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How to Test Cosmetic Allergies at Home

Published by monica on Monday, January 14, 2013

Photo credit by Akira Ohgaki

While cosmetics make women look and feel beautiful, they can cause allergic reactions. These allergies are known as allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Of the two, the latter is more common. If you have highly sensitive skin, doing a patch test to check whether you are allergic to the cosmetic is important.

How Cosmetics Cause Allergies

Most cosmetics (yes, even natural herbal products) contain various allergy-causing substances such as preservatives and fragrance. The allergens present in them can trigger allergies. In the case of irritant contact dermatitis, harsh and corrosive chemicals actually wear down the skin's outer layer. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by the battle between the body's immune system and the 'foreign invaders' (allergens) in cosmetics.

Symptoms of Allergy to Cosmetics

You know you have contact dermatitis when your skin is:
  • Puffy
  • Red and Raw
  • Itchy
  • Full of Rash
Irritant Contact Dermatitis

If you have this type of allergy, you will notice that your skin is itchy and looks dry, patchy and scaly. Or your skin might break out in a red, itchy rash. If you keep scratching it, the rash or dry skin can turn into oozing blisters. This allergy is most often seen in areas of dry skin, or on the eyelids where the skin is thin. Irritant Contact Dermatitis may show up in minutes if the irritant in question is harsh (such as perfume). If the irritant is weak, the allergic reaction can build up slowly over years.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This allergic reaction is caused by certain ingredients in a cosmetic product. The skin (it can happen anywhere on the body) becomes red, swells up, itches or breaks out in a rash which looks like hives. The symptoms usually occur on the face, ears, eyes, lips and neck.

How to Do a Patch Test at Home

A patch test is usually done on the inside of the wrist or in the elbow crease. Here are the steps you need to follow, but first make sure that your immune system is up to it – that is, you are not ill at the time, and you don't have over-sensitive skin.
  1. Clean the area to be tested thoroughly.
  2. Apply a small amount of the cosmetic product on the inside of your wrist or elbow.
  3. Don't wash off or wipe away the product for a minimum of 24 hours.
  4. Keep checking your skin for any signs of irritation. If there's any burning, swelling,
    redness or itchiness, wash the area gently right away.
Ingredients to Watch Out For on Cosmetic Labels

Here are some of the potentially allergy-causing ingredients commonly listed on cosmetic labels:
  • Cinnamic alcohol
  • Cinnamic aldehyde
  • Geraniol
  • Hydroxycitronellal
  • Isoeugenol
  • Chlorocresol
  • Parfum
If you're lucky, you'll pass the 24- hour patch test, and can go ahead and use the cosmetic without any fear. Remember to always do a patch test before using a new cosmetic on your skin. This is especially important if you have highly sensitive skin.

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