Thursday, 13 June 2013

An allergic reaction to mascara

This blog has come about because I have been doing a lot of internet based, non scientific research into products that I use on a regular basis.

I have recently had a few bad allergic reactions to make-up that I had used. I've always reacted to lipstick in one way or another and have just avoided wearing it unless I have lip balm underneath. However, I recently bought new mascara and a week later had a reaction to that.

Because I've never reacted to mascara before I was interested to see what the ingredients were to see what I could have reacted to.

I am allergic to rosin or colophony (and all the similar products with various other  names  - hydrogenated rosinate, colophonium, tall oil, abietic acid, methyl abietiate alcohol and pentaerythrityl hydrogenated rosinate) but until then had not known that rosin would be used in mascara.

Rosin, in its natural form is a sap that is in trees.  I appear to be allergic to it in its natural and synthetic form.  It is found in numerous products including plasters, sunscreen, waxes, face paint, fake tattoos, ink and various cosmetics (DermNet NZ has a really good fact sheet about the allergy and what products include it).

It is surprising that it has taken me this long to get around to looking at what it is that I react to and finding out its chemical names so I can identify it.  But I think that may be because when you look at the list of names above it is a pretty hard task to remember them all and read the back of the ingredients list each time at the supermarket.  Unhelpfully they don't just say "rosin or a derivative".  The trial and error approach works 90% of the time.  Companies also change the formula of products and do not have to warn us.  So a risk is that something that I may have used for years will suddenly become infected with rosin and I'll end up with a hideous reaction to it.

Back to the mascara, while I was waiting for L'Oreal to send me the ingredients list I did some google searching to see if anyone else had a similar reaction to mascara.  The main reaction that was documented was an allergic reaction to shellac (see here).  This was a surprise - I knew shellac as a extremely long lasting nail polish and had heard it was used in wood glaze or floorboards.  I had not heard of it being in make-up.

This was the point when I started wondering what else was in make-up. If shellac is in make-up and no one bats an eye lash (ha ha) then what else is hiding in these products that we slap on our faces every day.  I decided I may as well write down these findings in case anyone else is interested, and for my own benefit as well.  So, that's the premise for the blog so far.  You never know, I may get sidetracked and begin blogging about cats. But for now it is a "What's Really in our Food" style blog about chemicals and household/make-up products.

From what I have discovered so far I think it is almost better to be in the dark about this! So read the posts at your own peril.  There are a number of products that I either thought were natural, or generally safe, but aren't really.  It is also interesting to see how much (read: not much) testing is actually done.  Websites that focus on the safety out ingredients (EWG's Skin Deep is a great one) don't often have much information about the products.  Considering the same websites also publish full studies when they have them I doubt it is for lack of trying to get the information.

Oh, and it turned out that the mascara that I used (Maybellene Great Lash, black, waterproof) contained hydrogenated rosinate so no surprises that I had reacted to it!

Photo credit: pumpkincat210 / / CC BY

1 comment:

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