Are you allergic to makeup? Is it tough to say? Do you sometimes break out unexpectedly or have dry patches of skin no amount of lotion can fix but are unable to pinpoint the cause? Finding out we're allergic to our favorite beauty products is the stuff of nightmares. We want our cosmetics to work for us, not against us. When the products meant to make us prettier, softer, and more supple are leaving us dry, itchy, and broken out, it's time to make a change and reconsider our entire beauty routine.
The first problem is determining there is a problem. How do you tell if your newfound rash is the result of your topical cream or something else entirely? Figuring out if you're allergic to makeup is a process in itself, so to investigate the subject, we reached out to Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD, founder and owner of The Dermatology & Laser Group in NYC. We asked him all our questions about makeup allergies—why they happen, what signs to look for, and how to correct them.
Keep scrolling to read his answers, and follow his advice for healthier, more beautiful skin.
BYRDIE: How frequently do see allergic reactions to beauty products with your patients?
ARASH AKHAVAN: Allergic contact dermatitis, a condition where your skin reacts to ingredients in products that are in direct contact with it, is a very common cause of dermatology visits. In our practice, which has a predominantly female patient population, the most common cause of skin allergies is cosmetic products.
Allergic contact dermatitis commonly presents as dry, red, itchy skin that does not seem to improve with moisturizing.
BYRDIE: How can one tell if they have allergic contact dermatitis?
AA: Allergic contact dermatitis commonly presents as dry, red, itchy skin that does not seem to improve with moisturizing. It is more common in individuals who have a personal or family history of eczema, asthma, and seasonal allergies, but it can happen to anybody.
BYRDIE: What types of products should one look out for?
AA: All types of cosmetics from moisturizing lotions, haircare products, to makeup and sunscreen can cause potential skin allergy. If it occurs shortly (days to weeks) after starting a new product, that product is the most likely culprit, but it can even commonly occur as a new allergy to an ingredient you have been using for years.
Avoid using products that have lots of chemical preservatives, as these ingredients tend to have higher rates of skin allergy.
BYRDIE: How can someone avoid using products that might cause an allergic reaction?
AA: Finding out what ingredients you may be allergic to can be done with a simple test at your dermatologist’s office called allergy patch testing. However, a smart initial move would be to avoid using products that have lots of chemical preservatives, as these ingredients tend to have higher rates of skin allergy. As a general rule, I try to steer patients towards products with the least number of ingredients.
BYRDIE: How should one treat their skin during and after an allergic reaction?
AA: If you find yourself with a skin allergy, the first step to take is to simplify your skin routine to just the essentials. A short course of hydrocortisone cream can sometimes calm skin inflammation, although prolonged use longer than a few days can have detrimental side effects. If you find your skin allergy is harder to treat, a visit to your dermatologist would be the best course of action.
Simplify your skin routine to just the essentials.
BYRDIE: What product alternatives do you recommend to your patients? Are there particular brands known for using fewer chemicals or other ingredients that may be causing these reactions?
AA: Product lines such as Juice Beauty—one of my favorite skincare brands—tend to stick with natural and simple ingredient lists, making them less likely to cause skin allergy and irritation.
Head to the comments to share your makeup allergy story and shop our favorite Juice Beauty products here.