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Skin Care Ingredients That Cause Allergic Reactions on the Face

There are many skin care ingredients that cause allergic reactions on the face. The only way to prevent this from happening again is to figure out which ingredients caused the rash. Then, you can read product labels to avoid that ingredient.

If you have had a face allergy to a skin cream or new skincare product, you know how uncomfortable the skin inflammation from a skin allergy can be. Whether you have tiny bumps on the face, redness, swelling, hives or itching, the treatment is the same.  You need to soothe and calm the skin and avoid the allergenic ingredient.


You can treat the face allergy with anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients.

However, you must figure out what skin care ingredients in your skin care products that caused the skin allergy.

How do i know if i have an ingredient allergy.

What are the most common ingredients in skin care products that cause allergic reactions on the face?


  1. Fragrances
  2. Essential Oils
  3. Preservatives
  4. Plant derived ingredients
  5. Chemical sunscreens
  6. Parabens

How To Figure Out What Skin Care Ingredients I Am Allergic To?

If you suffer from a skin allergy from a skin care product you have three choices:


  1. Figure out what you are allergic to by keeping a diary
  2. See a dermatologist and get patch testing
  3. Find a skincare brand that is hypoallergenic

If you get an allergic reaction, start a diary and write down every ingredient on the ingredient list in any skin care products that you used over the last 48 hours. Then match the list to these common allergen lists. Below you can find lists of the most common allergens in skin care products.


Circle the items in your diary that are on the allergenic ingredient list. 


With time you will notice a pattern and will see that it is always the same ingredient that is giving you a rash.


You can also find a dermatologist at aad.org and get a patch test (Not all dermatologists do patch testing so ask before you schedule an appointment).

Hypoallergenic Skin Care Brands

Our favorite hypoallergenic skincare brands are:

  1. VMV Hypoallergenics- was developed by a dermatologist and does not have the 100 most common allergens in it.
  2. Vanicream
  3. La Roche Posay Toleriane products
niacinamide chemical structure

Allergy to niacinamide

Niacinamide can cause a skin allergy.  We have see happen with EltaMD UV Clear SPF and other niacinamide containing products. 

What skin care ingredients to avoid if you have a ragweed allergy

If you have a ragweed allergy, certain skincare ingredients may cause cross-reactions due to their botanical relations or similarity in allergenic components. It's essential to be cautious and potentially avoid the following ingredients:

  1. Chamomile – This popular soothing ingredient is related to ragweed.
  2. Echinacea – Often used for its anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. Marigold (Calendula) – Used for its soothing and healing properties.
  4. Sunflower oil – Sometimes found in moisturizers and other skincare products.
  5. Helenium – Used in some herbal skincare products.
  6. Dandelion extract – Occasionally used in natural or botanical products.
  7. Tansy oil – Found in some herbal formulas.
  8. Yarrow – Used for its astringent properties.
  9. Artemisia – Another name for this is wormwood or sagebrush, and it's sometimes used in skincare.
Bisabolol, a compound found in many plants

What skin care ingredients to avoid if you are allergic to preservatives?

If you have a preservative allergy, certain preservatives in skincare and cosmetic products can cause allergic reactions. Here's a list of some common preservatives to be cautious of:

  1. Parabens (e.g., methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben)
  2. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:
    • Quaternium-15
    • DMDM hydantoin
    • Imidazolidinyl urea
    • Diazolidinyl urea
    • Polyoxymethylene urea
    • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
  3. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT)
  4. Benzyl alcohol
  5. Phenoxyethanol
  6. Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
  7. Isothiazolinones
  8. Thimerosal
  9. Triclosan and Triclocarban
  10. Propylene glycol and butylene glycol (though these are more commonly classified as irritants, they can sometimes cause allergic reactions)
  11. Methyldibromo glutaronitrile/phenoxyethanol (Euxyl K 400)
Benzyl alcohol

What ingredients to avoid if you are sensitive to fragrances?

