Here are some of the principle problem ingredients which cause allergies to cosmetics and skincare products — as well as some further useful information and links. If you have multiple cosmetic allergens or extreme sensitivities to skincare products, the article Allergen Free Skincare may be more useful.
PPD-Free Hair Colours and Dyes
PPD is a widely used hair colourant ingredient which is effective in achieving long-lasting hair colour. There has been an increase in severe allergic reactions to PPD in recent years, and many women wish to avoid the ingredient and opt for natural colouring agents. The hair dye colourants available on the market are typically kits with several parts to them:
* the dye
* the activator
* shampoo or conditioner or both
* sundries (eg gloves / applicator / cap etc.)
The PPD is found in the dye – usually called p–phenylenediamine on ingredients labels.
In order to function, the permanent dye is mixed with the activator, and this enables the pigments to penetrate hair follicles to ensure a longer-lasting result. It is this ‘activated’ or oxidising PPD which causes allergies.
See this article for a list of PPD-free products.
Methylisothiazolinone (and other isothiazolinones) (MI / MCI)
This is a preservative which is decreasingly found in skincare products but still occasionally encountered – especially in ‘wash off’ products – but remains a common ingredient in household products such as washing liquids, fabric conditioners and laundry powders – but also paints and furniture products.
There have been many severe reported reactions to MI and related compounds, and the preservative was declared ‘allergen of the year’ in 2013.
For directories of cosmetics and household products which are MI-free, see MI-Free.com.
If you have salicylate intolerance (or are following the Guaifenesin Protocol for fibromyalgia) you may require salicylate-free (or ‘sal free’) cosmetics.
Here’s a list of some suitable brands and products.
The Skins Matter site is devoted to organic and natural skincare, ‘free from’ cosmetics, and products suitable for those with problem skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea. I edit the site, and I’ve written a number of articles for it which you may find useful:
Contact Dermatitis and Cosmetics – this covers irritant and allergic dermatitis, which ingredients in cosmetics can cause reactions, and the tests available to help identify them.
The Growing Problem with Fragrance – Fragrance allergens or ‘parfum’ in cosmetics can cause severe reactions and sensitisations – this article explores what they are and how to identify them.
Gluten-Free Skincare – Those with coeliac disease or gluten-related disorders often ask whether they need to avoid potential sources of gluten in their cosmetics. This feature investigates – and includes a table of cosmetic brands entirely free of wheat/gluten, dairy and/or nuts.
FreeFrom Skincare Awards
These Awards aim to reward and recognise skincare products and cosmetics which are ‘free from’ many of the allergens, ingredients and additives consumers look to avoid, for reasons allergic, ethical, environmental or health-related. Products which do well in the Awards are often free from important food and fragrance allergens. I run the awards, and you can find out about past winners here.
The SkinsMatter.com blog can be found here. I write regularly about ‘free from’ skincare and cosmetics for sensitive and problem skins.
Another blog you may find useful is the Sugarpuffish blog, run by Sarah Coleman, one of our regular Award judges, and which covers allergy, eczema and ‘free from’ food and skincare.
Cosmetic Food Ingredients in Latin
This is a table of food allergens in Latin, which can and often are used in skincare and cosmetic products.
Almond – prunus [amygdalus] dulcis/amara/sativa
Apple – malus domestica/pyrus malus
Apricot – prunus armeniaca
Avocado – persea gratissima/americana
Banana – musa sapientum
Barley – hordeum/hordeum vulgare
Brazil nut – bertholletia excelsa
Cashew – anacardium occidentale
Celery/celeriac – apium graveolens
Chestnut – castanea sativa/sylva
Chickpea – cicer arietinum
Coconut – cocus nucifera
Corn – zea mays
Egg – ovum
Fish/fish oil – pisces/piscum iecur
Hazelnut – corylus rostrata/avellana
Kiwi fruit – actinidia chinensis
Lupin – lupinus albus/luteus
Macadamia nut – macadamia ternifolia
Milk – lac
Oat – avena sativa
Peach – prunus persica
Peanut – arachis/arachis hypogea
Pistachio – pistacia vera
Rice – oryza/oryza sativa
Sesame – sesamum indicum
Soy – glycine max/soja
Sunflower – helianthus annuus
Walnut – juglans regia/nigra
Wheat – triticum/triticum vulgare