If your eye catches on a new ice cream flavor behind the glass, you always start with a taste test before you commit to a scoop (or two). So why should it be any different with new beauty products and skincare? Your face is more sensitive than the rest of your skin, which is why making it a habit to Patch Testing makeup can help your face and your wallet.
Why Patch Testing Makeup is Important
The skin on your face is more sensitive than other parts of your body. A primary reason for this is the fact that the skin on your face loses water faster than, for example, your arm or leg. Since molecules can escape the skin barrier faster, they can also permeate the skin barrier on your face quicker.
Anything trying to go across the skin barrier, whether that’s water out or chemicals in, has less distance to travel on your face compared to skin on other parts of your body. Your face also happens to have more pores, which also increases the ease of permeation.
Patch Testing Makeup allows you to see possible side effects and allergies without irritating the delicate skin on your face. Testing products elsewhere first means you don’t have to risk upsetting your skin every time you try out a new brand. Because your face is more sensitive, you want to avoid unnecessary irritants in your makeup and skincare.
Even though you may already know what you are allergic to, not all potential irritants are listed in cosmetic products. Specific fragrance and flavor ingredients, two common irritants in skincare and makeup, are not required to be listed on ingredient labels since they can be considered “trade secrets”.
This means that although you may know what irritates your skin, you might not always know when you’re buying products containing it. Since you can never be sure, the best practice is to always Patch Testing Makeup before decorating your lovely, but delicate, face.
It’s also a great way to make sure you don’t purchase any makeup that you don’t like. This may seem obvious, but a lot of times it takes seeing the color on your skin tone and outside of the bottle to see if you like the way it looks.
How to Patch Test Makeup
Pick an unobtrusive patch of skin that you can easily treat or hide in case you react to any product. The back of your knee or inside of your wrist can both be covered by clothing and mimics the smooth texture of your face for application comparison. Apply a small amount on the area of your choice and wait 24 hours at minimum to see if you react.
If you go 24 hours without any irritation, move on to a small portion of your face like the base of your jaw and apply a little product. Once again, wait 24 hours and monitor the area for any reactions that might suggest the product contains irritants.
The second step might seem repetitive, but it’s especially important to patch test makeup on your face even if it doesn’t irritate the skin on your leg or arm. We already know that the skin on your face is different and more sensitive than that on other parts of your body. It might be a different tone or texture, and, if you experience acne, patch testing might not always reveal the full effects of a product by the way it reacts with the skin on other parts of your body.
During the 24 hour test runs, look for some of the following signs that indicate a product is irritating your skin:
- Allergic reactions such as hives, rashes, or itchy/red eyes.
- Irritation that can include burning, itching, and redness where the product was applied.
- Comedogenicity, which is just a fancy word for how easily a substance clogs pores and therefore leads to acne and blackheads.
If you see any of these results, you want to look for a different product and definitely do not apply anything to your face if you’re not 100% comfortable with the patch test.
Many of the ingredients in makeup and skincare that cause reactions are known as contact allergens. There are over 3,700 identified allergens which can appear in cosmetic products despite their known effects. Here are some of the most common irritants you might find in potential makeup or skincare products:
- Fragrance: This label can encompass any number of ingredients and, as we know, the FDA doesn’t require them to be listed individually.
- Parabens: These chemicals help prolong the shelf life of makeup and skincare by mimicking estrogen, something that could permanently alter your hormones as it sinks through the skin layer.
- Acids: Acids are most commonly introduced into products meant to combat acne. Toners and cleansers might have acids which can dry out your skin and lead to burning and itching, not at all what you want from your skincare.
- Emollients: Moisturizing lipsticks and foundations that claim to lock in moisture might do so through emollients. They help your skin feel smooth and hydrated, but they also have high comedogenicity, clogging pores and causing breakouts.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate: This ingredient helps the skin on your face and scalp absorb ingredients products, like a passenger car on a microscopic train. Unfortunately, it has been linked to cancer and can also cause skin irritation, canker sores, eye damage, and acne. I, for one, do not want a ride on this train.
- Retinol: Retinol is a common ingredient in anti-aging products, but it also crops up in other makeup and can become carcinogenic when exposed to sunlight.
- Petroleum Distillates: Most often, these are combined with cancer causing chemicals. Oh yeah, and they can cause contact dermatitis.
- Phthalates: These are most often found in color cosmetics and are actually banned in the EU, but often hide under the “fragrance” ingredient on labels in the US.
- Triclosan: This chemical is often in antibacterial soaps, but it has been linked to thyroid complications and the growing resistance to natural antibodies.
- Lead: I can hear your disbelief already. No way they let makeup companies put lead in their products, right? Unfortunately, no. Lead can still be found in 61% of lipsticks.
- Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives: Formaldehyde is a known allergen, carcinogen, and skin sensitizer. Remember those animals you dissected in freshman biology? Remember that awful smell? Yeah, that’s formaldehyde and although it is illegal to use directly it can be released during the decomposition of other chemicals like:
- Diazolidinyl urea
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
- Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol)
When looking for makeup and skincare products, browse the natural and organic items. They follow stricter quality measures and include little to no chemicals in their recipes. Many of these irritants are sneaky in that you might not realize their effects until it’s too late. Avoid the gamble altogether and stick with products that have ingredients you can actually pronounce.