Allergic Contact Dermatitis Caused by Cosmetics: Causes and Treatments

The Federal Meals, Drug, and Beauty Act (FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)) defines cosmetics1 as “articles supposed to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, launched into, or in any other case utilized to the human physique…for cleaning, beautifying, selling attractiveness, or altering the looks“.

These merchandise embody moisturizers, lipsticks, eye, and facial make-up, nail polish, cleaning shampoos, deodorants, and even hair colour. Nearly all girls and most males use a number of of them each day. Most don’t expertise any issues. Nonetheless, some predisposed people develop an annoying and ugly pores and skin allergy, referred to as allergic contact dermatitis, to a few of the elements.

This text examines the causes, remedies, and prevention of allergic pores and skin reactions to cosmetics.

Allergic reactions to cosmetics

An allergic response is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance that, in most individuals, is innocent. Many people are acquainted with seasonal allergy symptoms, similar to the event of itchy crimson eyes and a runny nostril brought on by aerosolized pollen from ragweed or different grasses.

Allergic reactions from cosmetics happen on the pores and skin the place the product has been utilized to the pores and skin – thus the title “contact” dermatitis. It typically seems as a crimson itchy, generally weepy rash. In some instances raised crimson welts, often known as hives, might seem and localized swelling.

The commonest forms of elements that trigger contact dermatitis from cosmetics embody the next:

      • Fragrances
      • Preservatives
      • Dyes & colour components
      • Rubber or latex

Let’s study every of those in flip.


Perfume is the time period used to explain man-made or natural substances utilized in cosmetics and skincare merchandise to present the product a definite scent. It’s the commonest reason behind allergic contact dermatitis from a beauty being accountable for 30-45% of all reactions to beauty merchandise.2

They’re present in most forms of cosmetics together with moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, facial cosmetics, perfumes, and deodorants. As a rule, there’s multiple perfume ingredient in any given product. Particular person merchandise might comprise as much as a number of hundred perfume compounds.

The phrase perfume, due to this fact, typically represents a cocktail of many perfume compounds. As a result of the precise composition of a perfume is taken into account proprietary info, or “commerce secrets and techniques”, the FDA doesn’t require the producer to record the person elements that represent the perfume. As an alternative, the Ingredient itemizing could say perfume.

    • Different names for “perfume”

To make issues extra complicated, perfume may additionally be listed as:

        • Fragrance
        • Cologne
        • Taste
        • Parfum
        • Important oils
    • Widespread perfume allergens

The European Union has carried out intensive analysis on perfume allergens. Additionally they mandate that twenty-six of probably the most generally acknowledged perfume allergens be listed individually when utilized in concentrations larger than 0.001% for leave-on merchandise or 0.01% for rinse-off merchandise.

These elements embody:

          • Amyl cinnamal
          • Amylcinnamyl alcohol
          • Anisyl alcohol
          • Benzyl alcohol
          • Benzyl benzoate
          • Benzyl cinnamate
          • Benzyl salicylate
          • Cinnamyl alcohol
          • Cinnamaldehyde
          • Citral
          • Citronellol
          • Coumarin
          • Eugenol
          • Farnesol
          • Geraniol
          • Hexyl cinnamaladehyde
          • Hydroxycitronellal
          • Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (HICC), (also referred to as Lyral)
          • Isoeugenol
          • Lilial
          • d-Limonene
          • Linalool
          • Methyl 2-octynoate
          • g-Methylionone
          • Oak moss extract
          • Tree moss extract


Preservatives are the second commonest reason behind allergic contact dermatitis from cosmetics. All water-based cosmetics should embody a preservative to stop the overgrowth of microorganisms. With out one, micro organism, fungus, and mildew will start to develop within the product inside two weeks.

The preservative on the ingredient itemizing will likely be listed by title, not by the phrase preservative, as is the case for perfume. The commonest preservatives embody:

      • Methylisothiazolinone3
      • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
      • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing elements:
        • Bronopol
        • Bronidox
        • Diazolidinyl urea
        • DMDM hydantoin
        • Imidazolidinyl urea
        • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
        • Quaternium-15
      • Para-hydroxybenzoic esters also referred to as parabens. Regardless of all of the media consideration, they’re comparatively weak allergens.4

Associated Content material from Dr. Frey: 
Formaldehyde: What Is It and Why Is It in My Cosmetics?
Skincare Merchandise: Are You Being Deceived?

–Dyes and colour components

The third commonest ingredient that causes allergic contact dermatitis from cosmetics is paraphenylenediamine (PPD). It’s generally utilized in everlasting hair dyes in addition to in some semi-permanent hair dyes. PPD is a well-liked hair dye ingredient because it leads to a really pure hair colour.

In contrast to different elements utilized in cosmetics, all colour components utilized in cosmetics, apart from coal-tar hair dyes, are topic to strict approval tips beneath US regulation.5 Failure to fulfill these necessities causes a beauty to be adulterated and is prohibited to be transported in interstate commerce. 

Colour components, no matter their focus, could also be listed in any order after the itemizing of all different elements, which aren’t colour components.

