Are You Allergic to Your Makeup? Here’s How to Tell

Allergic to makeup

Are you allergic to your makeup?

It’s a startling question, isn’t it? We’re all quite aware of the allergies that come in food or seasonal form, but can your makeup be making you sick?

If you love wearing beauty products, it can be a major killjoy when you realize that you’re actually allergic to the great, new product that everyone’s gushing over.

This post is for those of you who suspect you may have a makeup allergy but aren’t sure yet. It’s for those of you who’ve ever wondered if a certain food was the cause of your breakouts. And it’s also for those of you thought your skin irritation was in response to old, expired makeup.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a lot more information about cosmetic allergies, including how they manifest, what causes them and what you can do about it.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the main culprits in cosmetics that are responsible for breakouts, redness, irritation, inflammation, dry patches and so much more. Let’s hunt out the common allergens that could be hiding in your cosmetics case.

How Do I Know if I’m Actually Allergic to My Makeup?

Makeup allergies show up in a variety of ways. The most common type of allergic reaction is known as contact dermatitis. There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic.

Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by a product that, once applied, directly damages your skin. Your skin may respond with redness, itchiness or a burning sensation. This is a clear indicator that your skin is not comfortable with the ingredients present in the cosmetics product.

Allergic contact dermatitis can show up as hives, swelling, redness or dry patches on your skin. This, too, is a dead giveaway that something isn’t right in your makeup.

Redness isn’t the only skin coloration to be on the lookout for. Some allergic reactions can create darkened skin and blackheads.

What are the Most Common Culprits of Cosmetics Allergies?

  1. Synthetic Fragrance: The top offender is most “fragrance” as listed on the ingredients.

Allergic to makeup

As it turns out, fragrance is not just harmful to your skin, it can also lead to a host of other issues, such as respiratory irritation and damage your reproductive system. Yikes.

Fragrance is one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in cosmetics. From chapsticks to facial cleansers, you’ll find artificial fragrance high up on the ingredients list.

You’ll need to scout for products that explicitly say “fragrance-free.” So-called “unscented” products can still contain a neutralizing fragrance that is used to mask the smell of other chemicals in the products. Even if it seems unscented, it could still trigger an unpleasant reaction.

2. Preservatives can also trigger allergies. Many cosmetic products are loaded with preservatives to keep them shelf-safe for months (or even years!) in all manner of inhospitable environments (such as trans-pacific shipping containers and sweltering hot warehouses). In order to keep their products usable for a long period of time, cosmetics companies turn to preservatives like parabens. Parabens prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, which sounds good in theory, but researchers have also found a link between this preservative and skin irritation.

Parabens are one of the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics because not everyone has a reaction to them. This is why you’ll commonly see parabens in foundations, powders, eyeliners, eyeshadows, lipstick, and blushes. They’re even in makeup removers, toothpastes, and sunscreens. However, if you’re one of the millions who is affected by parabens, you’ll want to avoid any product that contains this unholy preservative.

3. Cheap, low-grade ingredients. A lot of conventional cosmetic companies simply go for the cheapest ingredients possible. As long as these ingredients don’t present an issue with the majority of their customer base, these companies will opt for the cheapest (and therefore, lowest quality) products available. These ingredients are often used as fillers, such as talc.

The problem with this is that some of their customers will experience an allergic reaction– and it stinks when that person is you. If you have an autoimmune disease or a sensitivity to certain chemicals, you’re can never be too careful with what you wear because the slightest imbalance can leave you with irritated skin for days.

But let’s not overlook the glaring fact that, even if you don’t have an intense allergic reaction to these harmful ingredients, it doesn’t redeem them. These ingredients are still not worthy of putting on your skin, and certainly won’t nourish or protect it.

This is a fact that you’ll likely confront more and more as you get older. When you’re younger, your body can more readily fight off foreign invaders, such as the toxic ingredients that found in many cosmetics products. However, as you get older, your body doesn’t want to fight. It simply wants to expel. This is why you may feel like your skin is becoming more sensitive as you age. You’ve been blaming a change in the product’s formula, but it’s more than likely a change in the way that your immune system handles foreign threats.

