Health Topics

Healthy Living

July 2012
The Right Way With COSMETICS
Dr Sachin Varma
Cosmetics by definition are substances which when applied locally can increase or enhance your looks. Manufacturers play on your desire to look more beautiful and attractive, and launch new cosmetic products every day. However, the addition of various components to a product increases the chances of cross-reactivity, leading to more side effects..

Allergic Reactions To Cosmetics

Acute allergies:
Acute allergic reactions to cosmetics are easily recognisable. The skin becomes red and inflamed or develops oozy rashes immediately or within 24 to 48 hours of the use of a new cosmetic. It is especially true with hair dyes. Discontinuing the use of the cosmetic in question prevents future allergies.

Chronic allergies:
Chronic cosmetic allergies develop in a variety of ways and they can even go unrecognised if the person is unaware of the possibility of an allergic reaction. Some of their signs are:
  • Mild burning or stinging sensation upon the use of a cosmetic.
  • Fine scaling on the face at the end of the day.
  • Chronic, fine, pimple-like eruptions which fail to respond to treatment.
  • Acne or comedone formations at an age where you are not supposed to develop them.
  • Pigmentation and darkening of skin, because some cosmetics may be photosensitive, making your skin sensitive to sunlight and causing the tan.
Causes Of Cosmetic Allergies
  • You may be allergic to one or more components in a given cosmetic.
  • The product in use by you is likely to be past its expiry date.
  • The product is too thick that it blocks the pores and leads to pimple formation.
  • The product is making your skin sensitive to sunlight and is causing pigmentation.
Treating The Adverse Effects Of Cosmetics
  • For chronic cosmetic allergies, you should use a prescribed steroid cream for a few days. Once the allergy subsides, it is best to give yourself a two-week break for the hypersensitive nature of the skin to heal.
  • Start by using only one cosmetic at a time. You may add a new one every seven days to determine which product is causing the reaction.
  • Complex allergies, where you are unable to identify the allergen, should always be referred to a doctor.
Choose The Right Product
  • Buy branded products, because branded products would have gone through the mandatory tests before arriving in the market. They are also more likely to contain hypoallergenic substances.
  • Buy cosmetics according to your skin type. Then, skin irritation and pimple formation will not happen.
  • Desist from changing your cosmetic brand if your current brand is suiting you well. There is no guarantee that a new brand will suit your skin better.
  • Check for a hypoallergenic label. These products are formally tested to minimise allergic or irritant reactions, making them relatively safe.
  • Buy products with few ingredients. It minimises the chances of cross reactivity.
  • A lot of skin care products have added vitamins, but there‚Äôs no proof about their benefits to skin.
  • People with sensitive skin should be more careful while using multiple cosmetics.
  • Skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis or severe dry skin have decreased barrier function, which increases the chances of allergic reactions.
Patch Test for Cosmetic Reactions
  • Apply a little product on the forearm or on eyebrows (for facial products).
  • Leave it overnight for observation.
  • Continue the test for about five days and use the cosmetic only if there is no reaction.
The Right Way To Apply Cosmetics
  • Apply moisturiser half an hour prior to applying a cosmetic. It makes for better blending and even distribution.
  • Use a sunscreen below a cosmetic to prevent sun allergies.
  • Apply light cosmetics and add more, only if necessary.
  • Always remove your old make-up before applying a new one.
  • Sleeping overnight without removing the make-up increases the chances of acne formation and allergic reaction.
  • Always moisturise after removing the make-up.
Cosmetics are harmful when their preservative agents break down over time. To prevent allergic reactions, one should desist from using cosmetics that are over a year old. Discipline yourself and make a habit of discarding old and long-in-use cosmetics, periodically.
Dr Sachin Varma is Consultant Dermatologist, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals,Kolkata.
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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