Conditions & Treatments
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​​This is the commonest skin disorder that can arise from the use of cosmetics. The most frequent presenting complaint is facial itch and rash.

Types of cosmetics causing irritant contact dermatitis include:

  • Cleansers: Facial cleansers which often contain surfactants that are necessary to facilitate proper cleansing of the skin.
  • Toners and astringents: Toners and astringents may contain alcohol or acids, like alpha-hydroxyacid (AHA). Some patients may develop skin problems from these products.
  • Facial treatment: Facial treatment involves the use of manual manipulation and application of chemicals on the skin, often resulting in exfoliation of the upper skin surface. Mild irritation is inevitable, but severe skin inflammation, like dermatitis can occur.

Excessive or inappropriate use of any of these skin care products and procedures can cause skin irritation, especially in individuals with sensitive skin or underlying skin diseases.

What are the symptoms and signs of irritation

Clinical presentation
The patient may experience only burning or stinging sensation after applying the cosmetic on the skin. In severe cases, itchiness, redness, swelling and later scaling and peeling of the skin can occur.

Clinical presentation 

What should I do when I suspect that I have irritation from cosmetics?

Stop using all cosmetic products on the affected skin immediately. Consult your doctor. Do not seek treatment from beauticians or unqualified persons. Your doctor will treat you with a bland facial cleanser and low-potency corticosteroid cream or ointment.

After the rash recovers, patch testing may be required at a later date to exclude allergy to the cosmetics. (See below)

Your doctor will advise you on the appropriate cosmetics to use.


Another important skin disorder caused by cosmetics is allergic contact dermatitis. It occurs less frequently than irritant contact dermatitis. It is often difficult to differentiate between an allergic contact dermatitis and an irritant contact dermatitis by the appearance of the rash alone. Cosmetics ingredients that can cause skin allergy include fragrances, preservatives and sunscreens.

What are the symptoms and signs of cosmetics allergies?

Clinical presentation
The patient may not experience any problem with the cosmetic initially. An allergic reaction can occur even after repeated exposure to the incriminating substance.

Clinical presentation 

Symptoms of cosmetic allergy include itchiness, redness, swelling or even blistering on the affected skin.

Secondary spread beyond the affected site may occur. The same reaction will recur if the patient uses another product that contains the same ingredients.

What should I do if I suspect that I have cosmetic allergy?

  • Treatment​
  • ​Consult your doctor. You should stop applying all cosmetics on the affected skin or anywhere else immediately. Your doctor will prescribe you topical or in severe cases, oral corticosteroid to reduce the skin inflammation. Oral antihistamines may reduce intense itch. Patch testing should be done when the rash subsides to ascertain the cause of allergy.