Allergies Don’t Always Present Immediately

Allergic to makeup

You may be allergic to a product but not see a reaction until hours, weeks or even years later. How can that be? It’s all about how the immune system responds to the offending foreign agent. Most of the time, you’ll see a negative reaction within hours of application. However, it’s also possible for the immune system to develop a strong negative reaction to products that you’ve loved for years.

But is throwing more money at the problem the answer?

Not necessarily.

There are quite a few high-end cosmetics companies that still do business the same as drugstore brands. In a blind test where you simply compare ingredients, you’ll notice that the ingredients found in the luxury brands are identical to those in the drugstore brands. A lot of times, you simply pay for reputation, and not much else.  That’s why we call these brands “conventional” because the practices are the same whether they sell for $7 or $57.

Here’s how Red Apple Lipstick is different:

All of our products are handmade in small batches. Our products simply cannot sit on the shelf for five years (and counting). However, most conventional cosmetic companies create un-meltable products that can be sustained in a hot docking warehouse, overseas shipping containers and your hot car.

For example, conventional lipsticks contain phthalates, which are a type of plasticizer. Plasticizers are used to keep lipstick soft and not brittle over the course of many years and under brutal conditions. No wonder these harsh chemicals lead to skin irritation, chapped or dry lips! Here at Red Apple, we don’t use plasticizers or toxic preservatives. We believe in creating cosmetics that enhance your beauty while nourishing your skin at the same time.

Final Thoughts

It’s a pity that a product, which is designed to enhance your natural beauty, can actually destroy your skin. From redness to rashes, allergies are no joke and can leave you feeling hopeless. The good news is that you don’t have to fear what’s lurking in all beauty products. All of our products are free of toxic preservatives, gluten, lead, petroleum and other toxic chemicals. For allergy-free makeup, check out our store.  Or read more about our clean, non-toxic ingredient promises.


  1. It took me a while to realize that it was the LANOLIN in lipsticks and lip balms that was giving me chapped lips. Ii have never read an article that mentioned chapped lips as an allergic reaction to lipstick and lip balm. \Many people are allergic to wool, so it stands to reason that lanolin in cosmetics can’t be tolerated. Lip balms that contain flavor such as orange, coconut, clove, etc. give me a terrible headache and makes my eyes and throat hurt, as well.

    1. Andrea Harper says:

      Absolutely!! That is one of the many reasons why we make vegan cosmetics because lanolin is an irritant. I’m glad you’ve discovered the “flavor” ingredients that will give you a hard time, so you can avoid them without spending money on a product that doesn’t work for you.

  2. Taylor Wright says:

    I never knew that unscented products have things that mask chemicals within the product. My sister is worried that she is allergic to some of her perfumes and can’t tell which ones. I’ll be sure to share this with her so she can do her own testing.

    1. Andrea Harper says:

      Isn’t that interesting! Perfume manufacturers often times use phthalates (it gets the smell to “stick” around for awhile) – so that might help her determine that too. Often though phthalates are allowed to be grouped in under the label of “fragrance” – so if her perfumes have fragrance listed (which sounds funny too) that might help her determine that also.

      1. Courtney Martinez says:

        I have never, I mean never, been able to wear lipstick. I went to a med spa recently and the tech commented on how many tiny cysts I have on the inside of my lip, she said they come from to much cell turnover and asked what I was putting in my mouth that would cause that. I had no idea. So first I eliminated toothpaste(by far the most helpful, now I use cleure baking soda paste) then one by one eliminated all chapstick until I found one with only Shea butter and coconut butter. I couldn’t believe all this time that toothpaste and every chapstick that I have ever tried, just made my lips completely flakey and peeling my entire life. I finally have a normal healthy skin on my lips. This article was so eyeopening! Thanks

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