Can Cosmetics Irritate the Skin?
Only two decades ago, figures indicated that 15% of contact dermatitis cases were caused by cosmetics. Today, those figures have doubled. This suggests that cosmetics can irritate the skin and the widespread use of these products have contributed to this problem.
Specialists estimate that the cosmetic industry uses around 8,000 elements when creating its products. With such a volume, it’s clear that one or several of these cosmetic components can irritate the skin, but it’s not easy to detect which one of these affects the individual in particular.
Cosmetics can irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction. These are two different processes. The irritation mainly starts with redness and inflammation. In an allergic reaction, however, you may experience itching, stinging, or burning, and in many cases, you may develop blisters.
Do cosmetics irritate the skin?
It’s clear that cosmetics can irritate the skin. Remember, the skin is the biggest organ on the body and is also a penetration point for many chemical agents. In technical terms, an adverse reaction to some element or component is called contact dermatitis. It can be irritation or allergy-induced.
There’s no cosmetic that’s 100% safe. All cosmetics can irritate the skin to a greater or lesser extent. Among those, we can also include daily-use soaps and shaving foams, not just make-up.
Likewise, no one is exempt from suffering contact dermatitis caused by cosmetic use. Obviously, people with atopic skin are more prone to this, as are those with a history of rhinitis or allergic conjunctivitis.
The irritating components
In general terms, perfumes and conservatives are the elements responsible for the majority of irritations and allergies on the skin. In particular, specialists have established that the following cosmetic components can irritate the skin the most:
- Ammonia: This is mainly present in hair dyes and other ‘permanent’ products. It produces irritation or an allergic reaction.
- Sulfate: This component is used in a lot of shampoos in the form of sodium lauryl sulfate and laureth sodium sulfate. It’s important to take a look at the label on the shampoo bottle if you experience any dry skin or scalp irritation after using it.
- Eye shadow colorants: The main effects here are redness, and inflammation. They can also cause the eyes to water.
- Retinol: The star component of many anti-aging creams. Some people find it causes irritation and dryness.
- Salic acid: Mainly found in anti-blemish creams. In some cases, it doesn’t only increase the number of blemishes but also causes additional irritation.
- Glycolic acid: Sometimes this will cause redness, dryness, or burning, especially in exfoliating products. In these cases, it’s best to use products with lactic acid instead.
- Fragrances: Specialists associate fragrances in products with skin irritation on many occasions.
- Aluminum and toluene: The deodorants that contain aluminum are frequently associated with skin irritation. The same happens with nail polishes that contain toluene, formaldehyde, or DBP.
- Others: The following components also have the potential to cause irritation or allergic reactions: euxyl K-400, Pervuain kathon and balsam, present in compact powders; propyl gallate, octyl gallate and mercury found in lipsticks; nickel sulfate that forms part of the composition for eyelash and eyeliner masks; and thiomersal, found in eye shadows.
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Advice to bear in mind
In many cases, the cosmetic can cause irritation or an allergic reaction, but there’s also the possibility that the individual has an underlying issue that may be the cause for the reaction. When you frequently experience irritation, or it’s very intense, it’s always best to go to a dermatologist.
It’s common that irritation appears some time after using the product. For this reason, it’s very important to identify the cause of the problem. Sometimes it’s enough to simply stop using the product that caused the reaction, and everything should return to normal.
Cosmetics can also cause irritation if you’re not using them properly. They have a use-by date, after which they may not only cause small adverse reactions, but also an infection. You should store these products in dry and fresh areas, otherwise it can cause their compositions to alter.
Similarly, it’s necessary to keep each element of the makeup clean. You should wash the brushes, applicators, and other apparatus frequently. These elements should only be used on yourself; it’s not suitable to share them.