If you have a fragrance allergy, you should be aware that fragrances are among the top five allergens in cosmetics and other products. People sensitive to fragrances should look out for a wide array of ingredients, as the term "fragrance" or "parfum" in an ingredient list can actually be a blend of many components. Here are some ingredients and terms to watch out for:

  1. Fragrance or Parfum: A catch-all term that can refer to a blend of multiple fragrance ingredients.
  2. Linalool
  3. Limonene
  4. Eugenol
  5. Cinnamal (Cinnamaldehyde)
  6. Geraniol
  7. Isoeugenol
  8. Coumarin
  9. Citral
  10. Benzyl Alcohol (not always used as a fragrance but can be present in some fragrant blends)
  11. Benzyl Salicylate
  12. Benzyl Benzoate
  13. Farnesol
  14. Citronellol
  15. Hexyl Cinnamal
  16. Amyl Cinnamal
  17. Cinnamyl Alcohol
  18. Oakmoss and Treemoss Extracts (Evernia prunastri and Evernia furfuracea)
  19. Balsam of Peru (or Myroxylon pereirae) – it's both a fragrance and flavoring agent, and can be found in many products.
  20. Essential oils – even though they're natural, they can still cause reactions in sensitive individuals. Lavender, peppermint, tea tree, and ylang-ylang are common essential oils in skincare products.

Additionally, "unscented" products might still contain fragrances to mask the scent of other ingredients. If you're sensitive, opt for products labeled "fragrance-free."

Remember, sensitivity to one fragrance ingredient doesn't mean you'll react to them all. But given the complexity and lack of transparency in fragrance formulations (they're considered trade secrets), many people with fragrance allergies opt to avoid all fragranced products.

hydroquinone chemical structure

Can you be allergic to hydroquinone?

Yes- hydroquinone allergy is common. if you are allergic to hydroquinone, you need to avoid all hydroquinone derivatives.

If I am allergic to hydroquinone, what else will I be allergic to?

You may also be allergic to these hydroquinone derived cosmeceuticals:

  • arbutin
  • kojic acid
kojic acid and arbutin have a similar structure to hydroquinone.

These are the most common skincare ingredients that cause a skin allergy (in alphabetical order):

2,5 Diaminotoluene Sulfate

2,6-Ditert-butyl-4-cresol (BHT)

2-Ethylhexyl-4-dimethylaminobenzoate (Eusolex 6007) (Padimate O) (Octyl Dimethyl paba)

2-Ethylhexyl-4-methoxycinnamate (Parsol MCX)

2-Hydroxy-4-methoxy-4-methylbenzophenone (Mexenone)

2-Hydroxy-4-methoxy-benzophenon-5-sulfonic acid (Sulisobenzone)

2-Hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone (Eusolex 4360)

2-Nitro-P-Phenylenediamine

2-tert-Butyl-4-methoxyphenol (BHA)

3-(4-Methylbenzyliden)camphor (Eusolex 6300)

3-Aminophenol Hydroquinone

4-Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

4-Aminophenol

4-Chloro-3-cresol (PCMC)

4-tert-Butyl-4’-methoxydibenzoylmethane (Parsol 1789) (Avobenzone)

Aloe vera

Ammonium Persulfate

Ammonium Thioglycolate

Angelica

Arnica

Balsam of Peru (myroxylon pereirae)

Beeswax

Benzoic Acid

Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone)

Benzyl alcohol

Benzyl salicylate

Bisabolol

Bladderwrack

Calendula (Marigold)

Carmine 

Catnip

Centella (gotu-kola)

Cetyl alcohol

Chamomile

Chloracetamide

Chlorhexidine gluconate

Cocamide DEA

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Colophony (rosin)

Compositae Mix

Coriander

Cucumber

Di-alpha-tocopherol acetate 

Dog rose hips

Echinacea

Essential oils.

Euxyl K 400 (Methyldibromo-glutaronitrile-phenoxyethanol)

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives (FRPs):

Quaternium 15

Imidazolidinyl Urea (Germall)

Diazolidinyl Urea (Germall II)

Bromonitropropane diol (Bronopol)

DMDM Hydantoin

Gingko

Glyceryl Thioglycolate

Glyceryl Thioglycolate

Goldenseal

Green tea

Homomenthylsalicylate (Homosalate)

Hops

Hydrogen Peroxide

Isoamyl-p-methoxycinnamate

Isopropyl myristate

Kelp

Lanolin alcohol

Lavender

Licorice

Marigold

Methoxycinnamate

Methyl Methacrylate

Methylchloroisothiazolone (MCI)

Methylisothiazolinone

Niacinamide- some unpure forms cause an allergic reaction while pure forms do not.

