Common Allergens in Cosmetics

by Bionic Beauty on 22.Nov.2008 · 4 comments

Common Skin Allergens listing by Bionic Beauty blog

Did you know that sometimes a cosmetic that you have been using for some time can become the cause of dermatitis. Amazing, right? Our bodies can develop a reaction to something we might have been using for years. That’s why I believe it’s so very important to pay attention to what you are trying, what’s part of your routine, and changes in formula.

I have been going through the proverbial ringer trying to figure out my facial skin allergies. We’re getting closer to finding the elusive culprit, but it can be so frustrating. My frustration is what prompted this article. Sometimes, we all get anxious to try the latest and greatest new fab beauty item, and yep, it *is* fun… but we should also carry around a bit of knowledge about what goes into those lovely concoctions.

I’ve rounded up a list ingredients that most doctors and dermatologists agree are common skin allergens found in cosmetics. Of course, we all react differently to items, so this list isn’t comprehensive. If you are having skin problems and can’t get them sorted out by yourself, it’s definitely in your best interest to see your derm as soon as possible. A doctor can help nail down potential allergies, reactions, infections or other causes.

Here’s a list of some common cosmetic skin allergens…

  • Balsam of Peru – an aromatic mixture made from resins and essential oils. It can be found in a few perfumes.
  • Chlorocresol – a phenol substitute that serves as a preservative to kill bacteria. It can be found in some cosmetics.
  • Colophony – present in some medicated creams and very few cosmetics.
  • Formaldehyde – It used to be prevalent in cosmetics, shampoo, and nail polish. But more and more frequently, it’s being phased out for “healthier” and less-reactive ingredients. This is one of the ingredients that nail polish companies mean when they say they are “Big 3 Free”.
  • Fragrance mix – This one is a toughy since most labels do not list what fragrances are used to scent perfumes, cosmetics, lotions, etc. However, doctors and dermatologists can ‘patch test’ your skin with a collection of eight fragrances that react to about 75% of patients.
  • Lanolin – This is widely used in cosmetics including lotions, creams, body butters, lip balms and lip glosses. It can be a super great ingredient to moisturize. I personally adore lanolin-based balms…so soft.
  • Parabens – preservatives found in cosmetics and topical products to inhibit fungus, bacteria and prevent spoilage. These are very commonly used in cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners, sunscreens and medical creams. There’s much discussion on both sides of the fence about parabens, especially concering their potential link to cancers. Many makeup companies are going paraben free, and you can find an increasing amount of paraben free shampoos and conditioners.
  • PPD (paraphenylenediamine) – a permanent hair dye that can be used in hair salons and at home. Dyed hair cannot cause an allergy but the dye may do during application. Yet another reason to use a barrier cream (Skin MD Natural, petroleum jelly, Gloves in a Bottle or similar) to prevent as much of the chemicals from hitting your face and neck skin as possible. And always, always do a patch test before dyeing your hair!
  • Toluene sulphonamide formaldehyde resin (TSF resin) – the common polymer in nail polish and a frequent allergen. This is another one of the ingredients that nail polish companies mean when they say they are “Big 3 Free”. It’s very easy these days to find nail polishes without this ingredient.

Have you ever been through skin allergy testing? Or developed an allergy to a cosmetic or an ingredient? If so, how do you work your skincare routine around it?


1 Deanna November 22, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I have such sensitive skin, I always wondered what I should look for! Thanks!

2 BionicBeauty November 23, 2008 at 9:44 am

Deanna, You’re welcome, I hope it helps you a bit. 🙂

3 Micheal Simpson September 29, 2010 at 3:39 am

Wow! what a nice post! It is very useful and informative. I really appreciate that there are sites like this that contains information about health problems.

Thanks for the information that you shared. =)

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