Help! I’ve Had An Allergic Reaction From A Skincare Product!

by Gio
What to do when you're allergic to cosmetics

Getting a new beauty product is SO exciting. All you want to do is play with it straight away and see what miracle it can do for your skin.

But, sometimes the dream turns into a nightmare. Rather than smoother, plumper skin, that moisturiser is making your face all red, swollen, and irritated! What the heck is going on?!

An allergic reaction, most likely. Here’s how to deal with it:

1. Figure Out What Product Is Causing The Problem

Sometimes, this is really easy. If you’ve just introduced a brand new moisturizer into your skincare routine, you know that’s to blame.

This is why I always recommend to try one new product at a time. If you use two or three new ones at the same time, it’s gonna take longer to figure out which one is to blame for the allergy.

But, what if you didn’t use anything new? The problem with allergies is that they can develop at any time. You know what that means?

You could be using something for years with great results, and then one day your skin becomes all red and swollen because you’ve just developed an allergy to it!

If that happens to you, try eliminating one product at a time from your beauty routine until you find the real culprit.

Related: The Right Way To Introduce New Skincare Products In Your Skincare Routine

2. Find Out What Ingredient Is Causing The Allergy

Now you’ve found what product is causing the problem, don’t throw it out immediately. Check the ingredient list, first. If you don’t, chances are you’re just gonna buy another foundation/moisturizer/whatever with the same ingredient you’re allergic to.

But, ingredient lists are usually written in an alien, impossible-to-decipher language. How do you make sense of it and find out what ingredient is to blame? The main culprits usually are:

  • 2-bromo-2nitropropane-1,3-diol
  • Citrus oils
  • Dializodinyl urea
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Essential oils
  • Fragrance
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Mint, peppermint, and anything minty
  • Synthetic UV filters (ex, Avobenzone, Oxybenzone…)

Keep in mind, though, that anything could be the culprit. The only way to know for sure is to go to the doctor and get allergy tests done.

In the meantime, compare the ingredients in the offending product with the other products you are using without any problems. There’s bound to be one or more ingredients in the offending product that’s not present in the other ones. One of those is the culprit.

Granted, this method isn’t as scientific as the allergy test, but it’s a good starting point until you can afford to see the doctor.

Need further help to narrow down the culprit? Click on the image below to sign up ton my newsletter and receive the “Skincare Ingredients To Avoid” cheat sheet with the most irritating ingredients lurking in your cosmetics:

Related: 7 Natural Ingredients That Can Irritate Skin

3. Use A Cortisone Cream

Ok, figuring out the culprit is all well and good, but your face is still all swollen, red, and possibly even painful. How do you get it back to normal ASAP?

Get a cortison cream, like Cortaid. It’ll reduce the inflammation and relieve the itching.

4. Don’t Irritate Skin More

Your skin is very delicate now, so treat it with extreme care. If you’re using any powerful ingredients like retinoids, exfoliating acids, benzoyl peroxide, skin-lighteners, or even vitamin C, stop.

These ingredients work wonders on healthy skin, but they can be too harsh for irritated skin. For the same reason, avoid alcohol, fragrance, and anything else that could be irritating. Go back to the basics, and use only the gentlest products you can find.

Also, don’t:

  • Exfoliate (non even with a washcloth!)
  • Rub skin
  • Sweat

These things can be irritating, too, and make your skin worse.

Related: 5 Skincare Treatments That Can Irritate Skin (If Abused)

5. Consult A Doctor

An OTC cortisone cream can help, but it’s not enough. You need to see a doctor for the appropriate treatment, especially if the problem doesn’t go away within six weeks.

In this case, you could have a very severe allergic reaction that requires oral antihistamines (and these can only be prescribed by a doctor), or another condition like psoriasis or eczema.

Point is: don’t auto-diagnose yourself. You may get it wrong and make things worse. Always consult a professional for the best diagnosis and treatment for your problem.

Have you ever had an allergic reaction to a product? Share your experience in the comments below.



Anna March 23, 2011 - 8:15 pm

I never get an allergic reaction towards anything else but foundations πŸ™ No matter what brand it is, they give me allergic reactions.
It itches and it drives me crazy.
I think that Id look better wearing foundation, but its impossible.. πŸ™

beautifulwithbrains March 23, 2011 - 9:38 pm

Anna, that’s awful. It must be so frustrating for you! Does it happen with tinted moisturizers too? They don’t provide as much coverage as foundation but they still help to even out the skintone.

Nikki March 24, 2011 - 1:25 am

Agree with everything you’ve written, great tip!

beautifulwithbrains March 24, 2011 - 12:39 pm

Nikki, thanks. πŸ™‚

Makeup Morsels March 24, 2011 - 1:38 am

I had an allergic reaction to an eye product recently. It was AWFUL, I had to treat it with steroid drops for over a week. Didn’t know about the cortisone to help deal w/ skin reactions, I will keep that in mind. Thanks Gio!

beautifulwithbrains March 24, 2011 - 12:41 pm

Makeup Morsels, that is awful! I’m sorry about the allergic reaction. Cortisone is a great help in those cases.

