of contact dermatitis.

8)  Don't apply eye makeup if you have an infection, such as conjunctivitis. Throw away all products you were using when you first discovered your eye infection.

9)  Wash your hands and your face before applying makeup. It's a basic precaution.

10) Never use anyone else's cosmetics. Sharing cosmetics means sharing germs. Whether the makeup belongs to your best friend or sits on a store counter for any customer to test.

Your dermatologist may have further specific advice, particularly if you are highly sensitive to particular cosmetic allergens.

*Disclaimer: This article is only for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.

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