Ingredient itemizing may additionally establish colour components6 as:

      • p-phenylenediamine (PPD)
      • coal tar
      • Or by the precise additive: 

–Rubber or latex

Roughly 1-6% of the overall inhabitants is allergic to rubber or latex.7 It’s straightforward to acknowledge and keep away from a rubber balloon or latex gloves. Nonetheless, many individuals aren’t conscious that latex could also be present in your eyeliner, eyelash adhesive, or magnificence masks.  And, there isn’t a requirement for the producer to incorporate a warning on the label that clearly states that the product incorporates latex. Latex allergic people should test the ingredient itemizing.

Producers should embody an inventory of elements so as of reducing focus on all cosmetics. Latex could also be listed as any of the next:

      • Pure Rubber Latex
      • Pure Latex Rubber
      • Rubber Latex
      • Pure Latex
      • Latex Rubber
      • Pure Centrifuged Latex
      • Pure Liquid Latex
      • Aqueous Latex Adhesive
      • Latex

Diagnosing the reason for allergic contact dermatitis

Figuring out and avoiding the allergen, the ingredient that’s inflicting the allergic response is the first objective within the administration of allergic contact dermatitis. As soon as recognized, the affected person should be taught to learn the labels of cosmetics and different private care merchandise to keep away from exposing themselves to the causative ingredient.

Typically occasions an in depth historical past alone might consequence within the identification of the allergen. When this isn’t potential, diagnosing allergic contact allergy symptoms is feasible by performing patch checks. The pores and skin is uncovered to suspected allergy-causing elements.

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The realm is then noticed over a 72 to 96 hour time period in search of indicators of redness, hives, or irritation that will point out an allergic response. Patch checks might be performed on each adults and youngsters however ought to at all times be performed beneath the steerage of a medical skilled.

Remedy of allergic contact dermatitis

There are a number of remedies, each topical and oral, that may be employed to scale back disagreeable indicators and signs of allergic contact dermatitis.

–Topical steroids

To assist scale back the irritation and itching related to the allergic response, topical corticosteroids are the mainstay of therapy. Non-prescription anti-itch cream containing at the least 1 p.c hydrocortisone utilized a couple of times day by day might briefly relieve signs and might be tried at house. If the rash persists or worsens, a medical skilled can prescribe stronger topical steroids.

–Oral corticosteroids

In extreme instances of allergic contact dermatitis, particularly involving the eyelids, palms, ft or genitalia, oral steroids are sometimes prescribed.

–Topical Immunomodulators

When topical corticosteroids aren’t an choice, topical immunomodulators are sometimes prescribed for continual instances of allergic contact dermatitis. Topical tacrolimus (Protopic) is very useful when the allergic response includes the eyelids. Pimecrolimus (Elidel) could also be useful for delicate instances that contain the face.

–Oral antihistamines

Non-prescription antihistamines similar to diphenhydramine (Benadryl) might assist relieve extreme itching.

–Cool, moist compresses

The applying of a moistened washcloth for 15-20 minutes to the rash could also be soothing. Topical soaks with cool faucet water, saline (1 tsp/pint) or Burow resolution (1:40 dilution) can all be useful. This may be repeated a number of occasions day by day.

–Calamine lotion

If the rash is oozing or weeping, calamine lotion might assist dry the rash.


Allergic contact dermatitis can turn into contaminated. If redness, ache or discomfort persists, search medical consideration, as therapy for bacterial an infection could also be essential.

The underside line

For people with recognized allergy symptoms or delicate pores and skin, learn the ingredient itemizing of the beauty rigorously. Though deciding on merchandise with the advertising phrases on product labels like hypoallergenic or dermatologist examined could also be an excellent place to start out, there isn’t a assure that these merchandise received’t trigger a pores and skin response.

Earlier than making use of a beauty to a big floor space, apply the product to a small take a look at space behind the ear or inside your elbow for a number of days to determine whether or not or not the product is protected for you. And when doubtful, seek the advice of your dermatologist or medical skilled for steerage.


  1. US Meals and Drug Administration – Beauty Legal guidelines and Laws Present 8/24/2020
  2. Nationwide Eczema Affiliation – Perfume and Fragrance Allergy and Eczema FAQ
    present 5/29/2013
  3. SGS – European Fee Tightens Permitted Restrict for MIT in Cosmetics 
  4. Fayne Frey, M.D. – Skincare Merchandise: Are You Being Deceived?  9/20/2020
  5. US Meals and Drug Administration – Colour Components  Present 9/18/2018
  6. US Meals and Drug Administration – Colour Components Authorised for Use in Cosmetics Present 11/15/2017
  7. US Meals and Drug Administration – 1-6% of the overall inhabitants is allergic to rubber or latex Be aware 1, Present 8/24/2020

Fayne Frey, MD

Web site:

Fayne Frey, M.D., is a board-certified medical and surgical dermatologist training in West Nyack, New York, the place she specializes within the analysis and therapy of pores and skin most cancers. She is a nationally acknowledged skilled within the effectiveness and formulation of over-the-counter skincare merchandise.

She is a frequent speaker in lots of venues the place she captivates audiences together with her wry observations concerning the skincare business. She has consulted for quite a few media retailers, together with NBC, USA At the moment, and, the Huffington Put up. and has additionally shared her experience on each cable and main TV retailers.

Dr. Frey is the Founding father of, an academic skincare info and product choice service web site that clarifies and simplifies the overwhelming alternative of efficient, protected and reasonably priced merchandise encountered within the skincare aisles.

Dr. Frey is a graduate of the Weill Cornell Medical School and is a fellow of each the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgical procedure.

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