Cosmetic allergies, according to allergists, have not increased in recent years, but rather became even rarer. Cosmetics became notorious as an allergen mostly because of the tendency to skin symptoms, that most allergies have (including food allergies). So, those substances, which the skin comes into direct contact with, are often suspected. The second reason for libel on cosmetics is rooted in the fact that if there’s an intolerance reaction – people immediately start thinking about an allergy. Few people know, that there’s a big difference between allergy and skin irritation.

In case of an allergy reaction, the immune system takes action and the body violently reacts to substances, which are quite harmless. The most typical example – high fever. Ordinary pollen, that doesn’t cause any harm to people with a normal reaction, has a different effect on people with an allergy problem and can cause severe nasal reaction, swelling, watery eyes and headache. Why is this happening? To understand this, one should know what is happening in the human body during normal defensive reaction:

When human organism comes into contact with a foreign body, the immune system checks whether it is a dangerous substance or not. In case it is dangerous – protective cells begin to neutralize it. And not only that: protection against foreign bodies forms “memory cells” that are specifically designed to recognize these substances in the future. Once they appear – the body mobilizes the entire arsenal of defense. Foremost, it’s the so-called antibodies, which are produced by memory cells and are attached to the foreign substances. Thus, the immune cells “recognize” the tagged molecules and destroy them. If the body is allergic – this miraculous defense system is off balance. It cannot confidently distinguish between “harmful” and “harmless” and attacks not only dangerous substances, but also the quite harmless ones. “Immune memory” collects information about them, memorizing their typical symptoms. The result is that with each new contact – body defense strikes again. But it takes some time before it becomes noticeable. A sensible reaction occurs only if the immune cells develop a known amount of antibodies.

What is typical for allergies?

It is typical for allergic reactions that they never appear spontaneously – for example, immediately after applying a cream – they wait for a few hours, or even days.

The signs of atopic eczema include a severe itching, redness and swelling, which are not limited to the point of contact and appear on other skin areas that were not touched by the allergen.

And besides, there are hardly any other symptoms, which can help to immediately identify if it’s an allergy or not. There are many other skin disorders that look like allergies and even skin doctors are capable of diagnosing an allergy only after a special test.

Allergy or irritation?

If the skin becomes red immediately after applying the substance, if you feel a burning or tingling sensation, it is a sure sign that it’s not an allergy, but “only” an irritation. Unlike allergy, the skin in this case does not react with the help of the immune system, but by itself, as an organ. Irritation signals that the applied substance is not soft enough for the skin. Or – which happens often – you have gone too far with skin care – frequent changes of products or abundant application, or both. Unlike allergy, skin irritation does not occur every time when using your current substance. If the skin was already tired (by cold, heat or too aggressive substance) the reaction can be very strong, and the next day, when the skin is relaxed and in good shape, the reaction may not appear at all. Allergies appear most often on naturally gentle and sensitive skin. In this case it is recommended to use special products for sensitive skin.

What people who suffer from allergies should pay attention to, when handling cosmetics. Those who have allergies, or have family members with allergies – got reasons to be cautious. In this case, you must:

  • Avoid products that don’t have their ingredients listed on the package;
  • Do the free trial tolerance test before buying the product. Apply a small amount of the product and wait for three days.

Be sure to do a sample testing with any new cosmetic product. Even the best antiallergenic products cannot give an absolute guarantee. Because, first of all – they are not always free of substances capable of causing an allergy (e.g. preservatives), and secondly – in general, any substance can become an allergen.

If you have not made a preliminary test before buying cosmetics and you suspect that the reason for unusual skin reactions is cosmetic allergy, you need to be tested by a skin doctor. Although, before you start worrying and bothering the doctor – you can do something by yourself: discard any makeup for a few days, and then start the treatment with a single product. Three days later you can add another product. After additional three days add another product etc. So you can either find the product that causes an allergic reaction and eliminate it, or continue the cosmetic care with confidence.

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