Do You Have a Makeup Allergy? Here Are the Signs
Have you ever thought that you might be allergic to your beauty products?
Maybe a certain mascara makes your eyes water. Or some perfumes make your throat feel itchy. Or, even worse: it seems like the new product that you just bought is making you break out.
These all may be signs you may have a makeup allergy.
Can you be allergic to makeup?
Cosmetics and personal care products—your makeup, shampoo, conditioners, perfumes, soap, and bath bombs—all hold the potential to irritate your skin. Which, to be honest, kind of feels like a betrayal. We buy these products to make ourselves feel good, but sadly, just one ingredient could make us break out into hives.
It’s one thing to suspect that your new foundation might be the cause of the mysterious dry patch that so rudely emerged on the lower left side of your chin the day before you scheduled a movie date with a cute friend. But how do you know for sure if you’re having an allergic reaction?
Signs you have a makeup allergy
The first is called irritant contact dermatitis, and this occurs when a product directly touches and damages your skin. Symptoms include itching, cracking, burning, stinging, bumps, blisters, and redness where the product was applied.
The second, called allergic contact dermatitis, is an immune system response caused by exposure to a chemical or compound. The symptoms include hives or pink or red itchy skin that may appear swollen. This type of reaction most often occurs on the face, lips, eyes, ears, or neck.
Because both types of reactions have similar symptoms, they can be tough to tell apart. But there is one factor that can give it away: how soon the reaction occurs. According to Yale Medicine, allergic contact dermatitis is a “delayed type hypersensitivity,” meaning you might not experience anything until the next day. The reaction also tends to get progressively worse over time until it reaches maximum severity, so you should always try to act fast to determine the cause.
So when you experience one of these reactions, how do you figure out which ingredient is the allergy-causing culprit? If you’ve recently added a new product to your routine, that’s a good place to start. If it’s an active ingredient, like beta-hydroxy acid (BHA, aka salicylic acid), or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), your skin might also be doing what’s known as “purging,” which can occur when your skin sheds dead cells faster than usual. It usually results in pimples of all kinds—or, it could be an allergy.
Then there’s always a chance that you might have developed a new allergy to an ingredient that’s in the face cream that you’ve been using for years. Figuring this out can be a bit of a puzzle!
It’s always a good idea to ask your dermatologist for an allergy patch test, which involves wearing a patch on your arm or back for 48 hours. This patch usually contains extracts of the 36 most common allergens, including fragrances, certain preservatives, nickel, latex, and dyes. This can be the fastest route to understanding which ingredients don’t agree with you.
While allergic reactions may cut some beloved products out of your routine, gaining an understanding of what your skin needs will ultimately help you treat it better—and you will love the results!
Makeup allergy treatment
The consensus about the best way to treat a makeup allergy is to stop using products that contain ingredients that irritate your skin. Yes, hydrocortisone cream can alleviate inflammation, but it’s best for short-term usage.
Check to see if you’re able to get a refund on the product that does more harm than good for you—some stores may offer you credit for your next purchase. Once you know which ingredients to avoid, take extra care to read the label before making a new purchase.
Common ingredients in makeup that cause allergies
Generally speaking, anything can be an allergen. But, the most common ones found in makeup and personal care products include:
Fragrances: Look for products that say “fragrance-free” on the label. Beware “unscented” products, since these may contain perfume to cover up other scents.
Preservatives: Parabens, formaldehyde-releasers (such as imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15), and isothiazolinones.
If you have sensitive skin, then you should take extra care when introducing new products into your routine, especially if they have high concentrations of ingredients like niacinamide, retinoids, vitamin C, beta-hydroxy acids (BHA, aka salicylic acid), and alpha-hydroxy acids. (AHA).
Benefits of clean makeup
Clean makeup is a broad term that means the product was made without certain synthetic ingredients, parabens, or other ingredients that might be harmful to human or environmental health.
Because there’s no industry-wide regulation of the term, the parameters are largely up to the brands that make or sell the products. Here at Kinder Beauty, our standards mean that everything is vegan and cruelty-free, but also free from ingredients like parabens, sulfates, added phthalates, petroleum, mineral oil, micro-beads, and more.
Even without a federal definition of “clean makeup,” cosmetics that fall under this umbrella are generally free from the common allergens found in beauty products. So, if you have sensitive skin or you’ve suffered from makeup allergies, then clean beauty products could be a good place for you to start. Just remember to always read the label.
Best makeup for allergy-prone skin
It’s a bummer to be allergic to anything, especially makeup products that you know and love or would love to try out. Fortunately, there are so many different clean vegan products to purchase out there with a whole range of ingredients that you should be able to find products your skin won’t balk at. Check out some excellent options below!
Finding a mascara that lengthens and thickens your lashes that’s also vegan and cruelty-free is hard enough without having to worry about allergic reactions! This one by My Little Mascara is made with plant-based squalane to soften and candelilla wax to help lengthen and create definition.
These multi-use crayons add color to your lips, lids, and cheeks. Plus, they’re plastic-free, too, and come wrapped in recycled paper. But that’s enough about the cute packaging. These babies are made from a blend of nine plant-based ingredients, including sunflower seed oil, hemp seed oil, and elderberry extract. And, they come in 14 colors, so you’ll never get bored!
Speaking of multi-use, this diamond-infused highlighter by ATHR Beauty can be used on your lids and lips in addition to where you’d normally apply it. And, its golden hue looks great in summer and during the holiday season—it’s very multi-seasonal! It has a buttery-soft texture thanks to rosehip oil and jojoba seed oil.
Made with nourishing vitamin E and skin-protecting rosehip oil, this palette has 20 summery shades that evoke the feeling of standing in a field of flowers. You can mix and match the colors with glitter, shimmer, and matte finishes to create countless looks.
This blendable, buildable gel pigment promises no smudges and no creasing. The “Sparklers” collection comes in four twinkling colors made with manketti oil and hydrating sea algae extract. We love the very ’70s-inspired Roller Rink (a duo chrome of terracotta and avocado green).
Remember: makeup allergies can occur when you use a new product or you can develop an allergy to an ingredient in a product you’ve been buying for ages. Once you’re figured out what’s making your skin so unhappy, scrutinize labels and opt for clean beauty wherever you can.
Please note: A product appearing in our blog is not an official Kinder Beauty endorsement. While every product we feature in an article is cruelty-free and vegan, these products do not necessarily meet all of our strict brand standards for curation in one of our boxes.
Kat Smith is a New York City-based writer and editor who loves digging deep into sustainable fashion, beauty, food, and other lifestyle-related topics.