Asthma Safe Home Cosmetics

Cosmetic products, such as makeup, skin cleanser, soap, moisturizers, sunscreens, deodorants and perfumes are generally considered safe for use by anybody. However, for some people, cosmetic products can cause allergic reactions and other serious health problems, including asthma.

About Asthma

What is asthma? Asthma is a lung disease that develops when the airways become blocked or narrowed. Asthma usually affects people in temporary episodes, which may leave a person needing emergency treatment if symptoms are severe. Allergic reactions are the most common cause of asthma.

Asthma symptoms may be triggered by an allergic reaction. Allergic asthma, also called extrinsic asthma, is the most common type. Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that 20 million people in the United States suffer from asthma. Each year, more than 500,000 people visit hospitals for asthma-related problems. Although the symptoms can be severe and even potentially life-threatening, most asthma sufferers can control the condition and live a normal, healthy and active life. One key condition to controlling asthma is by avoiding anything that might cause an allergic reaction, such as using certain cosmetic products.

Understanding Cosmetic Ingredients

Cosmetics, by law, do not have to be tested for safety before they are sold on the open market. In other words, the cosmetics industry is self-regulated. The use of marketing terms promoting product safety, like “all-natural,” “fragrance-free,” and “hypoallergenic,” is not necessarily verified. Manufacturers are allowed to make whatever claims they want to about ingredients and manufacturing.

You may find some products claim to be “allergy-free” or even “dermatologist-tested.” However, such claims are no guarantee that a product will not cause an allergic reaction. All cosmetic products may potentially cause an allergic reaction. The best thing to do is read the labels for ingredients that you know cause reactions to your body.

Cosmetics Allergies Symptoms

Some skin-related cosmetics allergy symptoms include:

  • Breakouts that resemble hives
  • Itchiness (pruritus)
  • Raw skin
  • Redness
  • Swelling (angioedema).

Asthma-related allergy symptoms include:

  • Chest pain and/or tightness
  • Chronic coughing
  • Fever
  • Headache

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Listlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy and/or or sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy head.

If an onset of symptoms occur after using a particular cosmetic product, it is important to stop using that product immediately.

Causes of Cosmetic Allergies

Allergic reactions to cosmetics are caused when the skin breaks down as it comes into contact with harsh chemicals or other substances. Fortunately, severe allergic reactions to cosmetic products are relatively rare. Mild reactions are more common, especially in females and those with sensitive skin.

Chemical preservatives, used to prevent spoilage of ingredients, may also cause irritation. While these products are important in preventing bacteria and fungus growth, they may cause irritation or allergic reactions. Some preservatives that may cause cosmetics allergies include:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Formaldehyde
  • Imidazolidynl urea
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Paraben
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Quaternium-15.

What to Do If You Have a Reaction

If you believe you are having a reaction to a cosmetic product, stop using the product or suspected products immediately. If you are unable to determine which product caused the reaction, stop using all products and consult your doctor or healthcare provider. Your doctor can help determine to which product ingredients you are allergic. In the future, you can read ingredient lists on cosmetics and avoid purchasing products that include that chemical.

Cosmetic Safety Tips

For your safety, never share your makeup. Some doctors recommend rotating cosmetic products, because daily use increases the risk of developing an allergy to a certain product. Always wash your hands before and after applying makeup. If a cosmetic product you use has developed an odor or its appearance has changed, discard the product. Remember, cosmetic labels cannot guarantee an allergic reaction will not occur, so it is up to you to keep yourself safe. Avoiding products that may cause an allergic reaction helps ensure that an asthma attack is kept at bay.


Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (n.d.). Asthma overview. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Web site: