Updated: Feb 21
What ingredients to look out for and tips on how to nourish your skin.
It’s 7 a.m. you shut off the alarm and make your way to the bathroom. Time to start your multi-step skincare routine – it won’t take care of itself.
But you look in the mirror and notice red patches on your forehead, bumps litter your chin, and your eyebrows are full of flaking skin. That $50 moisturizer that smells like a sun drenched botanical garden didn’t do a damn thing!
You’re exasperated and spending a boatload on skincare. But no one would ever know because your face looks like a 13-year-old's – except with more wrinkles.
Recently, a friend who's 32, with dry/oily and acne-prone skin tested positive for mold allergies in food. Following doctor’s orders, she went on a strict mold-free diet. A month later noticed “My skin is so much less flakey...it looks dewy.”
Two months later she called to say “There’s something here, my skin tone is noticeably more even. I took out all my skincare products with ingredients I was avoiding in my diet. I'm not even using make-up when I leave the house. And I need your toner.” I was so happy for her, and that’s when I knew that I wanted to share this with all of you.
You can regain your confidence. Smooth out your skin's tone and boost hydration by removing irritating skincare products.
Irritations from allergens hiding in skincare can cause:
Uneven skin tone
Stop ignoring what your irritated skin is trying to tell you – and listen up!
TYPES OF REACTIONS
The medical term for any kind of red, bumpy, itchy, dry, or patchy skin is dermatitis. This is a blanket medical term for almost any skin rash, and doesn’t tell you the cause. In fact, “dermatitis” broken down literally means, “skin inflammation” so it’s more of a symptom than a diagnosis.
The term contact dermatitis (CD) describes when dermatitis is caused by contact between your skin and something it doesn't like.
Contact dermatitis occurs when:
you touch the substance
airborne vapors or droplets contact the skin
photo-allergic reactions – like a medication that makes your skin burn easily in the sun (1)
About 80% of CD is actually irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) (2).
ICD is not an allergic response. CD is.
ICD is a sensitivity to an allergen or irritant that can cause a lot of common skin issues. ICD could be as uneventful as dry, flakey skin that won’t quit no matter how much you moisturize.
So how do you know if you’re having a true allergic reaction to ingredients in your skincare products or irritation from them? What should you do if either occurs?
SKIN IRRITATIONS VS. ALLERGIC REACTIONS:
Two types of reactions can cause dermatitis: Type 1 and Type 4 hypersensitivity reactions (4).
Both results from contact with a substance that causes the body to flag it as possibly harmful. Even if it isn’t. While it’s hard to tell the difference between an mild allergic reaction and an irritation, both can cause contact dermatitis and both get worse with repeated exposure (11). So what’s the difference?
Type 1 Hypersensitivity Reaction (CD) : An allergic reaction.
Your immune system created antibodies after its first exposure – to say peanuts.
Within 12 hours of the second exposure you can have a range of symptoms, that peak at 48 hours (3, 4):
Hives – think contact dermatitis
Type 4 Hypersensitivity Reaction (ICD) : Not an allergic reaction, immune system antibodies are not involved.
White blood cells called “T-cells” are flagged. Over repeated exposures T-cells start to damage your skin causing ICD (4):
Pimple like bumps
Red, itchy patches
Uneven skin tone
Remember if you’re suffering from chronic dry, bumpy, uneven skin – it may be ICD – an ingredient may start off perfectly fine and get worse as you use it day after day, year after year (4). Keep reading for info on testing for allergies or irritations.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
This article doesn’t replace medical diagnosis, talk to your doctor about a suspected allergy.
Dr. Daniel Moore advises testing skincare products by “placing a small amount of the oil on the skin at the fold of the elbow (antecubital fossa) twice a day for 3 to 5 days. If there is no reaction at the site of the oil application after the 5th day or so, then it is not likely that a person is allergic to the oil being used.” (7)
If an at-home patch test reveals some irritation, try eliminating one product at a time. It may take up to 4 weeks to notice improvements to your skin (7). How to know what products to look out for?
INGREDIENTS TO AVOID IN SKINCARE
Searching for skincare with the right ingredients can be tricky. Ingredients are often hidden by their scientific name and difficult to read. When you start eliminating ingredients and looking for new skincare products – here’s a list of what to leave out.
Take a look at our post 5 Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare to see what irritants are toxic.
Keep in mind, the same ingredients that cause your food allergy may be hiding in your skincare! Common food allergies found in skincare products include gluten, tree nuts, coconut, dairy, and soy.
Fragrances: Listed as “parfum/fragrance” made of hundreds of different chemical components. Fragrance allergy testing uses a baseline mixture of the following ingredients which can detect 70% to 80% of all perfume allergies (6). Including:
Any ingredient with “cinnamal/cinnamyl” in the name
Any ingredient with “citronell” in the name
Eugenol or Isoeugenol
Evernia prunastri (oakmoss) extract
Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (Lyral)
Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde
Solution: Avoid products with “fragrance/parfum” in the label! Look for skincare labeled “fragrance-free”. Labels of “unscented” contain enough fragrance to neutralize the ones that smell.
Preservatives: Used to prevent products going rancid, so they can sit on shelves for years – they’re a HUG E culprit of cosmetic allergens/irritations(1). The most likely to cause skin reactions are:
Solution: Drop products with preservatives. Made to order, small-batch skincare products help Earth in Bloom avoid using preservatives. Which helps keep your skin hydrated and youthful.
Essential Oils and Extracts: Essential oils have tons of benefits, including anti-inflammatory and calming effects on the skin.
But a very small percentage of the population have skin irritation due to specific oils. Your reaction can be set off by allergies to related plants in your products. Like chamomile which belongs to the ragweed and daisy family (8). Keep in mind the lower the concentration of essential oil the less likely it affects your skin. Some other essential oils or natural ingredients to watch out for include (9):
Peppermint essential oil
Chamomile essential oil
Ylang-ylang essential oil
Clove essential oil
Cinnamon essential oil
Cassia essential oil
And the one you really need to watch out for is lavender oil/extract:
Lavender extract is in 90% of skincare products. Because it’s in so many scented products we’re exposed to a lot of it and are more likely to develop irritation over time.
Somewhere between 2 and 7% of people have contact dermatitis due to lavender (5, 8).
A compound “linalool” in lavender extract is used in “unscented” products, it “reacts with air to form the skin irritant” (8).
Solution: Opt for “fragrance-free” products. Short ingredient lists are key so you KNOW what you’re using. Use an at-home patch test when in doubt. At Earth in Bloom our labels are clear and short because we avoid the bad stuff, and believe in the power of informed consumers.
Don’t be discouraged if your skin reacts to these ingredients!
At Earth in Bloom our simple-straightforward formula’s make finding the right product a lot easier. See for yourself – our New Origins Moisturizer ingredient list compared to the average list chalk-full of possible allergens and toxic ingredients :
Earth in Bloom Ingredients:
Other Skincare Brand Ingredients:
Your skin deserves some guilt-free, tender, love, and care with sustainably sourced, non-toxic skincare. Earth in Bloom uses a short list of powerful yet soothing ─and easy to pronounce─ingredients.
Made in small-batches to order, you don’t have to worry about preservatives ruining your pores. Even sensitive ones. Click here to explore our products.