Published: 01-02-2017 15:59:06
Having an allergy means that the body reacts to a substance that in itself is actually harmless. The human immune system - which is responsible for resistance to bacteries and illnesses - actually makes a misjudgment and regards the substance as pathogen with a very violent reaction as a result.
An allergy or hypersensitivity to a substance usually results in a negative reaction of the airways (nose) or mucous membranes (like with asthma and hay fever) or in eczema. Eczema is a collective name for skin disorders in which the skin is red and often flakes and itches. Eczema may be dry (flaky) or wet (with vesicles, that can burst open after which fluid drips out). In case of a cosmetic allergy, a cosmetic ingredient causes a form of eczema; the cosmetic ingredient is the cause of an adverse skin reaction, and eczema is the appearance of that adverse skin reaction. Allergy and Eczema hang closely together, especially if it concerns an allergy to cosmetic products.
Eczema may be congenital (also known as atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis), it may be a response to ferment on/in the skin (such as dandruff), but can also be caused by contact with an irritant aggressive substance (also called irritation eczema, ortho-ergisch eczema, or non-allergic eczema, in which the skin almost instantly reacts on contact with an aggressive substance such as terpentine) or by contact with a substance that triggers an allergic reaction.
This latter form is characteristic of eczema caused by cosmetics, and is also called allergic contact eczema or contact allergy. Such an allergy doesn't pop up right away, it builds itself over time on. The skin must have had regular contact with the substance, before the allergy actually develops. Sometimes this process is complete within a few weeks, but it can also take years. For years a particular product can be well tolerated, until one is suddenly allergic to. An allergic reaction can be enhanced by a damaged skin (for example, a ' open leg ', or if one already has congenital eczema), by cold, friction, perspiration, light (e.g. an allergy to sun screen that only occurs if one is in the sunlight), hay fever, or by another already existing form of eczema. Once you have a contact allergy (allergic contact eczema), it's often lifelong.
The substance that causes the allergic reaction is referred to as an allergen. Not everyone reacts negatively to such an allergen: only people whose immune system is sensitive to the allergen, will experience the advers skin reactions (the yes/no occurrence of a negative skin reaction is determined by the way the immune system reacts to the substance).
Through dermatological testing can be examined if there actually are any allergic contact eczema and what allergen is the culprit. Research of the RIVM (commissioned by the Dutch food and consumer product safety authority) has shown that the most common allergy in consumer products (not food-related) is nickel allergy. This allergy is generally caused by exposure to metal (clothing) accessories, in which nickel has been processed. The second most common allergy, is an allergy to certain cosmetics (makeup, hair dye, shampoo, deodorant, etc). Generally this involves an allergy to perfume (mix), Peru balm or Cobalt Chloride (Parfummix and Peru balm is in almost all cosmetics (including makeup), the Cobalt Chloride is mainly used in hair dye).
The most characteristic is that the eczema is located where the skin has had contact with the allergen. At a nickel allergy you see therefore often eczema around the navel (where the jeans-knot or the buckle of the belt has made contact with the skin) or on the earlobe (where the earring is) or under a watch strap, and at a perfume allergy you see eczema often behind the ears (where perfume is sprayed) or on the thin fragile skin around eyes (by use of an eyecream containing fragrance, or by rubbing the eyes with fingers with nailpolished nails). The skin turns red, flaky and sometimes there are blisters and/or bumps on. The blisters can be filled with fluid and even break open (with a chance of inflammation). In addition to these damages also often the skin itches. Contact Eczema is not contagious.
If you get a negative skin reaction for the first time, it is tempting to draw a conclusion very quickly about the cause of the problem. However, it is advisable to properly investigate where the skin reaction is caused by; often there are factors in the game that don't come to mind very quickly. As an example: watery eyes after the application of makeup can be caused by the makeup. But it can also be caused by an applicator (which for example contains latex), by nail polish on the nails (where the fingers to apply the eyeshadow come into contact with the eyelids), or makeup-cleaner used to clean the face in advance.
If you think you have an allergic reaction to a cosmetic product, the following actions are recommended:
If you know where you are allergic to, then it is wise to avoid that ingredient. Therefore, it is important to examine each product before using it. The list of ingredients (INCI) is necessary for such an examination. At cosmetic products manufacturers are required to mention the INCI (on the product, or - if the product is too small - near the product or via the Website associated with the product). Check the INCI regularly, because over the years a manufacturer can change the composition of a product whereby a product all of a sudden might give an allergic reaction (for example, because a renewed formula is used, with a newly added ingredient that you are allergic to). Therefore, when purchasing a new product, always check the ingredient listing, even if you use the product for a long time with no problems. The fact that a product is hypo-allergenic, dermatologically tested, skin friendly or natural, is never a guaranteed in such cases!
Depending on the severity of the allergic reaction, a doctor can prescribe a cream, a special bandage (especially against scratching of the skin) or possibly temporarily prescribe medications (prednisone) to calm the skin. In all cases, prevention is better than cure, carefully checking ingredients can prevent much suffering!
Allergies and Eczema have many manifestations and are extremely complex. With this article we give only general information on the basis of research and general publications. However, we are not medical experts. If you think you have an allergy, we advise that you contact your doctor or a dermatologist for further personal advice.