How do you feel about jasmine? I love it. It’s one of my very favorite scents, but the International Fragrance Association is limiting the amount of it allowed in perfumes and other aromatic beauty products (some do tend to have a lot) to reduce the number of products causing rashes and other bad reactions.
It’s not that jasmine’s particularly hard to tolerate — no more than most plant-based ingredients — but according to the FDA, almost all cosmetics and beauty products are apt to cause reactions in at least a small percentage of the population. We’re all different, as the story goes, and one girl’s soothing scent may be another girl’s poison ivy!
In one FDA survey, 25% of people reported a skin reaction to one or more beauty products.
It’s perhaps ironic, then, that the FDA has very limited authority over cosmetics. Unfortunately, the beauty biz is still very buyer beware.
Types of skin reactions
Most reactions are mild — what’s commonly referred to as irritant contact dermatitis. Typically it’s a burning, stinging or itching sensation accompanied by redness right where the product’s been applied. Dry or injured skin can react worse, too, having lost some of its natural barrier against irritants.
As bad as irritant dermatitis sounds, some of us have a worse variety termed allergic contact dermatitis — true allergies to specific ingredients. Symptoms can include severe redness, swelling, itching or even blisters on the skin, yikes! The worst culprits? Usually fragrances and preservatives. source
TIP: Some products will say “unscented” on the label when they really aren’t. It’s not uncommon for products to contain fragrance cocktails to mask unappealing or artificial scents. Straight up, if you’re on the market for something that’s really unscented, look for the words, “fragrance-free” or “without perfume.”
While almost any ingredient can cause an allergic reaction in at least some people, many of the worst offenders are preservatives.
They slow the growth of bacteria and crop up in most beauty products that contain water, but parabens, imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, phenoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone and formaldehyde have also been linked to skin allergies.
So what’s a girl to do?
How to avoid a bad beauty skin reaction
- Look for products with a short list of ingredients. It’ll reduce your odds of a negative reaction and the chances of cross-reactions with other ingredients.
- Conduct a patch test before using something new. Survivalists and military special forces personnel know this trick well. They’ll use it to help them identify edible plants and berries in the wild. Just place a small amount on the inside of your elbow and wait 48-72 hours. If redness, swelling, itching or burning occurs, don’t use that product.
- Always apply new fragrances to clothing first, and not your skin. It can help reduce your risk of a reaction. Give it a try, and if you don’t experience a reaction, proceed with the patch test above.
- Be aware that labels like “organic,” “all-natural,” “hypoallergenic,” “dermatologist tested,” “sensitivity tested,” and “non-irritating” aren’t guarantees that products will be kind to your skin. Even the most well tolerated products can cause allergic reactions in a small percentage of users.
NOTE: If your skin barks at you a little for using something it doesn’t like, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help reduce minor inflammation. Reactions like shortness of breath or pain, though, could be signs of a far more serious allergic reaction. If you experience either of those, get thee some urgent medical care!
- Bath soaps, detergents, antiperspirants, eye makeup, moisturizers, permanent wave lotion (particularly ones containing glyceryl monothioglycolat), shampoos, long-wearing lip stains, nail polishes containing formaldehyde, and fingernail glue containing methcrylate.
- Hair dyes can also cause skin reactions, particularly those containing p-phenylenediamine or ammonium persulfate (used to lighten hair).
- Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) appear to be problematic for some folks, especially when they contain concentrations more than 10%.
- Retin-A wrinkle creams and serums can also cause irritant contact dermatitis.
Have you ever had a really terrible allergic reaction to a beauty product before? What are some of the worst offenders for you?
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,