Allergens, they sound like something to avoid right. Allergens, allergic, allergy – none of those words say ‘skin health’. Did you know a LOT of skincare contains allergens, whozer! Sometimes that could be ok, other times it’s not the best thing for skin. This is all you need to know to avoid well-known allergens in your skincare, don’t worry lovely, we will have you on route to allergen free skincare in no time!
WHAT IS AN ALLERGEN?
Allergen. If you hadn’t heard that word before, because you are an awesome brainbox, you probably linked it to allergic and figured out an allergen is just something that causes an allergic type reaction. You are awesome! An allergen is exactly that. Taking a side step from skincare, one of the most well-known allergens is pollen, some people are so allergic they get hayfever from pollen. Others might take a heady wiff from a flower and ‘a-tissue’.. that sneeze is your bodies way of ‘ejecting’ that allergen. Clever ‘ey!
The thing with an allergen is your body REMEMBERS it. So say one day you get a 1% dose of it, your body remembers that 1%. Then next week, you get a 2% top up. Your body remembers, and you’re now at 3%. That means the more you are exposed to, the more likely you are to have a reaction. Once you get a reaction, that reaction gets more extreme the more you are ‘topped-up’. That’s why you can SUDDENLY develop hay fever, even though you spent 25 years of your life being A-OK with pollen.
Allergens trigger your immune system. That means skin sees an allergen as a guest it didn’t invite into it’s house (picture your most dramatic soap drama scene!). When that happens skin sends an ALARM and itchiness, inflammation, redness and flushing/heating of the skin all happen [if you have super sensitive skin, then symptoms can go a bit beyond that too!]. All that stuff puts stress on skin, and stress makes things age faster. Phew, now that IS a reason for allergen free skincare!
WHY ARE THERE ALLERGENS IN MY SKINCARE?
Great question, I mean if we know that it can cause a bad skin reaction, then why is it in there? This is kinda like choosing food if you are a nut allergy sufferer. You might be looking for some good old Sunday-dinner stuffing, but guess what, there’s nuts in that ingredient list! You might even pick-up some bread crumbs and ‘oh, hello’, a ‘may contain traces of nuts’ warning. Well that is kinda the same reason why you might find allergens in your skincare.
The MOST common reason skincare contains allergens is because a lot of skincare contains fragrance. Fragrance and a lot of essential oils contain well known allergens. If your skincare doesn’t smell, then that is a good sign you already have allergen FREE skincare. Well done you!
WHEN ALLERGEN FREE SKINCARE IS MOST IMPORTANT
Now, I know, I know, fragrance is YUM, and there are some real benefits to special scents when you breathe them in! So here are 2 tips I have for you.
- Allergen free skincare is MOST important for your face! Our faces get so much attention from us, body lotion gets a quick 2 minute rub-in, our faces, they get carefully exfoliated, special treatments applied in special areas, lovingly cleansed, moisturised…. see what I mean, WAY more attention than the rest of our skin. The skin on our faces is a LOT thinner than elsewhere, just check out the skin on your arm vs. the skin under your eyes. You can SEE a lot more through the skin on your face (blood vessels, skin tone, whether you went out the night before!) because the skin is thinner. Skin on your face is up to 8 X thinner than on your body. Thinner skin, means that place is more sensitive and therefore much more reactive to allergens. Skin on your body is a bit tougher, and has more of a barrier. So if fragrance makes you feel all yummy inside, opt for allergen free skincare for your face and get your ‘smell’ dose from your body care.
- There is such a thing as allergen free fragrance. Most things have some kinda smell ‘ey, honey (yum!), cucumber, strawberries, even your ‘significant other’, but we might be undecided whether that’s a nice smell or not *wink wink*. There are natural extracts like cucumber extract, that still have a pretty awesome smell, with no allergen worries. Allergen free skincare WITH some yum still. So how do you tell…
HOW TO CHOOSE ALLERGEN FREE SKINCARE
This is the great bit, if there is a known allergen in a skincare ingredient, then the ‘maker’ has to add that allergen onto the ingredient list separately, so you can see it’s there! Awesome, so that is going to make it super easy for choosing allergen free skincare.
There are 26 recognised allergens that could be used in your skincare, 13 are well known to cause allergic reactions and another 11 can cause allergic reactions.
These will usually be at the VERY bottom of an ingredient list and a lotta brands will put a little * next to the ingredients with a line about them being a natural component of the ingredients. They wouldn’t want you to think they are just putting allergens in there willy-nilly! Checking that skincare is allergen free, is as simple as this pinnable allergen list! You can also find a copy on the ‘Honesty For Your Skin’ pinterest board.
COMMON ALLERGENS IN SKINCARE
You might have looked at those and thought they are more like a postcode than a name!! 1, 2, 4- methyl – WHAT? Those long ones are not common to find in your skincare, what are very common are citrus allergens like Citral and Limonene.
Another you will find in a lot of skincare (and you might find a bit hard to avoid) is Benzyl Alcohol. Benzyl alcohol is also used as a preservative, one that is getting a lot more face time after stepping away from preservatives like parabens. Benzyl alcohol is a milder preservative, but it is also known to be allergenic. If you are using skincare with Benzyl alcohol as a preservative and want to stick with that because it HAS been a hero for skin, then make sure that the other skincare you use on your face doesn’t also have it in. Imagine, serum, moisturiser and treatment, if they all have Benzyl alcohol then you are getting a triple dose.
Did you know there are allergens in skincare?
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.