Friday, August 19, 2011

Sensitive and Allergy-prone Skin

For those who suffer from allergies there is a tendency to label a cosmetic ingredient or a cosmetic in general as bad, because of your allergy. I know, because I’ve had my moments as an allergy sufferer in which I want to assume all products that have allergy triggers are bad. But it simply isn’t true. The bad guy in my body really is my immune system and not the allergen.

An allergy is the body’s immune system rejection of a substance. It is caused when the immune system sees a substance as a foreign invader. In reaction to the “foreign invasion” the body sends T-cells (a group of white blood cells) out to fight, which in skin allergic reactions causes redness and irritation. Your risk of developing an allergy to cosmetics isn’t necessarily related to the natural or chemical formulation of a cosmetic, but instead it is related to your parents’ allergy history.

Skin Allergies
Skin allergies are very common, but allergies can impact any area of the body. A skin allergy reaction can appear in the form of a rash, welt or hives. These inflammations of the skin may be in isolated patches or in general areas.

To have an allergic reaction you simply need to have been exposed at least one time to a substance at which time your body identified it as a foreign invader. The next time you are exposed to that substance your body sends out the troops to protect itself and suddenly you have an allergic reaction. Your body has an exaggerated immune response. The same substance will cause absolutely no reaction in non-allergic people because the body sees the substance as harmless, because it is if you aren’t allergic to it. Many times an allergic reaction shows up on the skin whether it was caused by topical exposure or not.

Sensitive Skin
People with red hair, or who have Celtic, Irish, British or Scottish heritage often suffer from sensitive skin, which is characterized by very thin, fragile and pink colored skin.

Sensitive skin is often mistaken for allergy-prone skin. In sensitive skin the blood vessels and nerve endings are closer to the surface of the skin, which causes it to get irritated and redden easily from external or internal irritants. Not only can topical application of a cosmetic cause sensitive skin to redden, but so can eating spicy food, consuming caffeine or alcohol, taking niacin (Vitamin B3), exposure to sun or tobacco use.

Sensitive skin is much more likely to develop reactions and allergies to cosmetics, however many reaction to cosmetics for people with sensitive skin may not be associated with true allergies. It takes special attention to the details of foods and cosmetic ingredients to isolate what is causing simply red irritated skin and what is the cause of a true allergy. Either way anyone with sensitive skin knows that whether it is a true allergy or simply a reaction from sensitive skin it is desirable to avoid the cause of the reaction in the future.

Hypoallergenic Cosmetics
There is no such thing as hypoallergenic cosmetics. It is an oxymoron, because there are absolutely no substances on earth that can be guaranteed to not cause an allergic reaction for some people.  Hypoallergenic really means that it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Common Allergens is Cosmetics and Household Products
Fragrances are a common source of allergic reaction in cosmetics. Again, there simply is nothing on earth, whether man-made or natural that is guaranteed to be hypoallergenic. A commonly unknown cause of allergic reaction to “fragrance free” cosmetics is actually fragrance chemicals. Yes, you read that right. There are often still fragrance oils in fragrance free cosmetics. This is one loophole in the cosmetic law that I would love to see closed. It is perfectly legal to call your product fragrance free and not label it with the term fragrance if, and only if, the fragrance was added to mask the aroma of another chemical in the formulation. 

“The ingredient or mixture of ingredients acting as a masking agent, i.e., covering the undesirable off-odor of a product without adding a discernable odor to it, may be declared by their individual name(s) or as "fragrance" (in lieu of a better designation). A masking agent present in a product at an insignificant level may be considered an incidental ingredient under § 701.3(1)(2)(iii) in which case it need not be declared on the label.” Source: FDA Labeling Manual

Sunscreens contain ingredients that are common allergens, but on the other hand no use of sunscreen can cause sun light allergies. You simply can’t win when you are allergy-prone. One tip that can be given is to apply sunscreen prior to going out in the sun. Hot skin can intensify the reaction.

If you are allergy-prone the very best first step you can take in stopping ongoing reaction is to change your laundry detergent, dryer sheets and fabric softeners. Your clothes comes in contact with a large portion of your body and can commonly be the cause of rashes, hives and welts. Switch to a chemical and fragrance free laundry products.

If you’ve determined your laundry detergent is okay, do a patch test on your shoulder blade. Simply put a dab of product on your shoulder blade and then cover it with a large plaster in order to avoid rubbing of the product off on your clothes. After an hour you should know if there is a reaction.
By Kayla Fioravanti

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