Sensitive skin is a blanket term that describes a variety of skin ailments caused by everything from product sensitivity to genetic conditions to allergies. If your skin is sensitive or allergy-prone, you should pay extra attention to the ingredients in your products. Conventional skincare products are a common culprit, because they can increase irritation or hypersensitize the skin.
But there is good news: hypoallergenic beauty products contain gentle formulations and are widely available, even at your local drugstore. Here’s what to look for when shopping for allergy-prone and sensitive skin.
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Why do some skincare products cause allergies?
If you’re experiencing a skin reaction, you’re not alone. Skin allergies are fairly common in the general population. In fact, 41% percent of Americans report experiencing a skin allergy at some point.
The mechanism of an allergic reaction or sensitivity is simple: when the skin comes into contact with an irritant, this triggers a reaction. Unfortunately, many personal care products contain a lengthy ingredient list full of chemicals that include potential allergens and irritants. Everyone’s skin is different, so each person’s allergy triggers will be unique as well.
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Among skincare ingredients, the most common allergens are nickel and fragrance. Chances are your favorite moisturizer, lotion, body wash, or shampoo contain at least one of these products.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to spot these ingredients unless you know what you are looking for. And because everyone’s skin is different, even products that are labeled for sensitive skin can still cause a reaction.
To find out which specific ingredients you should avoid, it’s always best to visit your dermatologist. But here are a few guidelines to help you choose the gentlest products for your sensitive skin.
What are the signs of sensitive skin or allergies?
An allergic reaction or hypersensitivity can take many different forms. Some people develop rosacea flares or contact dermatitis, while others simply experience temporary redness. Usually, the symptoms are localized to the skin. Here are some of the most common signs of sensitive skin:
- Scaly skin
What are hypoallergenic skincare products?
Hypoallergenic products are made with a gentle formula suitable for those who suffer from allergies and sensitive skin. It’s important to remember that allergies are highly individual, so there is no guarantee that hypoallergenic products won’t cause irritation. However, they are usually free from the most common allergens, including fragrance, essential oils, dyes, alcohols, and most parabens.
It’s not just about the formulas, but the benefits as well. Hypoallergenic skincare products often contain ingredients that help repair the skin’s natural lipid barrier, such as phospholipids, ceramides, and squalane. These ingredients help the skin retain moisture and prevent drying out and irritation.
Caring for your sensitive skin should not be a luxury. Because of how they are marketed, some hypoallergenic products can be quire pricey. But thanks to their growing popularity and consumer demand, there are many affordable options on the market today. You can find high quality hypoallergenic products in the personal care aisles at CVS, Walgreens, Target, or Wal-Mart.
When can a product claim to be hypoallergenic?
As we mentioned, products labeled as hypoallergenic are typically free from most major allergy-causing ingredients. However, bear in mind that the FDA does not have an official definition for the term hypoallergenic. This allows each brand to define the term for themselves, which can be quite overwhelming for consumers.
Knowing this, it’s important to do your due diligence and read ingredient labels carefully. Allergies are incredibly personal, which means that it is possible to develop an allergy to any ingredient — even in those in hypoallergenic products.
How should I choose a hypoallergenic product?
With so much marketing around hypoallergenic products, it can be difficult for consumers with sensitive skin to make informed decisions. When purchasing hypoallergenic products, try to choose products with a shorter ingredient list. You should also reduce the overall number of products in your routine. The fewer products you use, the less likely you are to experience irritation from a single product or from interactions between ingredients.
Whenever you try a new product — even if it’s a hypoallergenic product — you should always do a patch test. Choose an area with thinner skin (such as your wrist or elbow crease) and apply a small amount of product. Cover it with a bandage and let it sit for 24-48 hours. If the skin gets irritated, you may be allergic to one or more ingredients in the product.
Hypoallergenic products can be a great solution for people who suffer from allergies and sensitive skin. Since there is no FDA-approved definition of the term hypoallergenic, it’s important to read labels carefully and patch test diligently. Even if a product is labeled hypoallergenic, you may still be allergic to one or more ingredients in the product. If you have major skin sensitivities, it’s always best to see a dermatologist to determine the exact ingredients that may be causing a reaction.
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