You've just bought a new skin care product and you're excited to see how it might transform your look. Instead, you end up with red, itchy or swollen patches because one of the ingredients causes an allergic reaction.
The best way to avoid this problem while trying something new is to test it on several small areas of your skin first to determine whether it's likely to irritate you, according to board-certified dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology.
"There are more than 15,000 allergens that can cause allergic contact dermatitis, and skin care products are a common cause," said Dr. Bruce Brod. "Even products labeled 'hypoallergenic', 'natural' or 'clean' can cause a skin reaction, so it's helpful to test skin care products before using them as you would normally."
To test a skin care product, Brod recommends applying the product to a quarter-sized test spot twice daily for seven to 10 days. Choose an area where it won't be easily rubbed or washed away, such as the underside of your arm or the bend of your elbow. Use the normal amount and thickness you would use if you were applying the product as intended.
Leave it on your skin for as long as you would normally. If you're testing something that you would usually wash off, like a cleanser, keep it on your skin for five minutes or as long as the instructions say.
If you have no reaction in a week, go ahead and use the product, the academy advised.
Some ingredients, including retinol and glycolic acid, can irritate your skin, but that is normal and temporary.
If you develop a skin reaction, wash the product off your skin and stop using it. You can relieve your skin with a cool compress or petroleum jelly. If that doesn't help, you may need to see a dermatologist.
"Sometimes, discovering the cause of skin irritation is easier said than done," Brod said in an academy news release. "If it is difficult to pinpoint the exact ingredient causing your skin to react, talk to a board-certified dermatologist, who can help. You may need a medical test called patch testing to help find out what is causing your irritation."
Once you know what irritates your skin, don't use it. For example, if fragrances bother you, use unscented products. Use caution with "unscented" plant-based botanical products, which may still contain ingredients that have a fragrance, the academy suggested.
The National Eczema Association has more on contact dermatitis.
SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, Aug. 19, 2021