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Beauty products, such as shampoo, makeup, and even cologne, can irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms can range from simple rashes to more severe allergic reactions. There are two different types of skin reactions to cosmetic products: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. 

Irritant contact dermatitis happens when a product, such as perfume or makeup, damages the skin. The skin might burn, sting, itch, or appear red wherever the product was used.

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when a person’s immune system is sensitized to an allergen. A rash usually develops after exposure to the allergen. Symptoms can include redness, swelling, and intense itching. This reaction can occur on any part of the body, although it happens most often on the face, lips, eyes, ears, and neck.


Symptoms of cosmetic allergy may include:

  • Rash or hives
  • Puffy, raised areas of skin
  • Small, red spots on the skin
  • Swollen lips and eyes
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Watering eyes


When a person comes into contact with an allergen, it releases histamine, a natural chemical that defends the body from the allergen. This chemical can cause an allergic reaction and the symptoms that come with it. Common allergens used in cosmetics that can cause cosmetics allergy include:

  • Fragrances
  • Preservatives
  • Paraphenylenediamine (used in hair dye)
  • Lanolin
  • Coconut diethanolamide
  • Sunscreen allergens
  • Rosin 


In most cases, treatment aims to relieve symptoms, such as itching, swelling, and redness. If the person has a mild reaction, they can often treat the symptoms themself with over-the-counter creams and ointments containing mild topical steroids. Other treatments include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Cold compress

 Many allergy-related symptoms can be managed with over the counter medicines, prescription medications, and environmental avoidance strategies if the allergies are known. With allergy skin testing, patch testing, and/or blood testing, we can discover hidden triggers, confirm suspected triggers, and provide additional treatments, including immunotherapy if appropriate. 

Contact Northeast Allergy, Asthma & Immunology today to schedule your appointment.

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