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Ingrédients cosmétiques déclencheurs eczéma de contact.

Cosmetic ingredients that may cause contact dermatitis.

Eczema is a skin condition affecting many people. There are several types of eczema, one of which is contact eczema. This can result from intolerance to certain ingredients present in skincare products. What are these ingredients?

Reviewed and validated version by dermatologist, Dr. B. LEVY GAREL (France).

Contact Eczema: What is it?

Eczema is an inflammatory skin disease characterized by itchy red lesions. In the case of contact eczema, these lesions are triggered by skin contact with an allergen: this is referred to as an acquired inflammatory skin disease. Thus, unlike atopic dermatitis , contact eczema is not due to an atopic predisposition that promotes allergies.

Contact eczema is thus an allergic reaction that occurs even in the absence of a genetic atopic predisposition favoring allergy, unlike atopic dermatitis. This allergic reaction follows skin contact with an allergen. There are several types of allergens in cosmetics.

Contact dermatitis caused by cosmetics.

As previously mentioned, contact eczema can occur following the use of certain cosmetic products and does not require a specific genetic predisposition. There are numerous cosmetic products that can trigger this reaction.

  • Lip cosmetic products (lipstick, lip gloss, lip balm, etc.) : lesions are observed on the lips and/or around the mouth.

  • Haircare products (shampoo, hair dye, hairspray) : an allergy to these products manifests as lesions on the scalp. These lesions can extend to the face or back in the case of a shampoo, as the product flows during rinsing.

  • Nail Polishes : An allergy to nail polishes can lead to lesions on the face, which we often touch. This is referred to as contact dermatitis.

  • Fragrances : An allergy to fragrances can cause lesions or redness, most often on the neck and wrists, where the fragrance is applied.

  • Emollients : Depending on the cosmetic ingredients incorporated into face or body creams, the skin may become irritated upon contact and develop lesions.

  • Photo-allergens : The combination of a cosmetic product containing an allergen and exposure to UV rays sometimes induces a photo-allergy. Lesions and redness then appear on the body.

What are the main allergens responsible for allergic eczema in cosmetic products?

It is important to understand that an allergy caused by a cosmetic product is not an allergy to a type of product or to the products of a specific brand. In other words, if the use of makeup remover wipes from a certain brand triggers an allergic reaction in you, it does not mean that you are allergic to all makeup remover wipes or to all products of that brand. In fact, an allergy to a cosmetic product is caused by a substance present in that product.

  • The Fragrance : Contact dermatitis following the use of a fragrance is very common. Whether they are natural or synthetic, fragrances contain a large number of allergenic substances (alcohols, aldehydes, catechols, ketones, esters, phenyl esters, etc.).

    Fragrances are present in a vast number of cosmetic products and even constitute a significant selection criterion for consumers. Contact eczema following the use of perfume is very common. It manifests as itchy red lesions on the area where the perfume was applied. Indeed, this can be explained by the significant presence of allergens in perfumes. Sometimes, natural fragrances are more allergenic than synthetic ones due to their high concentration of essential oils.

  • A preservative : in cosmetic products, the use of preservatives is essential to prevent the proliferation of microorganisms, especially in products containing water, an environment that promotes microbial growth. Just like fragrances, preservatives can be responsible for allergies. For example, the methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a preservative that was widely used in cosmetic products, has been banned in leave-on products, as it is highly likely to cause contact dermatitis.

    Other preservatives are known to cause contact dermatitis: benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid, or even sorbic acid. Moreover, certain essential oils can be used as preservatives due to their antimicrobial or antifungal properties, such as rosemary essential oil or tea tree essential oil. These can trigger an allergic reaction due to the allergenic molecules they contain (limonene, citronellol, geraniol, etc.).

  • A pigment : the paraphenylenediamine (PPD) is a pigment used in hair dyes that causes itchy lesions on the scalp after dyeing.

    The henna used for temporary skin tattoos is often mixed with PPD, which poses a significant risk of contact dermatitis.

Please note : some natural ingredients used in cosmetics can cause strong allergic reactions. This is particularly true for propolis and arnica.

What should be done in case of contact eczema caused by a cosmetic product?

In the event of contact eczema following the use of a cosmetic product, the first step is to cease using the offending product. Once the product is removed, contact eczema lesions typically heal within 10 to 15 days. During the healing period, the use of emollient balm and a steroid-based anti-inflammatory cream can help reduce eczema lesions.


  • HASSAM B. & al. Tatouage au henné noir : attention à l'eczéma de contact. The Pan African Medical Journal (2018).


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