Cosmetic Allergies

It’s been months since I’ve gone into a spa for a spot of pampering so I treated myself to a facial last weekend at Bliss Spa here in NYC.

I'm always wary when starting with a new person, i.e. anyone using unfamiliar product on my head/hair, toes, hands, face-anywhere basically. I tend to do a lot of homework before I go to a spa treatment and ask lots of questions once I get there. I thoroughly inspect the bottle, the cream, the mask, the oil, the anything that’s going to come into contact with this Allergic Girl. [By the by, did you know there's a Safe Cosmetics Act in Califormia!]

I’ve caught a few mistakes before they’ve happened - sweet almond oil is in everything! And beware: macadamia nut oil was the new darling of industry a few years back. It’s a MAIN ingredient in Sabon body scrubs.

[And in many lip balms. Several prior BFs have slathered on lip balm pre-smooch believing it was nut-free. When I've requested they re-read the label to be sure, 9 times out of 10, it contained either almond oil, shea nut butter or the dreaded macadamia nut oil. I've literally had to ask BFs to wash their mouths out with soap. Sigh.]

Some reactions are a complete surprise: e.g. nothing looked ominous on the label until my scalp started to burn. Of course, any allergic reaction is especially frustrating when you're treating yourself to something nice. It’s seriously no fun to go into a facial and come out with hives. Or kiss your loved one and have a sneezing fit because of their favorite scent.

However, my Bliss facial was relaxing and allergen-free because of Cornelia. She's from Romania and before she came to America, she believed allergies and migraines were made up. Really. That was until she had her son, who at 9 months developed severe allergies to everything. So, she truly understood when I requested no nut or fish oil products, nothing heavily scented, and asked to see the bottles of product she’d be using.

Then she told me a brief story about her husband trying on a cologne he had received for his birthday, kissing his son, and his son’s face swelling up like a balloon. Yes, facial edema from his father’s cologne! Poor little guy.

So what do you do when the allergic person in question is not you but a recipient of your loving touch?

What if it’s your child that has the allergy and any time you hug them whilst wearing you’re favorite perfume they break out in hives?

What to do if you want to wear a little makeup and still kiss/hug/touch your highly allergic child, friend, partner, spouse?

This question came from a reader and I thought perhaps you all would have some thoughts for her:

“My son's the one with the peanut/nut/sesame allergy -- he's three … for three years I've avoided most bath and body products other than California Baby, and all cosmetics, because I'm terrified of causing a reaction in my son."

"Still, as I try to emerge from the cave of stay-at-home motherhood, in an effort to take on some part-time work, I find myself wanting to look halfway awake and presentable, and I'm wondering if you rely on any particular brand of, say, lipstick.”

Thoughts/suggestions? We’d love to hear them!


AllergyMom said…
I find myself trying to balance my comfort and love of organic products with the more pressing need of keeping my allergic (& contact sensitive) son safe.

I was down to soap and water when he was an infant and reacted to most everything. My hairdo was similar to Nick Nolte's mugshot!

Okay, lip products: My favorite is
Alba-Terra Tints (I love the color Blaze) I ordered this online.

They market it as a tinted lip balms but to me it is more like a matt lipstick. You get coverage with one swipe and full (even dark) color with two swipes.

Its natural looking, tastes good--it's peppermint flavor.

I dont think it has any really questonable ingredients. The main ones are coconut oil, beeswax & olive oil.

Others I like:
Terra Gloss (alba) but this has shea butter as an ingredient. I bought this at Whole Foods.

This is a dewy wet gloss.

Jason: Temptations:
Moisturizing lip tint
This is a sheer gloss, subtle--but has shea nut in the ingredients. Again, from Whole foods.

I also use Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer.
Has sunflower oil and caster oil in the ingredients but I didnt see any nut oils.

As for hair products:
You can try Vanicream products at

They will send you samples of most of their products for free.

Its free of some questionable ingredients but still contains some that you'd prefer to skip if you try to stay organic.

However, when my son was very sensitive, I used their Free & Clear Shampoo, conditioner, Gel, and light hairspray.

These worked pretty well and have no fragrance.

I still use the shampoo and cream for my son although I've moved on to some Jason Organics that have fragrance for myself.

Hope that helps!

You don't really have to avoid products, you just have to research. And then you have to read every label, every time just as you do with food.
I use several Beauty Control lotions and facial products and there are no nut oils in the ones that I use, but I had the Beauty Control consultant call the company and confirm that before I bought them (there is wheat in the lip balm and I didn't find that out until after I bought it, so money wasted there). Shampoo: I just use drug store brand Pantene. Any of the Salon brands seem to have nut oils or wheat in them, so I stick with store brands, but you still have to read the label (several Aussie brand among others, contain wheat). Hand soap: many contain nut oils, wheat, and milk. We use Softsoap Antibacterial. These aren't organic, and they don't smell the greatest, but they are safe. I love the JASON products, but I have a hard time finding ones that don't include wheat.
On my son, I typically use only Vanicream lotions and sunscrean. It's the only lotion that doesn't seem to aggravate his eczema. They also make a safe lip balm.
I LOVE the smell of Bath and Body works, and I still have a few select items that I can use, but I typically only use them at night after my son has gone to bed because I worry about the smell bothering him. I've asked family not to get me those items for Christmas because most do contain things he's allergic to (although they do forget). I don't wear perfume anymore. I stopped after both my boys had terrible eczema as babies. All the perfume I had went bad and I just never bought anymore so I don't even worry about that one;) You can find a balance, you just need to do the research. The safest thing is to use what works for your allergic child or loved one. We use Dove Unscented for soap. And All Free and Clear for Laundry with no fabric softener.
Sometimes the organic products have more allergens in them than the regular products. You have to find a balance and do what is best for your loved one.
Anonymous said…
I just tried Arbonne lip gloss which is GF (which I won from the Celiac Chics promotion 2 weeks ago). I'm not sure about other allergens though.
It's very nice. It's light very sheer with just a hint of sparkle. Not gooey at all. I worry about my lipstick being GF more so than any of my other cosmetics.
Allergic Girl® said…
excellent stuff gals, thanks!
Catherine said…
I was so overwhelmed when I first went "gluten-free" I didn't even notice the wheat in my hair and skin products. But it wasn't until I got rid of those items that my antibodies finally went down to normal...
Anonymous said…
Good morning! I am a small manufacturer out of Kincardine, Ontario, Canada and I promote NUT free (peanut/legume friendly) products... skin absorbs everything... As for coconut oil I do use this (cold pressed organic) however I do cater to those who are sensitive to the tree nut also. I am on facebook and my business is Rustic Rootz Organic Bodycare.. cheers Paula

I am also in the database and a signed compacter for Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and I educate my consumers regarding the organic eco-friendly products that I create (strict quality control)

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