Thursday, October 15, 2009

Part II: Living (Happily Ever After) with Sensitive Skin

In today's post on sensitive skin, we'll explore some of its common triggers. While I'm fully disclosing that I am not a dermatologist or trained skin care guru, I have encountered a growing list of items that do not agree with my skin. I've identified these triggers via trial and error, as well as validated my suspicions by reading about (and talking to) others who have experienced similar reactions. This list is by no means complete, but a starting point for eliminating those nasty culprits from your own list of triggers.

Specific ingredient triggers:
  • Avobenzone and Oxybenzone: These are two active, chemical sunscreens ingredients that are used in sunscreens, foundations, and other cosmetic items. I've been known to turn bright red and get nasty cystic-type blemishes from using products with these ingredients.

  • Bismuth Oxychloride: This is an inorganic white pigment found primarily in mineral and powder-based makeup. It often gives a visible glowing sheen as well as a silky feel, good slip (this means it applies well to the skin and doesn't drag or grab on the skin) and good adhesion, which helps it stay on your skin. When mineral makeup was first released, many products contained high concentrations of bismuth oxychloride. I tried 6 or 7 different mineral foundations in search for the "perfect" makeup for my skin. In each case, I experienced red, irritated, itching skin as well as small white bumps. Sometimes these reactions would be within several hours of use, but in many cases in would take up to a week for me to develop the issue. I was alerted to the trigger by a knowledgeable makeup artist who had clients with similar problems.

  • Fragrances: This is a huge class that includes both natural and synthetically manufactured ingredients. Fragrances are used in many products ranging from food to products of personal hygiene. Some of the common allergenic fragrances include chemicals such as amylcinnamic alcohol, anisyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, benzyl salicylate, and natural products such as clove oil, nutmeg oil, odor of rose, and cinnamon oil. Allergenic fragrances result in rashes or swelling on surfaces of hands, arms, and face. My known triggers are clove and cinnamon oil. I had a horrendous skin reaction after using a bath product with these ingredients. I complained very loudly to the product's customer service and discovered what caused my grief. Apparently, I wasn't the only one. Since this experience, I've also had several friends who reacted to cinnamon oil in their toothpaste. If they didn't rinse carefully, the skin around their mouth and chin became inflamed.

  • Parabens: This is a class of chemical preservatives — methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl parabens — used in a wide variety of personal care items. Right now there is a huge debate about whether or not the use of parabens may cause breast cancer. While I'm not going to jump into this debate, I will share that parabens often cause allergic reactions, skin rashes, and may disrupt proper hormone functioning.

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate: This is an inexpensive detergent found in shampoos, soaps, laundry detergents, bubble baths and shower gels, hand cleansers, cosmetic cleaners, and more. In the past two years, I've developed a severe sensitivity to these sulfates, especially when they are used in hand cleansers. I'm a frequent hand washer and the skin around my fingers would constantly peel to the point of cracking and bleeding when I used pump hand soaps with sulfates. I thought I had a skin infection so I went to my dermatologist for a diagnosis. While she didn't directly blame the sulfates, she mentioned that they were contact dermatitis triggers for some people. With time, I've tried to eliminate all sulfates from all of my skincare products. Problem solved!

  • Talc: Talc is a mineral that provides smooth application and even blending of pigments in powder-based cosmetics (e.g., eye shadows, blushes, face powders, etc.) Talc absorbs oil, not water, and helps to keep make-up vivid and fresh throughout the day. Thankfully this is one ingredient that I can tolerate. I'm adding it to the list as many are known to have issues with it, especially in eye shadows and face powders. Just FYI... 
Are there other triggers that I've missed? Drop me a line in the comments box and tell me your story!

Tomorrow, we'll talk about key steps you can take to soothe your skin after experiencing a sensitivity.

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