Nothing kills the excitement of trying a new product faster than an allergic reaction. Whether it caused itchy hives, irritation, flaky skin, or even breakouts, many of us have a one-strike-you're-out rule, and can't wait to reset our skin and never see the product that wronged us again. But what's the best way to get your skin back on track, and what could have possibly caused the reaction in the first place?
To find out, I emailed with Jess Morelli, founder of Palermo Body; Rachel Winard, founder of Soapwalla; Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salon and Skincare Collection; and Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and Director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Associate Clinical Professor for the Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center.
According to Dr. Tanzi, there are many different types of ingredients in beauty products that could cause an allergic reaction from fragrance, to preservatives, to dyes. If you want to know exactly what ingredients you're allergic to, the only way to know for certain, she says, is to see a dermatologist for a patch test. However, Morelli adds that sometimes reactions aren't necessarily about "having an allergy to a particular ingredient but rather the ratio in which the ingredient is used in the product."
It's also important to note that a reaction could be circumstantial. Morelli explains that weather, hormones, and diet can also play a role in unusual skin behavior. So if you want to give the suspect product another shot, only do so when you feel comfortable, and keep a close eye on your daily routine to see if there are any other factors that could be affecting your skin. Of course, if the reaction you felt was one that could be described as itchy, tingly, or strange (as opposed to a breakout), Dr. Tanzi says, "It could be an allergy developing and the next time you use the product the reaction could be much worse." In this case, it's better to be safe than sorry — just ditch the product.
Whatever type of reaction you experienced though, there are a few things you can do to help your skin quickly recover. Here are seven that the experts recommend:
1. Stop Usage
First things first: Immediately stop using whatever product you suspect may be responsible for causing a reaction in your skin, says Dr. Tanzi. It's best to play it safe if your skin is irritated or inflamed, so if there's anything you're unsure of, stop using it in the meantime.
2. Give Your Skin A Break
According to Winard, "One of the best things you can do after a breakout from a product is to give your skin a break — don't inundate it with additional products, even if they're calming." Give yourself a day or two without using other products so your skin has a chance to recalibrate.
3. Try Hydrocortisone Cream
Try: Aveeno Active Naturals Hydrocortisone Cream, $5, Target
If you have red, inflamed, scaling, and/or itchy skin and suspect an allergic reaction, Dr. Tanzi recommends applying an OTC hydrocortisone cream for two weeks. This should be enough time to make sure everything calms down and leaves your system. If you're still experiencing symptoms after two weeks though, Dr. Tanzi says to see your dermatologist.
4. Give Your Skin A Steam
Try: Palermo Body Botanical Facial Steam, $32, Palermo Body
To gently soothe and heal inflamed and irritated skin, Morelli suggests trying a facial steam. Lower your face over a bowl of hot water to allow the steam to open your pores. Add some herbs or flowers such as calendula, rose, and yarrow to the water so the steam will deliver additional healing benefits.
5. Use Only Familiar Products
Try: Joanna Vargas Euphoria Mask, $75 for 5, Violet Grey
Once you're comfortable using products on your skin after a reaction, Morelli says it's important to stick to products you're familiar with until your skin has fully healed. So whatever you've used plenty of times before to know it causes absolutely no irritation is what should be safe to use while your skin recovers.
6. Opt For Natural Products
Try: Artnaturals Jojoba Oil, $18, Artnaturals
Natural and non-comedogenic products should also be safe to use while your skin resets, says Winard. For example, if you have dry skin, she recommends using pure jojoba oil in place of your moisturizer. When in doubt, she says to default to products that are formulated for sensitive skin as these should be free from common irritants.
7. Try A Calming Mask
Vargas says a great, natural way to help your skin heal after a reaction is to simply spread on some aloe straight from the plant. Try this quick DIY she recommends for instant relief: Mix three tablespoons of aloe vera juice with one tablespoon of aloe vera gel and two drops of rose oil. Apply the mixture all over the affected area with a cotton ball, and rinse off after 20 minutes. Whether you were experiencing redness, patchiness, sensitivity, or any other type of reaction to a product, this mask will help jumpstart your skin so it quickly gets back on track.