Skin irritated by cosmetics? Tips!

If the skin reacts irritated to care products, many suspect an allergy. Right? This is how pharmacists and doctors can help

Sensitive skin: those affected can help alleviate many problems themselves. For example, experts advise against frequent and hot showers

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There is hardly a day in Sabine Fakler's pharmacy that not at least one customer asks for advice because of his reddened, itchy or flaky skin. This was less common in the past, reports the pharmacist from Brieskow-Finkenheerd in Brandenburg. "Skin problems are more common today." This is also confirmed by Professor Johannes Ring, dermatologist from Munich: "Sensitive skin has increased dramatically in recent years."

Skin discomfort from jewelry and cosmetics

The problems are often triggered by contact allergens, to which the sensitized skin reacts with redness, blisters and sometimes severe itching in the corresponding area. The "allergen hit list" is headed by nickel, which can be found in costume jewelry or buttons. In second place are cosmetic substances such as the fragrances benzyl alcohol, eugenol or citral as well as preservatives. 15 percent of Germans are affected.

"An annoying problem that can be avoided," says the pharmacist Fakler - provided that one knows the individual triggers beyond any doubt. This requires an appropriate diagnosis by the doctor, for example a so-called patch test. Small patches with allergens are placed on the back. Depending on the skin reaction, this provides important information about what the patient cannot tolerate.

These substances are then listed in an allergy passport - which, among other things, makes it easier to find suitable cosmetics. Pharmacists can use a database to precisely check the components of all available skin care products and offer preparations without the problematic substances in question. This protects patients from unpleasant surprises.

Allergy or intolerance?

Allergic reactions of the skin are often equated with intolerance. From a medical point of view, this is wrong: in the case of an allergy, the immune system forms antibodies against an actually harmless environmental substance, regardless of the skin condition. This substance, for example nickel or wool wax, is easily tolerated by non-allergic people.

An intolerance is also a response of the immune system to a certain substance. However, no antibodies are formed, and the intolerance can only occur temporarily. Those who have a weakened skin barrier are more prone to intolerance.

In addition to contact allergies, sunlight can also promote inflammatory processes in the skin - long before sunburn has occurred. According to Mediziner Ring, there are also irritations from pollutants, solvents and cleaning agents. The nerves are also connected to skin problems, which is now undisputed.

"Research in the field of psychoneuro-allergology is incredibly exciting. In the meantime, many studies have shown how important the influence of the nervous system is on inflammation," said the expert.

The right treatment

If our cover sounds the alarm, many of those affected ask the pharmacy for over-the-counter preparations, for example ointments with skin-soothing substances such as panthenol. Above all, agents with cortisone usually stop inflammatory processes quickly - regardless of the cause. One disadvantage: patients should not use it to treat their skin over a large area.

If the tube is empty and the symptoms persist, the doctor can help. Dermatologists can find the solution from a wide range of prescription-only cortisone preparations that will help in the best possible way without major side effects.

Brighter and more sensitive?

The lighter the skin, the less its own protection against sunlight - and the faster and more strongly it reacts to it. That is one reason why fair skin is often perceived as sensitive.

Other than that, there are no reliable connections between skin color and allergies or sensitization, emphasizes the Munich dermatologist Professor Johannes Ring: "The number of studies is thin on other environmental pollution besides UV rays."

There are also allergies and neurodermatitis all over the world: in patients with light blue and brown eyes, in Europe as well as in Africa.

However, everyone can make an important contribution to skin health themselves - even before reactions occur. "If you take a hot shower too often and for too long, you can get sensitive skin," says Ring. Because this would wash out the skin's own lipids.

Care without foam

Ideally, these lipids, in combination with other endogenous substances, guarantee an intact barrier layer that does not allow harmful substances or allergens into the skin. In particular, so-called washing-active substances, which are contained in many shampoos and shower gels, can weaken this barrier. The more damaged it is, the more sensitive the skin reacts.

If you do without foaming care products and only use solid soap selectively - for example under the armpits - the stress level for the skin drops significantly. When washing your hair, it helps to wash the shampoo upside down. In this way, the foam does not run down the body and cannot irritate the skin.

Another tip: Do not rub dry skin that is prone to dryness, as this works like a coarse peeling. Instead, gently pat dry and apply lotion immediately.

Cosmetic allergies

Fragrances are the most common contact allergy triggers, followed by preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone. Completely banning such substances is of little use, explains physician Johannes Ring using a much discussed example:

Parabens are well tolerated by most people. If they were condemned and replaced with new substances, it might only be a matter of time before these substances also trigger allergies.

His advice: stay true to products that are well tolerated. The more different substances get on the skin, the greater the risk of an allergic reaction.

Sources of problems can also be ruled out in the wardrobe: "Mechanical stress, for example from wool, is poison for sensitive skin," says dermatologist Ring. Silk is fine, cotton is even better. In addition: Avoid using fragrant fabric softener, this reduces the risk of allergic reactions.

You don't have to do without

To build a healthy skin barrier, pharmacist Sabine Fakler recommends cosmetics that contain only a few, but useful ingredients - for example, moisture-retaining substances such as glycerine or urea as well as high-quality fats that our skin can process well. Together with sunscreens and gentle cleansing products, such creams can help strengthen sensitive skin.

Under no circumstances should one completely forego cosmetics for fear of reactions, emphasizes Fakler. "You can achieve a lot with the right care. And today there are very good products that are well tolerated by both allergy sufferers and neurodermatitis sufferers."

Which products help best individually can be found out in a half-page experiment, says Ring. "For example, apply a slightly greasier lipolotion to one side of your face. Apply a lighter hydrolotion to the other side. You will quickly see what suits you better."