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DigitalBlue's avatar

Are there any common ingredients in soap, lotions/creams, shampoo and toothpaste that can cause an allergic reaction?

Asked by DigitalBlue (7072points) March 25th, 2014

I have been reacting to common grooming products for a while, now, mostly with itching and hives. At first I thought it was just my sensitive skin, so I switched to a less complicated moisturizer from the health food store by my house.
Then I realized that I was reacting to soap and shampoo, so I switched to an uncomplicated “natural” soap bar and sulfate free shampoo and conditioner. That seemed to help.
Now something is wrong with my mouth. I did switch to Sensodyne toothpaste two days ago (from Colgate Total). I had dental work done a few times over the last month, and my teeth and jaw have been very tender, I thought a toothpaste for sensitivity would help. Unfortunately, I seem to have reacted negatively to the toothpaste, my mouth is raw and swollen, like I would expect from an allergy.

Is there a common ingredient that I should know about? When I try to do a search, it just gives me a lot of sites about how toothpaste is destroying my health and how commercial soap is toxic and evil. That’s fine, and all, but not really what I’m looking for, heh.

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11 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

The Environmental Working Group is your go-to place for this info. They vet 1000’s of products yearly.

Seek's avatar

I have a friend who has anaphylactic and irritant reactions to propelyne glycol.

So… yeah, all of those things.

Cruiser's avatar

I manufacture products that use industrial chemicals that I KNOW cause people to break out so I have to formulate with caution and was pretty surprised when I saw these same chemicals in soaps, shampoos, cleaners etc. Benzyl Alcohol was one that popped into my mind when I first read your question.

I would see an allergist and get tested. Also with my customers who all of a sudden start breaking out there is very often a history of exposure to other chemicals and they now developed a sensitivity to more chemicals. Has your environment changed at all in your recent past? Plus if you live in the North this long winter has caused us to keep doors and windows closed so your level PPM of indoor pollutants could be very high for this long winter. There are a lot of variables you will have to review by process of elimination. Good luck.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I don’t think anything has changed that I can nail down, and I feel like this has been going on for a long time (like the last year or more). It is never terrible, just annoying, what I mean is that it’s not like my throat is closing off or anything like that, I just get these sudden rashes or minor reactions that are bothersome but not scary. However, it does seem progressive or compounded. Once I find something that isn’t bothering me, then out of the blue something else will do it. I have about a zillion health issues going on right now, so this is just a drop in the bucket of things that need to be dealt with, but it’s a little like a total system failure, everything seems to be breaking all at once. I think that finding shampoo that doesn’t make me break out in hives all over the upper half of my body makes me feel a little bit in control.
I have a long history of allergies, I’ve been dealing with hives and runny noses and sinus surgery and asthma since I was a kid, so I haven’t had an allergy panel in a very long time. Do they deal with chemical irritants? I don’t ever remember that even coming up. I know I am allergic to dust and grass, but benzyl alcohol? Will a doctor even check for that?

Thanks, all, for your answers.

cazzie's avatar

I do a bit of formulation for personal care products. My first thought is fragrance. I can give you a list of things to look for and avoid, but if your symptoms are becoming systemic, you need to see your doctor. By systemic I mean swelling that lasts longer than a day, lethargy, nausea, blurred vision, coughing, skin redness, rashes, headaches… Our immune system does a good job until it doesn’t and then we need a really good doctor. There are alternative products you can try. Even make some yourself. I’m happy to share my recipes.

RocketGuy's avatar

If your skin is sensitive, avoid products containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It makes for satisfying foaming, but dries your skin. Products that use Ammonium Laurel Sulfate instead are much gentler on your skin. Those products cost more, but it’s worth it (that is what I do).

cazzie's avatar

@RocketGuy umm… not exactly. It has more to do with the percentage used. There are body washes you can buy that have SLS or ALS and are very drying, true, but there are some that are nice to your skin. The trick is to find one that has an oil as a second or third ingredient. It is usually sunflower oil ( Helianthus Annus) or almond oil (Prunus amygdalus dulcis). I make my own soap, so I know exactly how much ‘over fatting’ I have in the bar so that they aren’t drying.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@cazzie yes, I’d love to hear, thank you.

cazzie's avatar

There is SLS in toothpaste and liquid soaps and shampoos. Also, what @Seek_Kolinahr said about propylene glycol, but if that is the case, you’d have a rash under your arms from your antiperspirant as well. There are loads of fragrances and flavour oils in shampoos, toothpastes and I find that people are mostly allergic to these. There are ‘Aryvedic’ toothpastes that have clove oil rather than mint, but clove oil can also cause reactions because it’s main component, Eugenol, is a strong skin irritant. I think Crest has some sort of pink coloured toothpaste that is for sensitive teeth, or just brush your teeth with bakingsoda.

As for the SLS-free shampoo, I tried them but I still got welts under my skin. I have to use an SLS or ALS based shampoo. I think ‘White Rain’ is ALS based and I get that when I am in the US. Here in Norway, I have to find the least complicated and mildest smelling shampoo. I can’t use an over-all conditioner everyday, so I make my own basic leave in conditioner and use a bit of Argon oil in it in between washes. I have really long, coloured hair.

If you are still reacting to products, go fragrance-free, but read the labels. They can be called ‘fragrance free’ but still be allowed to have ‘masking fragrance’ in them. Avoid products that have Eugenol. Linalool, Gerinol listed. These are chemicals in perfumes that can cause sensitivities.

Your symptoms may spontaneously disappear and you may be able to reintroduce your favourite products back into your routine, but just take care.

RocketGuy's avatar

My kids and I get dandruff when we use shampoo with SLS. We are good with ALS.

My younger daughter was allergic to Red #40, which is in many kids’ products including toothpaste. As soon as we cut out products with Red #40, she was fine. Luckily she has grown out of that allergy.

cazzie's avatar

Red #40 is banned here.

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