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It happens to the best of us… You try a new foundation, blush or other makeup product and you’re left looking, red, itchy, and worse than if you weren’t wearing any makeup at all. Sure, most cosmetic companies go to great lengths to ensure their products don’t cause allergic reactions, but in the case of super-sensitive skin, these efforts sometimes aren’t enough.
There are a lot of ingredients in our makeup that can cause skin reactions—especially in newer products that include skincare-like ingredients to help us on our quest for better skin. But even the most basic cosmetics usually contain fragrance orpreservatives, and these are the ingredients that are most likely to aggravate reactive skin.
Fragrance can be misleading. Even if your makeup doesn’t have a scent, per se, fragrance can be added to mask unsavory scents caused by other ingredients. So even if you don’t smell anything, there can be fragrance in there anyway.
Preservatives are another big cause of irritation, and they take many forms. Cosmetics can contain parabens (which are easy to spot on a product label) and essential oils (often used as preservatives in natural or organic cosmetics) so your best first step is to read the label, and try a makeup free of these preservatives, and see what happens.
Some of the dyes found in cosmetics, like henna and D&C red and yellow, are a common irritation culprit. The shimmer in eye shadow can also cause eyelid irritation, but this is an irritation rather than a true allergy. And if you experience eyelid redness, this can be due to can an allergy to formaldehyde or toluene in nail polish. If you notice that your redness worsens when you paint your nails, it’s time to find a new polish. Most salon brands (like Essie and O.P.I.) are free of these ingredients. Other ingredients that can cause sensitivity are methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone (Euxyl K100), lanolin, Vitamin E and isopropyl myristate, so check your labels.
Every time you’re hit with redness or inflammation, make a list of all the cosmetic products and fragrances that you came into contact with in the last 24 hours (including perfumes, color cosmetics, skin creams, room sprays, incense and laundry detergent). Look for patterns, and see if the same ingredient keeps turning up. In some cases you will be able to find the culprit by the process of elimination.
If you’re still seeing red and you’ve confirmed that none of the above are the offenders, it’s possible you may have an allergy to metals like nickel—which can be found in your eyelash curler. An allergy to gold is also on the rise, which is just one reason I’m not a fan of skincare products that tout gold as an ingredient.
Still experiencing irritation after trying to eliminate these common irritants yourself? It may be time to visit your dermatologist for patch testing. By delivering minute doses of allergens to a small area of the skin, your doctor can isolate the specific ingredients that irritate your skin, which makes product shopping much easier.