Alexis March 24, 2011 - 2:34 am

i have an allergic reaction to red pigment in eye products (shadow, liner, ect.) anything thats purple, pink, red, orange is out. my eyelids got red puffy itchy and disgustingly dry while my eyes became bloodshot. the doctor thought it was pink eye but it only occurs when i use red pigmented eye products. now i stay away and I am trying to make sure any other color does not have a red reflect or anything so it doesn’t happen again

beautifulwithbrains March 24, 2011 - 12:44 pm

Alexis, that sucks! But at least you know what causing the problem and, even though your choice of color is limited, you can now avoid the allergy from happening again. πŸ™‚

xin March 24, 2011 - 7:47 am

agreed! Esp on the #5, i will just wash my face and wait πŸ˜›

beautifulwithbrains March 24, 2011 - 12:42 pm

Xin, sometimes waiting is the best thing to see if it’s an allergic reaction or just another skin condition. Also consulting a doctor is always preferable. πŸ™‚

Sole April 3, 2011 - 2:08 pm

Great post, as usual! I have allergic reactions to salicilic acid, alcool and self-tanners (I don’t know which ingredient it causes the problem and I am to lazy to go to the doctor)… I avoid them but sometimes I forget to read the ingredients list and I have terrible outbreaks πŸ™

beautifulwithbrains April 4, 2011 - 3:54 pm

Sole, that’s awful! It’s easy to forget to read the ingredient lists sometimes, especially when one is in a rush but it sadly the only way to avoid problematic ingredients. πŸ™

Cassia September 29, 2012 - 2:05 pm

Bought a L’Oreal True Match foundation and got a slight allergic reaction. Slight rash next to my eyes that I thought was cause by me practicing a smokey eye one too many time.
Now it’s also under my nose so, I know it’s not a coincidence. It sucks cause I feel like I wasted 15€ (that I can’t afford to waste), I did a patch test on my arm, neck and torso and they’re fine -_-‘

So yeah, for me, apparently it’s Diazolidinyl that’s the problem, so I’ll know from now on, but since it was the first time I bought foundation I have no idea -_-‘

beautifulwithbrains October 1, 2012 - 6:09 am

Cassia, I’m so sorry to hear that, must be very frustrating. But I’m glad that you have at least figured out what caused it so you can avoid it in the future.

Vicki Moore February 3, 2013 - 4:27 pm

If anyone is allergic to Diazolidinyl Urea here are a few things I found that contain it:
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands
O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet
Bath & Body Works:
White Cherry Blossom Lotion
Sweet Pea Body Lotion
Be Enchanted Body Cream
Looks like alot of Bath & Body Works lotions. These are just a few I found in my home.

beautifulwithbrains February 3, 2013 - 8:52 pm

Vicki Moore, thanks a lot for your helpful comment!

Linda March 5, 2018 - 11:06 am

That’s it! Thank you so much! After not using O’Keeffee’s Working Hands for a whiie due to an unknown flaireup of dermatitis on my hands, I used it again last night…. Wow! What a flareup that was! So I knew something in that product was the culprit! I began researching this morning to find the ingredient, and found this wonderful blog, and then your perfect post Vicki! Thank you both so much! I now know a chemical to avoid in the future. I am very grateful!

Gio March 16, 2018 - 10:14 am

Linda, so sorry to hear you’ve had such a bad reaction and glad that me and Vichy could help. Hopefully you can avoid the culprit from now on. πŸ™‚

Kathy Bennett November 16, 2018 - 9:38 pm

I too had a horrible reaction to OKeefes.. I was beginning to think I was the only person in the world who was allergic to it…

Gio November 23, 2018 - 12:32 pm

Kathy, oh no! Allergic reactions are the worst!

Emjay January 22, 2018 - 3:16 am

Avocado oil to the rescue! And immediately discontinue using any product that stings or burns! Thank you for all advice. I recently tried a pricey “eye treatment” that stung a bit when I applied it, but thinking the product was “working” continued to use for the next day and evening for a total of 3 applications. I awakened the following morning to painful, half-closed bloodshot eyes, severely burned upper and lower eyelids- area beneath my eyes puffy yet strangely hollow with deep vertical creases-and half my eyelashes had disappeared. Almost overnight I acquired the appearance of a much, much older person. I began applying avocado oil- the soothing, moisturizing effect was a relief. I continued to apply avocado oil twice hourly throughout the next several days- yes I missed work. By the fifth day the pain and sensitivity, redness and swelling had diminished and recovery was underway. The avocado oil is quickly absorbed into the skin, and using it on my entire face left my skin smoother. fine lines less obvious, and the peeling burned skin recovering; and returning to normal. Seemed like a miracle to me-simple organic cold-pressed avocado oil from the pantry.

Gio January 28, 2018 - 2:15 pm

Emjay, oh no, so sorry to hear that, how awful! So glad good oil avocado oil was able to help. Thanks for sharing your experience. πŸ™‚

Elaine McNally April 29, 2019 - 11:38 pm

I’ve been using L’OrΓ©al Revitalift Energising red cream and after about 4 days my face became red and very irritated.I broke out in small blistery spots around the lower part of my face and chin. My skin is still sore and raw even though I stopped using the product over a week ago.After looking up reviews on the same product on line it appears there have been numerous similar or even worse reactions.Definitely would stay away from this product.

Gio May 31, 2019 - 1:07 pm

Elaine, oh no! Sorry to hear this happened to you. Hope they discontinue it soon.


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