Allergenic compounds in cosmetics

Cosmetics (such as soaps, detergents, lotions and creams, eye and face cosmetics, perfumes, etc.) can cause allergic reactions and allergies in some people. Many people suffer from allergies, and anyone, at any age, can develop allergies.

Allergic reactions are overreactions of the immune system to substances and compounds that are harmless and safe if not allergic to them. Cosmetic allergies are a relatively common problem. A 2010 study of more than 900 participants on allergy to cosmetics found that more than a third of those surveyed had at least one of the symptoms of an allergy to cosmetics.

About 24 percent of Americans have experienced at least one allergic reaction in their lifetime, and more than 3,700 substances have been identified as contact allergens (compounds that can cause allergies). Fortunately, few of these compounds are used in cosmetics and skin care products. In this article, you will read about the symptoms of allergies to cosmetics and the most commonly used allergenic compounds in cosmetics (according to the FDA website) and the identification of these compounds. Stay tuned to SkinMag for the rest of this article and share your experience with us about allergies and cosmetics.

Symptoms of allergy to cosmetics

Allergy symptoms range from a slight itching and redness to severe skin inflammation. Allergic reactions and signs of allergies to cosmetics can start as soon as the product is used, or years after using a product that you did not have a problem with and thought the skin was completely used to. This means that allergy symptoms and allergies may appear suddenly long after using certain products.

There are two types of skin reactions to beauty products:

Irritant contact dermatitis: When the skin becomes red, itchy, itchy, or blisters due to contact with an allergen.

Allergic contact dermatitis: In this case, the immune system is also involved. Allergic reactions include redness, burning and itching, and urticarial skin blisters that can affect other parts of the body than the contact area (especially On the face, lips, eyes, ears, and neck).

The most widely used allergenic compounds in cosmetics

The Food and Drug Administration has published a list of allergenic compounds widely used in cosmetics and skin care products. These compounds are allergens that are used more than other compounds in cosmetics, and as we said, these compounds cause allergic reactions only if there is an allergy, otherwise they are safe. Allergenic compounds in cosmetics are classified into five groups: perfumes, preservatives, dyes, natural rubber (latex) and metals.

Allergies to perfumes in cosmetics

Perfumes are one of the most allergenic ingredients used in cosmetics. Even products that are listed as “odorless” can contain fragrances to mask the chemical composition of the product. Look for “fragrance-free” or “without perfume” or “perfume-free” products to ensure that cosmetics are fragrance-free. Of course, since there are no specific standards and rules for inserting this label on the product, sometimes products with this label also contain perfume.

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Fragrances are often referred to as fragrances in cosmetics, and fragrances are not listed separately in the list of ingredients, except for some compounds that are more likely to cause allergies. The European Commission has conducted extensive research on allergenic fragrances, including 26 fragrances listed as allergens in Appendix 3 of the EU Cosmetics Guidelines, as follows:

Amyl cinnamal

Amylcinnamyl alcohol

Anisyl alcohol

Benzyl alcohol

Benzyl benzoate

Benzyl cinnamate

Benzyl salicylate

Cinnamyl alcohol








Hexyl cinnamaladehyde






Methyl 2-octynoate


Oak moss extract

Tree moss extract

Sensitivity to preservatives in cosmetics

Any cosmetic product containing water must contain a preservative to prevent the growth of microorganisms and spoilage of the product.

The most commonly used allergen-retaining compounds are:

Imidazolidinyl urea


DMDM hydantoin or 1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin


Methylisothiazolinone or MIT

Methylchloroisothiazolinone or CMIT

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing compounds

Allergies to hair dye or hair dye additives

Other allergenic ingredients in cosmetics include chemicals in hair dye or substances used in henna tattoos. You can see these allergenic compounds in the list of product compounds as follows:

The main component of gloves, which we know as latex gloves. Sensitivity to latex is actually the skin’s reaction to the proteins that make up this natural rubber, which is obtained from the rubber tree. Latex allergy manifests itself with symptoms such as itching and hives and even a threatening condition of anaphylaxis. Like all allergies, latex skin is recognized as a harmful substance and enters the bloodstream by activating the immune system of antibodies and allergic reactions such as itching and urticaria begin.

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Frequent contact with latex is one of the things that increases the risk of allergies to it. Health care workers, plastics workers, hairdressers and other occupants who are in constant contact with the substance are more likely to report latex allergies.

There is a link between latex allergies and food allergies to bananas, avocados, hazelnuts, kiwis and passion fruit, meaning that if you are allergic to latex, you are more likely to be allergic to these foods.

The best way to prevent latex allergy symptoms, like all allergens, is to avoid contact with this compound.


These compounds, called nickel and gold, may be used in cosmetics.

Other cosmetic ingredients that can cause skin reactions:

Alpha-hydroxy acid exfoliating compounds are among the compounds that can cause redness and irritation of the skin, especially in products with a concentration of more than 10% alpha-hydroxy acid. These reactions are more common.

Wrinkle creams and serums that contain vitamin A derivatives such as retin-A or retinol can cause irritating contact dermatitis in some people.

Some people also have sunscreen sensitivity, and almost all sunscreens can cause a dermatitis reaction. If you feel that your skin is of this type, consult a dermatologist to protect your skin from the sun.

Treatment and prevention of allergies to cosmetic products

The first and most important thing in treating and preventing allergies is to stop using the product or not using products with compounds that you know you are allergic to. The best way to prevent allergic reactions is to know what compound you are allergic to and check the list of ingredients in the product.

The use of products labeled hypoallergenic, suitable for sensitive and fragrance-free skin, will not help, as there are no defined standards and specific rules for these labels. Also, allergenic compounds can be unlimited and a person with a compound that is less allergenic to others may have allergic reactions.

If you have questions about the list of ingredients on the product, you can always call the numbers on the product and ask for help. Also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using the product and test the product on a small area of ​​your skin if necessary. Wait 48 to 72 hours and do not use the product if you notice a specific reaction such as redness, swelling, itching, burning and hives.

Use products with low ingredients to minimize the possibility of allergic reactions and allergies to cosmetics. In general, using fewer compounds to formulate a product is the product’s strength.