Patch Testing

Many people suffer allergic reactions to personal care products, including moisturizers, foundations and eye shadow.  Because of the numerous formulations and combinations of ingredients found in products today it is difficult to predict what will cause a reaction. Nevertheless, certain types of ingredients repeatedly show up on the list of offenders.

Topping the list are fragrances. More than 5,000 different fragrances are used in personal care products - toilet paper, dishwashing detergent, and shampoos, as well as in perfumes and body lotions. Even "unscented" and "fragrance-free" products have fragrance ingredients that may still have been added to cover up an unpleasant smell from the basic ingredients, although the amount of fragrance added tends to be less than in scented products.

Preservatives are the second most common cause of skin reactions. These are added to prevent products from spoiling.  Tocopherol, EDTA, DMDM, and paragens are examples of preservatives. It is almost impossible to find truly preservative-free products, but people may be sensitive to one type of preservative and not to another.

The third most common offender is lanolin. Lanolin is a fat-like substance widely used as a skin conditioner. It can cause allergic reactions wherever it is applied, but many people develop swelling, itching, and redness of the eyelids when using lanolin-based products around the eyes. Lanolin is found in many products labeled "hypoallergenic."

If you have a reaction to a product, stop using it, and ask your allergist to help you identify the offending ingredient.  Patch testing is a method used to identify which ingredient is causing the reaction. Once the ingredient is defined, read labels carefully to avoid using the sensitive ingredient.

If you have any further questions please contact our hotline:

Ellen Epstein, M.D. FAAAAI
Adult and Pediatric Allergy
165 N. Village Ave.-Suite 141
Rockville Centre, NY 11570

Dr. Epstein is a Board Certified Allergist affiliated with Long Island Jewish Medical Center, South Nassau Communities Hospital and Franklin Hospital Medical Center


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