Are You Allergic to Your Makeup?

Because rashes are not cute.

Woman brings her hand to her mouth as if shocked.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Not to sound like a broken record, but there are million different reasons why you could be breaking out. But the scariest? The makeup and skincare products you're practically living in. The unnerving truth is that cosmetic skin allergies are on the rise and could be screwing you over in the skin department, causing unwanted redness, swelling, puffiness, rashes, and itchiness. But don't lose your cool just yet. We're breaking down exactly how to avoid all kinds of flare-ups.

What You Need to Know

More than likely, the biggest cosmetic allergy culprits are sitting inside your makeup bag or perched on you bathroom sink. "Many cosmetics used by women, whether used as facial makeup or creams, or as total body products, may also contain a variety of likely skin allergens," explains Dr. Clifford Bassett, M.D. at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. "The most common ingredients that trigger them are preservatives, fragrances, and PPD, which is present in most hair dyes."

Yes, it's not just what you're putting on your skin, but your hair as well. PPD (Phenylenediamine) is present in a majority of permanent and semi-permanent dyes, and if you're allergic, you should be looking to non-toxic, organic hair colorants. As far as topical products go, allergies can be caused by cleansers, moisturizers, and toners, as well as eye makeup, lipstick, blushes, and foundation. This is why you need to be super-conscious of ingredients.

As the warm months draw nearer, you should also know that the sun can trigger skin allergies. (Lovely.) "Most people don't know that exposure to the sun coupled with the offending ingredients can create a double whammy reaction," says Clifford.

How to Tell If You're Having an Allergic Reaction

This is always easiest to identify when you're trying new products (something we're doing all day, every day). The most common symptoms develop over the first day or two after exposure. In more severe cases, you'll find redness, swelling, pimples, itchiness as well as hives.

"Generally speaking, if a new product is actually making your skin look worse, be it dehydrated, blemishes, puffy eyelids, or looking older, you may be having a skin allergy or irritation," warns Clifford.

What to Look Out For in the Makeup Aisle

Full disclosure: You may need a minor in chemistry to de-code ingredient levels. "For example, those allergic to products such as formaldehyde may not see this chemical in their product, but formaldehyde releases agents such as quaternium," explains Clifford. So, if you're consistently getting irritated by the beauty products you use, it's imperative that you visit an allergist as they can provide you with a breakdown of ingredients that you should avoid. That way, when you're replenishing your makeup or skincare stash, you have a shopping list of what to avoid. Here, find some of the some of the worst allergy offenders:

Preservatives: Parabens, Quaternium 15, Isothiazolinone, and Imidazolidinyl urea.

Hair Dye: PPD

Fragrance: Always look for fragrance-free. And be wary! Even some "unscented" cosmetics contain a fragrance to "mask" certain chemical scents, says Clifford.

Others: Propolis, thimerosal, lanolin, and wool alcohol.

You should also check out:

How to Anti-Age Your Body (Because It's Just as Important as Your Face)

8 Random Reasons You're Breaking Out

The 20-Something's Guide to Preventing Wrinkles

The 8 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Skin

Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.