Makeup Allergies

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View 10 Common Allergy Triggers

What is on the cosmetic label?

The ingredients in a cosmetic are required to be listed on the label in order of decreasing quantity. Any ingredient could potentially produce a reaction, but certain ingredients seem to be more likely to cause problems. The use of the terms hypoallergenic, pure, and natural on the label have very little scientific meaning and are essentially marketing jargon. Cosmetics that use the term organic must be manufactured according to certain USDA criteria that have little to do with consumer safety.

How can I be tested for a cosmetic sensitivity?

If a cosmetic is being considered a potential cause of a reaction, the patient can perform a "use" test over three or four days by repeatedly applying the substance to the same site on forearm skin. If a reaction appears, further types of allergy testing can be performed by a health-care professional to determine the precise identity of the cosmetic mixture that is responsible. One can then avoid the offending product as well as avoiding further exposure to the allergenic component in other cosmetic products.

What else could the rash be aside from a cosmetic rash?

There are a number of common skin diseases that are likely to be confused with cosmetic rashes. Perhaps the best way to distinguish these is to avoid using the particular cosmetic in question for two or three weeks. If the rash resolves and then recurs when the cosmetic is used again, it is reasonably likely that the problem is the cosmetic. If the rash persists, on the other hand, then it is probably due to a skin disease like seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or some other problem.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2016

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