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Caution at The Cosmetics Counter

– text Caution at the cosmetics counter. Men always demonstrated a never-ending quench to look better. Youngsters, especially teenagers, don’t leave the stone unturned to look good. As a result their shelves are full of a variety of cosmetics – herbal creams, products from multinational companies, face creams, night creams, under eye creams, fairness creams & what not, all of them claiming flawless skin. 

Ultimately they end up with either confusion or some side effect from certain ingredients. So I decided to dedicate this article to such youngsters to make them more aware of the fact that, “All that glitters is not gold.” All the company advertisements are marketing strategies for their products; it does not imply that it is best for your skin.

With access to the world of e-commerce & globalization has made everything available anywhere. But this has also led to a battery of adverse effects from such products. An average adult uses at least seven different skin care products daily including moisturizers, sunscreens, skin cleansers, hair-care products, deodorants, nail cosmetics etc.

With such wide usage, the chances of developing side effects that may be caused by certain products that are used day-to-day. Unfortunately you can’t avoid the allergic reaction just by choosing a product labelled as “hypoallergenic” or “natural”, these labels don’t mean that they are harmless.

The reaction to skin depends upon the condition of the skin & body’s immune system. Over dry skin or injured skin is more permeable to most substances found in the products that may arise over skin.

People usually develop an allergic reaction termed as contact dermatitis. When a person with dry skin starts using a new product, their skin becomes redder; he might develop tiny fluid filled lesions-vesicles.

These tiny blisters become crusty, ooze & spread to other parts of the body. Burning, stinging, itching & redness may be the signs that the product is irritating the skin. Bath soaps, detergents, antiperspirants, eye cosmetics, moisturizers, permanent hair waving solutions & shampoos are the most common skin irritants.

The dermatitis might spread up an arm or the whole face or the eyelids might be involved. Depending on how strong an allergen you are dealing with, you may get an allergic eczema, which is an itchy rash. This allergic reaction just gets worse & worse unless the patient stops using the offending products.

Astringents, moisturizing creams, lotions, sunscreens, foundation, shampoos, antiperspirants & deodorants, hair & nail care products, eye & lip cosmetics, all of them may cause an allergic reaction.

The cause behind this reaction is the ingredients of the particular product & the most common amongst these are the preservatives. Any product that contains water requires preservatives to prevent bacteria & funguses from growing in it.

The most common preservative associated with allergic reaction is those that release formaldehyde e.g. Quaternium 15 found in various cleansing agents, shampoos, creams & lotions. Parabens are another class of preservatives that cause an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to any such compound you need to avoid the use of products that contain it. You’ll have to make a habit of looking at the ingredients of all the skin, hair & nail care products & cosmetics before buying them.

Another important content that is implemented in the allergic reaction are the fragrances. These are very complex, more than 5000 fragrances have been developed & used & they contain many chemicals that may be harmful. Hypoallergenic products have been developed, but a product labelled as ‘unscented’ may in fact have a fragrance to mask other chemical odours. It must be labelled as ‘fragrance free’ to indicate that nothing has been added to make it smell good. “Botanicals” (plant extracts) are so called ‘natural’ ingredients added to shampoos etc. that may cause an allergic reaction.

Next important point of concern while using a product is: can one develop an allergic reaction with the use of old products?

One may acquire an infection with the use of old products as the preservative is no longer active, as a result bacteria & funguses flourish. But this growth spoils the cosmetics/product itself and one doesn’t use it. But in case of eye cosmetics like mascara, it is ideal to replace them every six months to make sure that they are fresh & well preserved.

Apart from these, sunscreens can cause allergic reactions, especially due to ingredients like PABA, Oxybenzone etc., but most of the cosmetics don’t mention the name of the sunscreen used. Instead use the sunscreen prescribed by your dermatologist that contains zinc oxides, titanium dioxide that are quite safe & equally effective as well. The hair –care chemicals used for permanent perming of the hairs.

The allergy to nail care products manifests in a different way. The nails & surrounding skin may be absolutely all right but the allergy to nail polishes & artificial nails manifests as rash & itching around the eyes, mouth & over the sides of the neck. These chemicals adhere to the skin at above mentioned sites from the nails, hence causing a reaction there. Other side effects resulting from the use of cosmetics include:


caution at the cosmetics counter


Dark streaks may occur over the neck or axilla following the use of perfumes, exude cologne, etc. similar darkening may occur over the cheeks, around the eyes & mouth in middle aged women who use many cosmetics.




Chemical leucoderma or white patches may develop following the use of bindis and it localised to the site of application. It occurs due to contents like phenols in the adhesive material.


These occur due to contents like petrolatum, vegetable oils in the occurs in women in their 20s (after the usual age of development of pimples). The best treatment for such allergic reactions to cosmetics includes avoidance of the particular product. If you don’t know what exactly is causing the problem, your cosmetologist may help you with the aid of “patch testing”.

We apply chemicals in very low concentrations, but high enough to elicit an allergic reaction, so that we can tell people exactly what they are allergic to. Allergic dermatitis is usually treated with corticosteroids, either topically or orally. Cosmetic products used on the skin have a fabulous safety record, but little precautions at the counter can save your skin from innumerable problems.

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