Allergic skin is primed to overreact to allergens in our environment or in the products we use. If your skin seems to react to anything and everything, try our 8 tips to avoid that annoying itching and unsightly redness!
1) Back to basics: Simple steps can make a big difference. Wash your hands before applying any products to your skin. Keep an eye out for expiry dates and storage instructions (“store in a cool dry place”…). Even remembering to put the lid back on a pot of cream after application can help.
2) Allergic skin friendly skincare: If your skin tends to react, seek out products specifically formulated for sensitive-to-allergic skin. Think hypoallergenic at all times. And when it comes to the ingredients list 0% fragrance, 0% alcohol and 0% unnecessary ingredients is a good start.
3) Beef up your barrier: You can’t control everything that your skin comes into contact with on a daily basis – pollen, pollution, pet fur etc. – so invest in soothing, super-safe formulas that reinforce your skin’s barrier function.
4) Pick your packaging: Did you know that allergens in cosmetics don’t always come from the formulas themselves, but can actually make their way into packaging after it’s opened? The worst offenders in this regard are jars, as the product is exposed to the air and comes into contact with fingertips. Tubes are generally better, although if you have allergic-type or ultra-reactive skin, go for special packs that use a one-way valve to stop backflow into the formula. This is known as anti-retrocontamination packaging.
5) Be an ingredient detective: If you experience allergic-type reactions to cosmetics, keep track of the ingredients in the products that you might be allergic to. There are safety search engines available online where you can find out more, as well as a slew of barcode scanner apps. But remember, an allergist consultation is the best way to establish exactly what you are allergic to.
6) Mind the metal: Metals such as nickel are among the commonest causes of contact dermatitis. If you are allergic to nickel, you probably already avoid costume jewelry, but did you know that some cosmetics also contain nickel? Look for the label “nickel-controlled.
7) Wash day: Cosmetics aren’t the only products that touch our skin. A major cause of allergic-type skin reactions is laundry detergent. The main offenders are the fragrances and enzymes in the formulas. Opt for hypoallergenic, non-biological detergents and try rinsing twice to remove every last trace. Finally, a tumble dryer is a good investment as line-dried clothes can become laden with itch-inducing pollen.
8) Patch test: If you are buying products from a reputable and allergy-tested pharmacy brand, patch testing should not usually be necessary. But some products such as PPD hair dyes are particularly likely to cause allergic reactions, so consider patch testing before use. (you click on patch testing and a box appears with instructions).
1. Take a small amount of dye onto a cotton bud and apply somewhere inconspicuous, such as behind your ear.
2. Cover with a non-absorbent dressing (ask your pharmacist for something suitable).
3. Leave on for 48 hours. That’s how long contact dermatitis takes to develop.
4. Remove the dressing and look at the skin. If it is normal, you’re good to go. If there is any redness, scaling, rashes or blisters… steer well clear of that product.