Octyl salicylate (Octisalate)

Parabens

Para-phenylenediamine (PPD)+

Phenylbenzimidazol-5-sulfonic acid (Eusolex 232)

Potassium Dichromate

Propolis (bee’s glue)

Propyl gallate

Propylene Glycol

P-Tert-Butylphenol Formaldehyde Resin

Resorcinol

Rosemary

Sage

Sesquiterpene Lactone

Sodium Benzoate

Sorbic Acid

Sorbitan monooleate (Span 80)

Sorbitan sesquioleate

St. John’s wort

Stearyl alcohol

Tea Tree Oil

tert-Butylhydroquinone

Tocopherol

Toluenesulphonamide Formaldehyde Resin (tosylamide)

Triclosan (Irgasan DP 300)

Triethanolamine

Vitamin E

Witch hazel

Ylang Ylang Oil


Natural Plant Ingredients That Can Cause Skin Allergy

Natural and organic products are common causes of skin allergy. Here are some plant derived skin care ingredients that commonly cause skin allergy:

Aloe vera

Angelica

Arnica

Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon pereirae)

Beeswax

Bladderwrack

Catnip

Chamomile

Colophony (rosin)

Compositae Mix

Coriander

Cucumber

Dog rose hips

Echinacea

Ginkgo

Goldenseal

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)

Green tea

Hops

Kelp

Lavender

Licorice

Marigold

Propolis (bee’s glue)

Rosemary

Sage

Sesquiterpene lactone

St. John’s wort

Tea tree oil

Witch hazel

Ylang-ylang oil


Sunscreen Ingredients That Cause Skin Allergy

2-Ethylhexyl-4-dimethylaminobenzoate (Eusolex 6007) (Padimate O) (Octyl Dimethyl paba)

2-Ethylhexyl-4-methoxycinnamate (Parsol MCX)

2-Hydroxy-4-methoxy-4-methylbenzophenone (Mexenone)

2-Hydroxy-4-methoxy-benzophenon-5-sulfonic acid (Sulisobenzone)

2-Hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone (Eusolex 4360)

3-(4-Methylbenzyliden)camphor (Eusolex 6300)

4-Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

4-tert-Butyl-4’-methoxydibenzoylmethane (Parsol 1789) (Avobenzone)

Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone)

Homomenthylsalicylate (Homosalate)

Isoamyl-p-methoxycinnamate

Octyl salicylate (Octisalate)

Phenylbenzimidazol-5-sulfonic acid (Eusolex 232)

Preservatives that cause skin allergy

Benzoic acid

Benzyl alcohol

Euxyl K 400 (Methyldibromo glutaronitrile and phenoxyethanol)

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde-releasing-preservatives

(FRPs):

Quaternium 15

Imidazolidinyl urea (Germall)

Diazolidinyl urea (Germall II)

Bromonitropropane diol (Bronopol)

DMDM hydantoin

Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiozolinone (MCI/MI)

P-tert-Butylphenol formaldehyde resin

Parabens

Propylene glycol

Sodium benzoate

Toluenesulphonamide Formaldehyde

Resin (tosylamide)


Fragrance in Skin Care That Causes Skin Allergy

Balsam of Peru

Essential oils.

Fragrance Mix 1

Fragrance Mix 2

Cinnamic alcohol

Eugenol

Cinnamic aldehyde

Isoeugenol

Geraniol

Lyral

Ylang-ylang

Hydroxycitronella

Oak moss absolute

Benzyl Alcohol

Narcissus

Jasmine

Citral

Sandalwood

Farnesol

Citronellol

Tea tree

a-Hexyl-cinnamic aldehyde

Coumarin

α-amyl cinnamic aldehyde

Our advice is to write down everything you put on your face in the last 12 hours. With time you will start to see a pattern and this can help you narrow down which ingredients caused the reaction. You can also see a dermatologist and get patch testing done to identify the exact allergens.

It is so difficult to figure out what you are allergic to.  You may even be allergic to more than one skin care ingredient. So if this is a concern for you- get patch testing done by your dermatologist.  It will make buying skin care so much easier for you!

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

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