Cosmetic Allergies

Cosmetic allergies are painful, irritating, and can cause tender, inflamed skin that not only hurts it is unattractive. Those with allergy symptoms to cosmetics soon become familiar with the term: contact dermatitis. This term simply means that the person is having an acute allergic inflammation of the skin caused by contact with an ingredient or substance that they have a reaction to. These substances can be chemical, animal, or vegetable from nature.

Cosmetics including make-up, make-up removers, mascaras, and eye creams are common culprits that cause contact dermatitis.

Not Just Make-Up

Cosmetic allergic reactions can occur from many different skin products and not just makeup such as moisturizers, shampoos, deodorants, colognes and other daily grooming aids. Cosmetics are used daily by both men and women to help us feel beautiful, to help us feel clean and fresh or to cover up skin blemishes.

The intended purpose of cosmetics is to have a positive impact on our appearance or on our skin condition. When an individual is allergic to the ingredients used in cosmetics the impact can be skin irritation or an allergic reaction.

The ingredients in the products such as fragrances, dyes and preservatives cause the irritation or allergic reaction from cosmetics. These ingredients can act as antigens, which are substances that trigger an allergic reaction.

If you are allergic to a cosmetic product you may experience symptoms such as redness, itching or swelling of your skin or eyes when you come into contact with the cosmetic.


There are two basic reactions that you can have to a cosmetic: irritant contact dermatitis and an allergic contact dermatitis. The contact dermatitis is when the skin becomes red, you experience skin itching or the skin swells. This happens when the cosmetic comes into direct contact with your skin.

Other allergic contact dermatitis symptoms include hive-like breakouts, and can occur on the skin of the face, lips, ears, and neck, even your eyes.

An irritant contact dermatitis is common and can occur at anytime for anyone. The irritation usually starts when the contact is made to the skin and causes skin damage that starts out as patchy, itchy, scaly skin. It may be a red rash that can develop into blisters. The skin may be dry, crack or swell. A reaction may occur within minutes of the contact or it may take days or even weeks for the reaction to occur after the exposure.

Irritant contact dermatitis is a response to harsh substances; usually chemicals that cause skin injury to the outer layer of skin.

Allergic contact dermatitis is an immune system reaction to a specific substance in the cosmetic. The immune system sees the substance in the cosmetic as a foreign body that is perceived to be harmful to the body.

It is rare for there to be serious allergic reactions to cosmetic products. Mild reaction or irritations are common. Studies have reported as much as 10% of the population has had some kind of reaction to a cosmetic product during a lifetime. Women are more likely to experience cosmetic allergies because women tend to use them more than men do.