Monday, June 14, 2010

Beauty Product Allergies

In a recent post, I referenced a red dye allergy. It was too off-topic to discuss at any length, so I decided to save the thought for another post. Allergic reactions to beauty products can often be allergies to only one ingredient in an otherwise non-irritating formula. That's why it's important to know your allergies and read labels.

About 30 years ago, I had a favorite eye shadow made by one of the largest cosmetics companies in the world. I loved it so much - and it looked so good on me - that I wore it almost every day. It was a taupe color. After a year (maybe longer), my eyelids started to peel. They were red, itchy, and extremely irritated. I visited my dermatologist. We talked about every product that came in contact with my eyelids, including soaps and shampoos, and he told me I needed to be patch tested to identify the offending item. So, I hauled them all to his office. The nurse put each on my back and covered it, drawing a product map as she did. I was sure it couldn't have been my eye shadow; I had been wearing it for a long time. Little did I know!

After several annoying days of keeping my back dry, I went in for the results. By now, I'm sure you have realized that it was my eye shadow - my beloved taupe eye shadow. While they couldn't pinpoint the exact ingredient in it, they had patch tested another shadow by the same company, and there was no reaction. I had to give up my favorite eye shadow! When I did, my eyelids returned to normal.

My doctor explained that one can develop allergies over time; we don't necessarily have them on the first use of a product. It makes sense, although it was no consolation at the time that I had to find a new, favorite shadow. Years after that, I was telling a sales associate who had been with that company for a long time about my experience. I didn't even name the shadow. She did! Apparently, there was a red dye in it that caused problems for a lot of women, and the company had discontinued it.

Women have allergic reactions to cosmetics and skin-care products more often than we know. Some are minor and go unrecognized. Others are immediate and easy to identify because only one new product has been introduced to the skin. Many, like mine, are not as easy to diagnose. Even a patch test won't pinpoint the specific ingredient in a product that is causing the allergic reaction.

What can we do? Stop using your prime suspects - even if you have used them for a long time. A prime suspect should be the product that comes in direct contact with the irritated skin most often. At the time, I didn't know enough to realize it had to be my eye shadow. Had it been my facial cleanser, my whole face would have been a red, itchy mess - not just my eyelids.

Once you figure out what's causing your own reaction(s), find out what's in the offending product. Read labels! Sometimes, you can figure it out yourself. According to Clinique, fragrance causes more allergic reactions than any other ingredient in cosmetics. There are other common allergens in our beauty products. In my case, it's a red dye. I wish I knew which one!

A few weeks ago, I was testing a gorgeous taupe shadow duo I had bought at Target. It was made by a well-known and respected company. Once sensitized, you are likely to react quickly to an ingredient that causes a reaction. You can guess what happened. My eyelids were burning within 20 minutes of application. As soon as I could get to a restroom, I washed off my lovely new shadow. The next day, I gave it away to a friend who is happily wearing it.

I can't offer you medical advice, but I can suggest that you should see a dermatologist for any severe reaction on your skin! Over the years, I have learned my irritation/allergy triggers (but that won't stop me from looking for taupe nirvana). What about you?


Ouidad Blog said...

Bottom line: If a product bothers you, stop using it. It's extremely important to listen to your body because it will tell you if it likes the product or not. Most people can typically narrow down the offending ingredient with a little bit of time, patience, and research. But you're right, checking with your doctor is always a good thing!

Katie for Ouidad

Charlestongirl said...

I agree - you can often figure it out yourself. I'm a lot smarter about allergies today than I used to be.

Our wonderful doctors can offer temporary help, though, with creams developed to soothe all the redness and itching. I love seeing mine once and awhile anyhow - he can look me over for AKs, which I get way too often. I'm actually pretty adept at find them myself now too. :)

smilinggreenmom said...

We have (as a family) come to love using natural products and even making some of our own! You just have to be so careful. I hate using anything synthetic or with chemicals especially on our son who has had allergies and eczema since he was a baby. Thankfully he is so much better now and his skin has been nearly cleared for a whole year now because he takes his Belly Boost probiotic. They have helped him so much and it has changed our life. We refuse to use unhealthy ingredients in our home!

claudia said...

Thanks so much for this post. One of my eye products was giving me a red, scaly patch on my inner corner. Why I didn't think to test one product at a time to figure it out is beyond me. (It was the UD Primer Potion).

So now I'm in the market for a new primer for my oily lids, but I don't have the red spot anymore!

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Claudia,

At least you figured it out! I can't tell you how long I endured my red, itchy, peeling eyelids before I went to my doctor.

There are plenty of good primers available - for oily, normal, and dry lids. Ask for samples!

Charlestongirl said...


I really admire your dedication. Glad to hear your son is improving. You can never be too careful!