Cosmetic Allergies (cont.)

What causes cosmetic reactions?

With irritant contact dermatitis, the skin breaks down when it comes into contact with harsh substances, most often chemicals that directly injure the outer layer of the skin, resulting in symptoms.

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs because the body's immune system is reacting against a specific substance (the allergen) that it considers foreign and harmful.

How common are reactions to cosmetics?

Serious allergic reactions associated with cosmetics are rare. However, it is not uncommon for a person to have a mild reaction or irritation to an ingredient in a cosmetic product. Studies suggest that up to 10% of the population will have some type of reaction to a cosmetic over the course of a lifetime. Reactions to cosmetics occur more often in women, most likely because women tend to use more cosmetic products than do men.

What should I do if I have a reaction?

If you have a reaction, stop using all cosmetics. When your symptoms are gone, start using them again, one product at a time. This may help you determine which product or products are responsible for the reaction. If you cannot identify the source of the reaction or if your symptoms do not go away after you stop using the cosmetics, consult your healthcare provider.

How are allergic reactions diagnosed?

Reactions are diagnosed by the appearance of symptoms and your history of exposure to various cosmetic products. Because most adults use many cosmetic products, identifying the product responsible for the reaction may be difficult. If your doctor suspects allergic contact dermatitis, he or she may use a patch skin test to identify the substances to which you are allergic.

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