Chemical allergy

The high end moisturizing cream you spent so much money on? Caused your face to itch, turn red and scaly. The “organic” shampoo and soap for babies that all your friends told you to buy? It made your daughter break out in hives. The polishing cream you have been using to add the extra shine to your copper pot collection all those years? Is now making your hands itch and burn.

  • For some people, the chemicals in shampoos, cosmetics, and detergents can trigger allergic skin reactions.
  • Allergic skin reactions – what your doctor calls allergic contact dermatitis — happen when your immune system overreacts to chemicals that are normally harmless. These chemicals can be in products that you are exposed to over and over, like cleaners, colognes, hair dyes, and personal care items.
  • Even if you’ve used these products before, you can still have a reaction.

Cosmetics and personal care products have a lot of potential allergens, things you could be allergic to:

  • Fragrances in soaps, colognes, deodorants, body creams, cosmetics, detergents, and tissues
  • Preservatives and antibacterials, added to many liquids to keep them from becoming rancid or contaminated
  • Substances added to thicken, color, or lubricate a product
  • Chemicals in permanent hair dyes and other hair products
  • Formaldehyde resin, an ingredient in many nail care products
  • Sunblocks or sunscreens, often found in cosmetic moisturizers, lip balms, and foundations

Symptoms of Chemical Allergies Your skin is one of the first places where allergy symptoms can show up. They often appear 24 to 48 hours later, but can start as late as a week after exposure.
Each person may have different chemical allergy symptoms. Some of the most common are:

  • Red skin
  • Scaly patches
  • Blisters that ooze
  • Burning or itching, which may be intense
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, and genital area
  • Hives
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Darkened, “leathery,” and cracked skin
  • The worst of the reaction tends to be where you touched the thing you’re allergic to. If you get the allergen on your finger and then touch another part of your body, like your face or neck, you can set off an allergic reaction there.
  • Because the symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis can be similar to other conditions, you should see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
  • Diagnosing Chemical Allergies
  • Often your doctor may be able to diagnose your allergy by doing a physical exam and asking you about your symptoms.
  • Sometimes your doctor may suggest you see an allergist for a skin test. The allergist places small samples of chemicals on your back and checks to see if you develop a rash.

Keeping track of your symptoms helps your doctor make a diagnosis. You should include details such as:

What you were doing in the 24 to 48 hours before your outbreak

  • Any products you were using before the outbreak
  • How much of the product you were using and how often
  • Where the product touched your skin (even places with no symptoms)
  • Symptoms you have or had
  • Any previous skin reactions
  • Treatment for Chemical Allergies

You’ll want to identify and avoid the chemical that may have caused your allergic reaction. If you do come into contact with it, wash your skin with soap and water as soon as possible. If you have the allergen on your hands, don’t touch other parts of your body until you have washed your hands.


  • If you use nail care products, make sure the product has dried before touching your skin. It may help to take off and wash any clothes or jewelry that might have come in contact with the irritating chemical.
  • If you have a mild reaction, you can sometimes treat symptoms yourself with over-the-counter medications such as calamine lotion, antihistamines, or cortisone ointments.
  • If you have frequent or severe outbreaks, call us. Dr. Dagan can help you identify what’s causing the problems and give you prescription medications if you need them.