Skin Health
Reactions: About, Allergic, Irritant, Sudden, Prevention, Using VMV & Other Products, etc.
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There is a lot to reactions. Did you know that when you get one, it may not even be due to the last product you applied? Or that it may be an irritant reaction and not a true allergic reaction? Or that you can use a product for days, weeks, even years without a problem and then suddenly no longer be able to use it? Read on for more information on skin reactions.


I Had An Allergic Reaction to a Product, But My Doctor Said It’s An Irritant Reaction. What’s the Difference?

The Last Product Applied Is Not Always The Culprit

I’ve Been Using the Same Products for Years But Suddenly Developed a Reaction/Acne. Why?

Reactions Can Include Rashes, Redness, Itching, Swelling, But Also Acne and Pigmentations

My Doctor Told Me to Cut Down on the Number of Products I’m Using and Try Not To Mix Brands Too Much. Why?

Can I Use VMV Products With Another Brand’s Products?

Tips On Preventing Reactions


I Had An Allergic Reaction to a Product, But My Doctor Said It’s An Irritant Reaction. What’s the Difference?

Allergic and irritant reactions are complex, involving different cells and having many variables. But some general information you mind find useful includes:

  • Irritant reactions can occur simply by using a product (that otherwise could be well tolerated) incorrectly, such as applying too much of it or using an active product too frequently too fast.
  • Many irritants can actually be beneficial to the skin (with proper use), like certain peels, active ingredients and prescription skin medications.
  • Irritants may not elicit reactions (or may elicit only mild reactions—mild enough to be mistaken as something else such as dryness) unless a high enough concentration of a substance is applied or the skin is in contact with the substance for a long enough time.
  • An irritant reaction tends to occur on the site of contact or application, and more on areas that may have conditions that promote reactivity (sweating, light exposure, etc.).
  • Allergens are substances that are proven in patch tests on thousands of people over several years and frequently across multiple countries to cause allergic reactions.
  • Allergic reactions can be more severe and systemic, and may spread to other areas even where no contact occurred and over larger areas of skin.
  • While an irritation can “just happen”, an allergy has to develop. The skin can be exposed to a substance for some time (days, weeks, even years) before developing a threshold and becoming allergic. Once it becomes allergic, any exposure to the substance triggers a quick allergic reaction regardless of the amount or frequency of application.

Some other basic characteristics:

Irritant Reaction (Irritant Contact Dermatitis) Allergic Reaction (Allergic Contact Dermatitis)
General Description

  • stingers – rapidly in minutes / few hours
  • mild to severe reaction may have delay
  • heals relatively quickly
  • body’s immune system not involved
  • may need more quantity of the substance or frequency of application to show reaction
General Description

  • usually 24-72 hours before symptoms show
  • usually takes weeks to years (allergy needs to develop)
  • heals slower
  • has to be recognized by memory cells; immunologic
  • once allergy develops, even smaller amounts may already trigger allergic reaction
Body Distribution

  • only to some contact areas
  • usually not spreading to distant parts
Body Distribution

  • more on the contact areas
  • but may spread to other areas and even cover large areas
Symptoms

  • stinging, burning, pain, sore sensations; itching may be present
  • inconsistent skin reactions to different areas
Symptoms

  • itching is frequently the main symptom
  • more consistent skin reactions to different areas

To be sure, ask your doctor for a patch test. This painless procedure can isolate which ingredients and other substances (like elastics, dyes and other materials in clothing, electronic gadgets, jewelry, even gym equipment) cause allergic and irritant reactions in your skin in particular. If your doctor is a member of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, your results can be entered into the Contact Allergen Management Program so you get not only a list of the particular substances you need to avoid, but a list of products you can use.
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The Last Product Applied Is Not Always The Culprit

Dermatologists regularly report of similar cases as Patient 1’s (let’s call her “Jane”). Jane has used products A, B, and C for many years without a problem. All three products contained allergens but Jane seemed to be able to use them just fine. She tried a new product and developed red rashes on her face. She quickly concluded that it was the last product applied (the newest) that caused the problem.

Her doctor asked her to stop all products for 7 days and re-start each one at a time, as well as to get a patch test.

The patch test showed that Jane was actually sensitive to all of her first three products but since her exposure to them was through such small quantities over time, her skin’s repeated irritation was minimal and not noticeable. The exposure was steady and cumulative, however, and eventually got to the point where the skin was already irritated—just not visibly so—and could not have taken any new product, safe or not. By the time Jane added the new product (even though the patch test showed that this last, 4th product was the only one she COULD use), the skin was already so previously irritated that it reacted.

