Halloween is around the corner. That means haunted houses, gorging on candy, and putting together a clever costume. Some costumes area easy to put together with a few key accessories. Other costumes require a little more effort and attention to detail. If your costume requires face paint, body paint, or some other chemicals you normally wouldn’t be exposed to, you may be at risk of developing a skin allergy. Trust me, face paint skin allergies are no fun. Read about the most common skin allergies here and make sure to avoid these ingredients in your Halloween makeup. Or suffer the consequences.
Types of Skin Allergies
Most people will call a rash on their face a “skin allergy.” However, there are 2 main types of skin allergies. There is contact urticaria and then there is allergic contact dermatitis. (1)
Contact urticaria is what is commonly described as hives. This develops instantly after being exposed to the allergic substance. One common example of contact urticaria is latex allergy.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis is a different type of rash. The rash of allergic contact dermatitis can look scaly, red, or develop small bumps and blisters. It is usually very itchy. Allergic contact dermatitis develops after the person has been exposed to the substance at least once. The rash will not develop on the first exposure. Some people may not be allergic to a substance for years and suddenly develop allergic contact dermatitis.
Most Common Causes of Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Almost any substance or chemical can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Nickel is the most common offending metal. The hair dye ingredient, paraphenylenediamine, is known to cause allergic reactions. Fragrances and preservatives are 2 of the most common culprits. (2,3)
Most Common Allergy-Inducing Preservatives
• Benzalkonium chloride
• Euxyl K400
• Imidazolidinyl urea
• Isopropynyl butylcarbamate
• Isothiazolinone mix
Most Common Allergy-Inducing Fragrances
• Cinnamic alcohol
• Cinnamic aldehyde
• Alpha amyl cinnamic alcohol
• Oak moss absolute
Treatment of Skin Allergies
The first step in treating a skin allergy is to remove the offending ingredient. (4) The skin is constantly sensitized if you keep being exposed to the substance you are allergic to.
Fortunately, there is a simple treatment for skin allergies due to cosmetic ingredients. Topical steroids will help clear up the rash caused by skin allergies. Over the counter hydrocortisone 1% cream does the trick. A dermatologist can also prescribe a stronger steroid if the rash is more severe.
It’s important to avoid the chemical that triggered the reaction in the future. Anytime the body is exposed to the ingredient it is sensitive to, it will react to it with an allergic reaction.
Patch Testing for Skin Allergies
Sometimes the only way to figure out exactly which substance is inducing the allergic reaction is to do patch testing. Patch testing is a painless procedure. A dermatologist will apply pre-made patches to the skin on the back.
These patches have different substances known to commonly cause allergies. The substances are numbered and spaced evenly apart. If the skin is allergic to a certain substance, the skin that is in contact with the chemical will react. The dermatologist can then pinpoint exactly what ingredient you may be allergic to.
Make sure that your Halloween costume won’t cause a rash or leave you itchy all night! You can double check that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients you will be using by testing the products a few days before you plan to use them on the inside of your arm.
Have you ever had an allergy to the chemicals in your make-up or face paint?
- DermNet New Zealand. Allergic Contact Dermatitis. http://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/allergic-contact-dermatitis/
- DermNet New Zealand. Contact Allergy to Preservatives. http://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/contact-allergy-to-preservatives/
- DermNet New Zealand. Fragrance Mix Allergy. http://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/fragrance-mix-allergy/
- American Academy of Dermatology. Saving face: Dermatologists helping patients identify source of facial allergic contact dermatitis. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/saving-face-dermatologists-helping-patients-identify-source-of-facial-allergic-contact-dermatitis