Allergies are an unfortunate aspect of life, that can severely limit your life, depending on what kind of allergies you have. This article will detail how to deal with this unpleasant disease and how to best prevent its occurrence.
General Information on Allergies
An allergy is an immunological response, caused by the immune system having too high a sensitivity to external stimuli. Allergic reactions occur when the human body perceives something relatively harmless as something dangerous.
The substance that provokes the allergic reaction is called an allergen. An allergy is one of four types of hypersensitivity, officially called type 1, or direct hypersensitivity.
The actual metabolic response is caused by an excessive activation of mast cells (a type of white blood cell) and basophils (a type of antibody). The resulting inflammatory reaction can range from mild severity, to near death.
Most people have experienced a light allergic reaction. The simplest symptoms include red eyes, itchiness, runny nose, eczema, hives, or breathing problems (asthma).
More severe reactions can require hospitalization and are in response to various natural factors, food, medicine, animal venom, and animal contact.
To diagnose specific allergies, various tests can be performed, including direct placement of an allergen on the skin and waiting for an allergic reaction. Additionally, blood test can be performed to search for allergen-specific IgE.
To prevent or treat allergies, either before or after exposure to an allergen, a person can use antihistamines. In more severe cases, steroids and decongestants can be used to eliminate symptoms. Of course, the best way to prevent an allergy is to not interact with any known allergens.
Allergies can affect many organ systems and can manifest in the following ways:
- Swelling of the nasal and sinus mucosa (allergic rhinitis).
- Sinuses. Allergic sinusitis.
- Eyes. Itchiness and redness (allergic conjunctivitis).
- Lungs and bronchials. Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, bronchospasms and shortness of breath. In severe cases, there can be swelling of the larynx.
- Ears. Dizziness, pain and hearing loss are possible.
- Skin. Rash (eczema and hives).
- GI tract. Abdominal pain, swelling, diarrhea and vomiting.
Allergies are not restricted to one organ, so many organs can be affected at once. The reactions can appear suddenly or after some time has elapsed since exposure. Depending on the speed and severity of the reaction, the symptoms can range from skin irritations, bronchospasms, edema, hypertension, coma, or even death.
Allergic reactions to Cosmetics
Most people, but especially women, use approximately seven kinds of cosmetics every day. The list is long, including moisturizing creams, deodorants and antiperspirants, shampoos and conditioners, and other products that are deemed necessary for hygiene purposes. Many cosmetics are integral parts of our daily routines and we can’t live without them now. But, many people are allergic to many of the products they use and don’t even know it.
While allergies to cosmetics are not very common, compared to other allergy types, they are still prevalent in about 10% of the population. Of this 10%, 60% are women and 40% are men, with very sensitive skin, including an intolerance to certain cosmetics or even ordinary tap water.
Experts have identified to many types of allergic reactions to cosmetics: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. We will provide more information below.
Irritant contact dermatitis
Irritant contact dermatitis is generally confined to the area where the allergen directly touched the skin. It can occur in people of any age. Skin dermatitis affects the surface layers of the skin: the epidermis and the dermis.
Irritant dermatitis will present itself with redness and itchy skin. Other symptoms can include puffiness of the skin near the contact site, pus bubbles, and pus. The dermatitis will be aggravated if the person scratches the contact site. The area should heal within a few days and the skin will peel off. After recovery, the skin could change color.
The length and type of reaction are largely dependent on the characteristics of the individual, as well as the quality of the immune system and the duration of exposure to the allergen.
Substances that most often cause irritant contact dermatitis are acetone, alcohol, latex, sodium lauryl sulfate, and alkaline surfactants.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis is the most common reaction to an external stimulus. To have a reaction, you only need to be exposed to a small amount of a stimulant to have be provoked, and it will be far more widespread than at the site of contact. It can be a reaction to one or several allergens, and it can be had in coexistence with irritant contact dermatitis.
Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis are generally the same as with irritant contact dermatitis. But other symptoms will be more widespread, including hives, rashes, edema, and more severe itchiness and redness, all possible in areas different from the contact site. These reactions, while can appear on any part of the body, are more likely to appear on the face, lips, eyelids, ears, neck, and in the decollate zone. Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis can vary significantly and depends on the susceptibility of each person and the nature of the stimulus.
Substances that provoke allergic contact dermatitis, include, but are not limited to: nickel (often found in alloys responsible for the manufacturing of jewellery), neomycin (an antibiotic, an ingredient in cosmetic products such as deodorants, antimicrobial creams and ointments), formaldehyde (used as a preservative in cosmetics), cobalt chloride (in hair dyes and antiperspirants), and quaternium-15 (a chemical that is used as a preservative in shampoos, conditioners and sunscreens).
If the allergen is quite potent, such as tap water, the reaction may occur within a few minutes. But, there is also the possibility of a reaction a few hours after contact. In most cases, allergic contact dermatitis does not appear immediately and only appears after several days, or even months, of regular contact with the allergen. There have even been cases of allergic reactions occurring only after several years of using the same product.
Distinguishing between the two types of contact dermatitis is not always easy, and the body’s response can be ambiguous. If you are unsure, it is best to consult a doctor to clarify your symptoms.
Managing a Cosmetic Allergy
If you realize you have an allergy to any specific cosmetic, then the logical step is to stop using that product. If you are unsure what is causing your allergic reaction, then we advise to stop using all of your cosmetics for a few days, to allow for the body to recover, and then to begin using the products one by one, and tracking the reaction of your body. This will be the best way to determine which product is responsible for the allergic reaction.
If the symptoms do not disappear after you have stopped using all cosmetics, then you should seek the help of a dermatologist to further clarify your situation.
Determining a cosmetic allergy is only possibly after a careful study of the patient’s medical history and previous allergic reactions. The doctor will most likely recommend a “Patch Test,” which involves applying small amounts of many different allergens to the skin area (usually on the upper back) and observing the skin’s reaction over the course of several days. The purpose of the test is to identify if a specific substance, or group of substances, are responsible for your allergic reaction. This will allow you to avoid contact with, or even purchasing, such products in the future.
Helpful tips for Allergy Prevention
Before buying any cosmetics, you should carefully review the list of ingredients and research any that you do not know.
Buy products that are specially indicated as “hypoallergenic.”
Before applying any make-up directly, you should apply a little on the inside of your wrist. If there is not a reaction within 24 hours, you should be able to use the product appropriately.
Buy cosmetics with the simplest formulas. The large the number of ingredients, the higher the chance of being allergic to one of the ingredients.
Avoid spraying the perfume directly on the skin, but rather on your clothes, and before you put the clothing on you.
Before applying any make-up, given the skin a thorough cleaning.
Only use your own cosmetic products. Do not share with others and do not use another person’s cosmetics.
Before buying a product, try it on in the store, making sure to use a new applicator.
Store your cosmetics in a place that is protected from sunlight and high temperatures.
Do not reuse any cosmetics that you used if you had conjunctivitis or other eye infections. Once you have recovered, dispose of these contaminated cosmetics and purchase new ones.
Do not use any cosmetics that have changed color, smell, or consistency since they were first opened. Such changes usually indicate a bacterial contamination.
Do not dilute any products with water, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol.
Regularly clean and/or change your cosmetic brushes and applicators.
If any allergic reactions occur, you should contact your dermatologist as soon as possible.