Cosmetics allergies

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 pphenylenediamine 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.


Nickel Free

For a list of nickel tested, low nickel and mineral free make-up, see the article Nickel Free Makeup, which has some suggestions for lipstick / lip stain, eyeliner, mascara, foundation and other facial cosmetics.


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


Salicylate Sensitivity

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 skincare brands and products, and here’s a list of toothpaste and oral care 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.


Skincare Blogs

The 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

Pecan – carya Illinoensis

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

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