“But I have used this cream for years and never got a rash!” said the patient to me. “Then why are you asking me to stop it?!” She almost yelled in agony when I asked her to stop using her expensive cosmetic cream.
The patient was truly perplexed and I wasn’t the least surprised because the number of patients that I diagnose with having cosmetic contact dermatitis are innumerable!
Here are a few things that you should know about cosmetics and their side effects:
1. Contact Allergic Dermatitis
By far, this is most common reason that a person ends up getting an inflamed skin. The patient can either immediately get a rash on applying the cosmetic, in which case it is easy for the dermatologist and patient to point out the culprit cosmetic. But when the patient, who has been using a certain cosmetic for years together, then comes with a persistent rash (redness, dryness, tiny eruptions etc) it becomes difficult for the dermatologist and also the patient to realise that the underlying cosmetic could be the culprit.
“par mein toh cream barso se laga rahi hun...” is the regular answer!
A long history of problem free use of a cosmetic does not guarantee that the product will not cause an allergic reaction.
- Skin can suddenly become intolerant to a particular component in the cosmetic. The manufacturer can make minor changes to aproduct without updating the label.
- Manufacturers are not required to disclose addition of a single new fragrance! And a single fragrance can comprise of more than 200 new chemicals! Rightly so, fragrances are the commonest reason of allergies today.
- 'Fragrance free' cosmetics may also contain fragrances to cover the chemical smell of other ingredients!
- Don't forget the colours. A lot of people can develop intolerance to pigment in the colours if they are exposed to them over long periods!
In all, the diagnosis of cosmetic allergies is complex and at times requires the discontinuation of cosmetics which have been used over years...!
2. Hypoallergenic cosmetics
These apparently comprise of highly purified ingredients which lack the allergy-inducing compounds. As ideal as it may seem, do remember that these products may still contain components that can turn out to be allergy-inducing in a few individuals.
But, yes, hypoallergenic substances certainly have a lower rate ( not zero-rate!) of inducing allergies than do the regular cosmetics.
3. Acne Cosmetica
Many people get multiple blackheads or whiteheads... tiny eruptions over the face after using cosmetics. This is usually is the case with oily skinned people. Using products labelled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic” are a safer bet for people with oily skin.
I routinely suggest my patients with oily skin read the ingredients of the cosmetics mentioned. Notoriously comedogenic compounds include sodium lauryl sulphate, isopropyl isostearate, isopropyl myristate, butyl stearate, hexadecyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol, oleic acid, lanolin and cocoa butter.
Yes! These names are tricky... but all you oily skinned people need to know how important it is that you don’t miss out on reading them.
Personally, as a dermatologist, I encourage natural skin. Oh please don't get me wrong here... I enjoy the occasional makeup too... but not till it reaches a point of obsession.
Cosmetics are after all chemicals on your skin. Expensive or inexpensive... it's still a chemical!