Pretty much every product you put on your skin advises you to do a, ‘patch test’… I mean who has the time for that ‘eh? Especially when you’re super excited to try the new cream you’ve just brought. There’s no shame in this, I’m exactly the same. Health and safety has gone kinda wild these days and every company will always, always advice you to pre-test a product. Not because there’s a strong possibility you’ll be allergic, but to avoid having their behinds sued for giving any kind of ‘advice’ that isn’t extra safe.
So, this time, you’ve used a product and your skin is doing something it doesn’t usually do. Maybe it started tingling, or even stinging and then suddenly became red and inflamed. There are 4 reasons why your skincare might have caused this type of reaction.
Let’s delve into these and the 9 steps you should take to stop the reaction, calm your skin and nurse it back to health.
Why You’ve Had an Allergic Reaction to Skincare…
First up my friend, there’s a few different reasons why you might’ve have an allergic reaction to skincare. While they all pretty much look like an ‘allergy’. Sometimes they’re actually irritations, or even chemical reactions that’ve happened on your skin.
If you’re skin’s become red, itchy, inflamed, peely, heated and sensitive, then it’s likely one of the below has happened.
1. You’ve had an allergic reaction to skincare
Yup, this is the one we kinda suspected already ‘eh. An allergic reaction is when your body see’s something in that skincare bottle as an enemy. That means your skin starts to fight it. Skin’s method of fighting is to get all red, angry and inflamed…
2. You’ve used skincare that’s too ‘irritating’ for your skin
Some skincare ingredients are irritating. Seems counter-intuitive ‘eh. Ingredients like Retinol (pro-vitamin A), Glycolic acid, alcohol and even essential oils have an ‘irritant potential’. You might of used these ingredients individually in the past, but when combined, that ‘irritant potential’ was too much for your delicate skin.
3. You’ve used skincare that’s passed its ‘best before date’
I’ve done this! Guilty as charged. What happened?…15 minutes after slathering myself up in this moisturiser (found in the back of the cupboard – oops!) my whole body felt like it was on fire… Skincare products are like food, they go off!
4. You’ve layered skincare products that shouldn’t be used together
Mixing specific skincare ingredients together is like adding chilli powder to a rice pudding. Luckily there are only a couple of key rules you need to remember to layer skincare safely. I’ve de-science-d them in this free, quick ‘n easy downloadable guide to help you avoid these kinds of allergic reactions. Just click here to download.
What to do When you’ve had an Allergic Reaction to Skincare
When your body does something you didn’t expect it to do, it can be frightening. ‘N not just for you ‘eh *winks*… we know the neighbour tried to hide that shocked face, but we definitely saw the, ‘OMGosh your face is really pink’ milli-second expression.
What will make you feel better, is knowing exactly how to take control when your skin does have an allergic or irritated reaction. With that said my friend, these are the 9 things you should do to appease and treat skin that’s had an allergic reaction to skincare…
1. Wash your Face with Cool Water
Priority no.1. Get that stuff off your skin quick. For the first few washes use nothing other than cool tap water. Hot stuff makes things sink into your skin faster, so avoid any heat at this stage.
After a few washes you can use a mild cream cleanser to remove the final residues of the ‘naughty-step’ skincare product. I’d advise to use this only after you’ve washed with tap water, as all skincare products have the ability to penetrate your skin. That means cleansers and wash products could pull the thing causing your allergy or irritation, more deeply into your skin. #Ouch
2. Pat Skin Dry
Your skin is likely feeling irritated and pretty heated right now. Avoid the urge to leave water on your skin to ‘cool’ it down. Leaving water on skin actually dry’s and irritates skin further… ever licked your lips too many times? If you have you’ll know how chapped that can make ’em.
3. Take an Ibuprofen to Reduce Inflammation
Whether you’re having an allergic reaction or your skin’s been irritated, it will be inflamed. Some of the inflammation won’t even be visible, but the stuff that is will be making your skin go red. While inflammation is the body’s way of fighting ‘bad-stuff’, it can be triggered by things that aren’t actually bad, like that skincare product you’ve just used. Consider taking a dose of ibuprofen to help reduce the inflammation.
4. Consider an Anti-Histamine to Reduce Allergic Response
We mostly think of taking anti-histamine when it’s pollen season and we’ve gotten all sneezy. They work just as well if you’re having any other kind of allergic reaction, like the one you might’ve triggered by using a new skincare product. If your skin reaction is an allergic one, taking an anti-histamine will help.
5. Use a Soothing Fragrance Free Moisturiser
After all of the above your skin needs some TLC! You’ll want to use a moisturiser that’s packed full of soothing skincare ingredients. That’s things like aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin and bisabolol.
The ‘Honesty – Soothe Facial Comfort Cream’, has all of these ingredients and the ‘First Aid Beauty – Ultra Repair Cream’, has a lovely dose of oatmeal and allantoin. If you are someone who’s suffered from reactions like these in the past, it’s a good idea to have something like these products on hand.
Disclosure; Honesty is a range of skincare I’ve created myself. It was inspired by a gap in the market for naturally based, fragrance free skincare, the perfect combination for sensitive and dry skin types. I literally spent hours searching for products that fit this brief in the past. While it always feels uncomfortable to recommend your own products, I know that these are perfectly suited for skin that’s just had an allergic or irritated reaction.
6. Do not be Tempted to Exfoliate
Often allergic reactions cause peeling of the skin. It happens because skin cells have sacrificed themselves for your protection. Dead skin cells shed, ‘n when you’ve had this time of allergic reaction there’s a lot of them shedding at the same time. While you might be tempted to exfoliate, try and fight the urge as much as possible. Exfoliation is irritating and can cause inflammation of its own.
7. Make a Note of the Skincare Products you’ve Used that Day
Honestly, write it down and while you’re at it take a snap of the ingredients list. It’s so easy to forget in future and if you start to have a few of these reactions, you’ll want to look back and see which ingredients the products have in common, or which products you used on the same day.
8. Go Simple with Skincare for a While
You know that feeling you get when you’ve just had a headache… it’s gone, but there’s definitely still a headache hang-over there? Well, your skin is the same, once it’s had a reaction to something it’s in a sensitised state. The best way to care for your skin over the next weeks, is to use fragrance free skincare designed for sensitive skin.
Generally that means staying away from anti-aging skincare, skincare that’s designed to exfoliate and high concentration vitamin serums.
9. Contact a Doctor if the Allergic Reaction Persists
If nothing you do seems to reduce the allergic reaction over the next few days, it’s time to go see the doctor.
Have you had these types of skin reaction before? Did you pinpoint the cause? Let me know you experiences in the comments below…
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.