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There are a variety of allergic reactions from certain ingredients in beauty products. Some symptoms of these reactions include burning, itching of the skin, rash, hives, and redness at the site of the problem.

According to Vanessa Ngan from, “The groups of allergens that appear to most frequently cause cosmetic allergy are fragrances, preservatives, and paraphenylenediamine (PPD) found in hair dyes.”


Vanessa Ngan says, “There are more than 5,000 different fragrances used in cosmetics and skin care products.  Fragrance is present in most types of cosmetics including perfumes, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, facial cosmetics, and deodorants.”  Fragrance can cause a reaction called contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis may take place if you have an allergy to an ingredient or if your skin experiences damage from an irritant in a product you are using.  How can you tell the difference between an allergic contact dermatitis and irritant dermatitis? First, you should see a board certified dermatologist to diagnose and treat any rash or skin problem.

Irritant dermatitis does not involve the immune system. Although a rash is present on the skin, it could have been triggered by something you touched recently that has stripped the oils and moisture barrier from your skin.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

An ingredient that could cause irritation for some people is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate found in shampoos. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a detergent and aids the foaming of shampoos.  With irritant dermatitis you may experience itching, scaling, redness and blistering of the skin.

Do shampoos irritate you?

If you experience irritation after using shampoo, start paying attention to the ingredients. You may need to use a shampoo free of sodium lauryl sulfate, but just because you use a sulfate free shampoo does not mean that there are no other ingredients in the shampoo that may trigger irritant dermatitis. According to Dr. Mercola, other names for sodium lauryl sulfate are:

  • Sodium dodecyl sulfate
  • A13-00356
  • Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt
  • Akyposal SDS
  • Sodium salt sulfuric acid
  • Aquarex ME
  • Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
  • Aquarex methyl

What is allergic dermatitis?

Allergic dermatitis takes place when you touch something and your immune system overreacts to the problem with an allergic reaction like a rash, hives, and itching. says, “You won't get a rash the first time your skin touches something you are allergic to but that touch sensitizes your skin, and you could have a reaction the next time.”

Contact dermatitis can be caused by poison ivy, poison oak, all types of hair color, hair straighteners, topical skin medications, Nickel, latex and soaps.


Once a product that you use contains water, it has to have a preservative to prevent growth of bacteria and mold.  Two examples of common preservatives found in some products are formaldehyde and methylisothiazolinone.

Formaldehyde is used in a variety of products and cosmetics.  Some cosmetic products that include formaldehyde are shampoos, hair smoothing treatments; makeup, lotions, nail polish, antiperspirants, and mouth wash. According Vanessa Ngan, “Formaldehyde is released in the smoke from burning wood, coal, charcoal, cigarettes, natural gas, and kerosene. The reaction you may have from formaldehyde depends on how you are exposed to it. Exposure to formaldehyde gas may cause burning sensations in the eye, nose and throat, skin rashes, tightness of the chest, wheezing, fatigue and headaches.”

“Methylisothiazolinone was initially used occupationally, in paints, adhesive/glues and cleaners etc, as a mixture with methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI). Since 2005, it has been widely used in cosmetics and household products, such as moist wipes, shampoos, cleaners and liquid laundry products," according to Dr. Lynne Gordon.

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD)

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) is found in hair dyes and is responsible for giving permanent color a natural appearance. PPD provides long lasting results, and allows the hair to be treated with other chemicals such as perms and relaxers without fading.

Although it is not common, there have been cases where women have had problems breathing, felt nauseas, experienced vomiting, and rash with swelling after receiving a permanent hair color service. There are reports of death after receiving permanent dye with PPD, which is problem that is a more serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology defines naphylaxis as “a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction." The most common anaphylactic reactions are to foods, insect stings, medications and latex. If you think you are allergic to ingredients in your cosmetics you can see a dermatologist who can run test to let you know what you are allergic to.

Have you had an allergic reaction to ingredients in your hair or skin care products? What was your experience?