allergies to cosmetics

Allergies to cosmetics: All you need to know

By the 08 June 2020

Modifié le 08 June 2020

Itching, redness, irritation: allergies to cosmetics are more common than we think. But are these really signs of an allergy, or just irritation caused by a particular ingredient? We’ll explain the difference and how to avoid them!


Irritation or allergies to cosmetics?


Be careful to not confuse irritation with allergies to cosmetics! They’re very different things, and they won’t have the same effects on your body.




Although cosmetic products are designed to make us look more beautiful, or to take care of our skin, some of them can be aggressive, and cause irritations on the skin. In this case, redness, dry skin, or rashes can appear. Don’t panic, although this can be really uncomfortable, it’s not an allergic reaction, but rather an irritation linked to an aggressive ingredient which you should avoid using when you are buying cosmetic products, particularly if you have sensitive skin. :)


What are the main irritants in mainstream cosmetics?


Sulfates (Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate)
Alcohol (including denatured alcohol) when they are at the beginning of a list of ingredients
Pure vitamin A (retinol) and its derivatives
Hardeners: formaldehyde
Preservatives: triclosan, BHT and methylisothiazolinone
And some synthetic fragrances in large doses


What are the main irritants in natural cosmetics?


Preservatives: cosgard, benzyl-alcohol
Citric acid in large doses
Bicarbonate of soda in large doses
Vitamin-A rich plant oils (carrot, musk rose, moringa..) in large doses
Organic and non-organic alcohol in large doses
Essential oils in large doses: pines, summer savory, marjoram, oregano, cinnamon, and citrus


How to soothe irritated skin?


Cleanse your skin with a gentle, sulfate-free cleansing gel, or a blend of floral waters to clean your skin thoroughly.


Use oil blends that are 100% pure, organic, and cold-pressed on affected areas to thoroughly nourish and regenerate your skin. For the most irritated zones, use a soft balm rich in organic plant oils and butters.


Allergies to cosmetics


Allergies to cosmetics cause itching, redness, small spots, dandruff, or areas of dryness.


These skin conditions are caused by one or more allergens contained in the products you use, and they don’t necessarily appear in the same areas where you apply the product.


In addition, to be allergic, you have to have been exposed to an allergen on several different occasions. In other words, one day you could become allergic to a product that you are completely used to using. But once the allergy occurs, it’s with you for life! For example, you could have been colouring your hair for 20 years and suddenly become allergic. This is why hairdressers have to give you an allergy test 48 hours before you colour your hair.


What are the official allergens?


Sunblocks: Octocrylène

Fragrances: Farnesol, Isoeugenol, Benzyl salicylate, Coumarin, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Alpha-isomethyl ionone, Amyl cinnamal, Amylcinnamyl alcohol, Anise Alcohol, Geraniol, Linalol, Limonene, Citronellol, Citral, and Eugenol, amongst others.

Preservatives: Methylisothiazolinone, Benzyl alcohol

Colouring agents: Paraphenylenediamine (PPD), Paratoluenediamine, Ammonium persulfate


Some allergens like ‘limonene,’ ‘linalol’ or ‘citronellol’ occur naturally in essential oils, but in small doses, so they pose no risk, and there’s no use avoiding a product because it contains an allergen that you’re not allergic to! :)


How do I know if I have allergies to cosmetics?


To know the cause of an allergy, you need to see an allergy-specialist to carry out a ‘patch test’. This is when a palette with small quantities of different allergens is applied to your back, allowing the specialist to observe your body’s reaction over the course of several days. Once the allergen has been identified, you should avoid it by checking the ingredients lists of products or company websites.


How to soothe skin with allergies to cosmetics?


You should definitely opt for a fresh aloe vera gel which will balance out the pH level of the skin and soothe the itchiness you feel as a result of your allergy.


As will irritations, cleanse your skin thoroughly with a gentle gel cleanser, or a superfatted unscented soap, and finish with a few sprays of floral water, that you can set in with a reusable cotton pad. This helps to get rid of residue left by the hard, limey tap water that tends to dry out the skin! :)


Finally, use some soothing plant oils like oOlution’s nourishing and soothing plant oil blend! 😉


This post is also available in french.


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