Allergens in Cosmetics

Common Allergens Found in Cosmetics

Soaps, lotions, face and eye make up, fragrances, can provoke allergic reactions such as itchy, red rashes on the skin or contact dermatitis, in some people.

Common cosmetics allergens fall into the five classes:  natural rubber, fragrances, preservatives, dyes, and metals.


Natural rubber also listed on labels as Latex.


Fragrances may be composed of these ingredients:

  • Amyl cinnamal
  • Amylcinnamyl alcohol
  • Anisyl alcohol
  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Benzyl benzoate
  • Benzyl cinnamate
  • Benzyl salicylate
  • Cinnamyl alcohol
  • Cinnamaldehyde
  • Citral
  • Citronellol
  • Coumarin
  • Eugenol
  • Farnesol
  • Geraniol
  • Hexyl cinnamaladehyde
  • Hydroxycitronellal
  • Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (HICC), (also known as Lyral)
  • Isoeugenol
  • Lilial
  • d-Limonene
  • Linalool
  • Methyl 2-octynoate
  • g-Methylionone
  • Oak moss extract
  • Tree moss extract

Preservatives may be listed as:

  • Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT)
  • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing ingredients:
    • Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
    • 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
    • Diazolidinyl urea
    • DMDM hydantoin (1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin)
    • Imidazolidinyl urea
    • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
    • Quaternium-15 (Dowicil 200; N-(3-chloroallyl) hexaminium chloride)

Dyes, or chemicals in dyes and color additives such as those used in hair dyes and black henna tattoos:

  • p-phenylenediamine (PPD)
  • Coal-tar

Metals may be listed as:

  • Nickel
  • Gold
Symptoms of Allergic Reactions

Checking labels for “hypoallergenic”, “fragrance-free” or “for sensitive skin,” isn’t enough because certain ingredients may be listed as “fragrance,” or “perfume,” without identifying the specific ingredients.

An allergen can trigger the immune system to release chemical substances such as antibodies that result in allergy symptoms.

Allergic reactions can range in severity, but may include hives, itchy skin, a rash, flaking or peeling skin, facial swelling, irritation of the eyes, nose and mouth, wheezing, and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis are lack of consciousness, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, lightheadedness, chest pain, a rapid, weak pulse, nausea, and vomiting.

If anaphylaxis symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.

In addition to allergic contact dermatitis, fragrance ingredients may also affect the respiratory system because they can be inhaled, resulting in shortness of breath, the sensation of being suffocated, coughing, phlegm, a runny or stuffy nose, headache, chest tightness, and wheezing.

However, you don’t have to wait until you have an allergic reaction to try and figure out what you are allergic to. Your healthcare provider may recommend you undergo patch testing or some other, less frequently used tests.

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