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The Surprising Connection Between Over the Counter Beauty Products and Skin Allergies

Have you ever used an over the counter beauty product only to see your skin break out in an itchy red rash? This might have been an allergic reaction to the ingredients to which your skin was exposed. Beauty products and skin allergies certainly have a connection. Many over the counter beauty products contain ingredients that cause skin allergies. Even products that are created for children can cause allergies. In fact, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology reports that 20% of people will experience an allergic reaction in their skin (also called hives or urticaria) in their lifetime.

20%. That’s an enormous number of negative reactions! Most of them come from a group of products that are supposed to make us look and feel better. How can over the counter beauty products create such a large problem? It all comes down to the ingredients.

What Happens When Your Skin Has an Allergic Reaction?

Your immune system has the amazing ability to protect you from harmful substances. For some of us, however, this system can sometimes go a little bit overboard. Rather than ignoring certain harmless substances, the immune system reacts. It reacts as though that substance is a pathogen, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.

For many, certain ingredients common to o.t.c. beauty products can trigger this type of reaction. When exposed to them, a person with skin allergies might experience:

  • a red rash or bumps
  • severe itching
  • swelling
  • burning
  • tenderness

A severe reaction could lead to blisters or itching so intolerable that it leads to an infection.

What Ingredients Lead to Allergic Reactions?

The substances that lead to an allergic reaction vary from person to person. However, there are a few ingredients that are most likely to cause a reaction.

Parabens: Parabens are a very common ingredient in over the counter beauty products. That’s because they’re one of the cheapest preservatives around. There are claims that parabens can interfere with the body’s hormones. Research on this is still ongoing. There is one thing that is clear. If you have a paraben allergy, you are likely to end up with an itchy rash if you use products that contain it.

Acids: If you use an over the counter product to treat oily skin or acne, it most likely contains acidic ingredients. Substances like salicylic acid, topical retinoids, and glycolic acid can all cause an allergic reaction. Stop using products with these ingredients immediately if you notice skin irritation, redness, or burning.

Sulfates: Sulfates are used to create lather in soaps and shampoos. Unfortunately, they also can cause rashes and irritation. This type of reaction is most apparent in people who have a sulfate allergy. Large concentrations can irritate just about anyone’s skin.

Fragrances: This is the big one. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, products that have an added fragrance cause an allergic response in the skin in as many as 2 million people. Fragrances are everywhere, not just in products that tend to be associated with aroma (such as perfumes). Look for irritating fragrances in lotions, soaps, shampoos, and more.

How to Avoid Allergic Reactions From Your Beauty Products


If you suffer from skin allergies, avoiding irritants can be the difference between a good day and a miserable one. Here’s how to make sure you don’t come into contact with anything that will make your skin itch.

Shop Over the Counter Carefully

When you shop for over the counter beauty products, get to know their labels. Every product on the shelves will have a list of every ingredient they contain. Before purchasing or using anything, read and understand the label. This post on BodhiLuxe gives you a little more information on how.

If you find an ingredient you know gives you a reaction, leave the product on the shelf. This goes for “natural” products as well. There is very little regulation for which products can be labelled as natural, so just because a product claims to be safe for your skin doesn’t mean it is.

Do a Patch Test

When you’re ready to try out a new beauty product, do a patch test first. Apply a very small amount of the product to a small area of your skin. Wait two hours and see what happens. If your skin does not react, it is likely that you do not have an allergy to that ingredient. If you notice a rash or any itchiness, however, it’s time to toss the product and try something better.

Make Your Own Beauty Products

If you’re tired of navigating the maze of potentially irritating over the counter skincare products, there is a shortcut: make your own! Use just a few simple, natural ingredients (like our organic shea butter) to create your own lotions, creams, sunscreens, diaper rash creams, and more. Making your own beauty products lets you know exactly what’s going on your skin, making it much easier to avoid harmful ingredients. Homemade beauty products are also a yummy, natural way to give your skin the care and nourishment it needs.

Many over the counter beauty products contain ingredients that can lead to an allergic reaction, but fortunately they are not your only option. Stay observant about what you’re introducing to your skin, and your body will thank you by staying healthy, happy, and allergy-free.

5 responses to “The Surprising Connection Between Over the Counter Beauty Products and Skin Allergies

  1. I have suffered a most painful rash on my hands, face and feet when I used Palmer’s raw Shea butter body lotion. though i applied it only on my face, twice, it spread to my scalp and feet. It has been three months now, the allergy remains on my hands.

    1. Sorry to hear that! As far as I know, Palmer is not a natural brand and I have never seen them selling pure shea butter. They usually have lotions with tons of ingredients, and probably one or more are irritants. You are welcome to try our pure, raw shea butter, we have 1,000’s of testimonials from very happy customers.

  2. I am not censoring anything here, just being slow at approving comments because we are short of staff at times. Sorry to hear about your reaction, if you email us your Order ID I can get you a refund. Please email [email protected]

  3. I assumed that my first comment was not approved because I could see it for a while saying it was pending, and then it disappeared. The second comment was intended just for you to see, otherwise I wouldn’t have included my e-mail address. I assumed it wouldn’t be approved if my first one wasn’t. Can you please remove it so my e-mail address isn’t on the page? Thanks!

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