To be sure, if you experience a reaction:

  • Check other products you’re using for known allergens (dyes, fragrances, masking fragrances, balsam of peru, geraniol or cinnamic alcohol, tea tree oil, parabens, preservatives, propolis, beeswax, etc.)
  • Stop using all products for 7 days. See 1st Aid For SkinReactions: The 7-Day Skin Fast for a step-by-step guide.
  • Ask your doctor for a patch test to confirm the culprit and your sensitivities.

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I’ve Been Using the Same Products for Years But Suddenly Developed a Reaction/Acne. Why?

There are several possible reasons:

First, remember that your skin is a living organism. Like any of your body’s organs and systems, it—as well as its behavior, characteristics, health and how it reacts to stimuli (your environment, your lifestyle, ingredients and other substances near or applied on the skin) can definitely change over time. Some causes are:

  • hormonal changes
  • changes in stress levels
  • changes in living or work environments
  • dietary, health, or exercise changes
  • aging
  • the incorrect use of a product
  • the development of an allergy (see I Had An Allergic Reaction to a Product, But My Doctor Said It’s An Irritant Reaction. What’s the Difference?)
  • a late reaction to products due to cumulative but low-dose abuse by irritants over time
  • the addition of a new product that may cause an allergic or irritant or contact-acne reaction
  • the addition of any new product (even one that is safe for you) IF your skin is already being over-exposed to too many products, or is already irritated, or if your skin has been slowly exposed to low doses of irritants over time and needs only one more product to “push it over the edge”.

Because of this innate characteristic of the skin changing over time, the way it reacts or behaves vis-à-vis the products you use can also change over time: that is, your skin can “suddenly” react differently to a product you have been using for ages with no prior problems.

The correct usage of a product is very important, especially when using active treatments. Just as a computer may crash from the installation of pirated software or burn up after being plugged into the wrong electrical socket, a skin care product can cause problems if it is not used properly.

As well, just because you did not have asthma, diabetes, thyroid conditions, or other medical conditions as a child does not mean you cannot develop them later. Similarly, just because your skin was “perfect” for years, or your skin responded well to a product for years, doesn’t mean it won’t develop problems later or respond differently to the same product later.
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Reactions Can Include Rashes, Redness, Itching, Swelling, But Also Acne and Pigmentations

When we think of reactions, we normally think of the redness, itching, rashes and some swelling that normally occur with irritant or allergic reactions. The skin can react in other ways, too. For example, while allergens and irritants do not tend to clog pores the way comedogens do, they can irritate pores, which can lead to infection and acne. Any skin “trauma” like a pimple, insect bite, rash, or any other inflammation (including contact dermatitis) can result in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation where the skin darkens on the site of the previous inflammation.
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My Doctor Told Me to Cut Down on the Number of Products I’m Using and Try Not To Mix Brands Too Much. Why?

It might be because your doctor thinks your skin is looking very dry, irritated or close to becoming irritated.

As a general rule: the more products you use and the more you mix products from different brands…

  • the higher the risks of potential cross reactions and irritations;
  • the more difficult to identify culprits should you develop a reaction (a reaction is not automatically caused by the last product used; your doctor will have to try to determine the cause of a reaction by a proces of elimination or patch test, both of which can be more difficult with many products involved);
  • the poorer the chances of getting in-depth customer support (you can expect company representatives to have solid knowledge about their own products, but they probably will not have access to much information about other products).

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Can I Use VMV Products With Another Brand’s Products?

Combining products can be tricky so there are some important things to keep in mind:

First, we cannot speak with authority about other brands’ products or any product or service that VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® does not manufacture or provide. It would be unfair for us to even try to do so.

What we can do is give you information about the products that we do manufacture.

  • VMV products go through a very particular formulation process that begins with the exclusion of all (or as many as possible) known allergens, research done by our founding dermatologist-dermatologist and formulation trials (with early formulations prescribed to patients).
  • We do extensive patch testing of each raw material and ingredient (even before the final formulation), the final formulation, and even the formulation in its packaging as well as accessories and applicators.
  • For claims, we conduct clinical studies using randomized, double-blind, evidence-based protocol (the most respected clinical protocol) for efficacy. Our studies are so medically respected that many have been chosen for publication, awards, and/or presentation in peer-reviewed medical journals and dermatology conventions around the world. Some of the largest multinational pharmaceutical and laser companies contract our research center to do studies for them, too.
  • Even more tests follow that include but aren’t limited to stability, temperature resistance, microbial resistance (our microbial assays test for more than the required organisms of many regulatory boards).
  • We source our ingredients from trusted, highly-reputed purveyors, mostly in Europe and the USA.
  • Finally, we produce our own products, in our own laboratories, completely under our control. We do not outsource to third-party manufacturing facilities that may share stock formulations with other brands or other doctors. We oversee our quality from research to raw material sourcing, to testing, production, post-market surveillance and sustained case studies throughout the lifespan of each product.

Many skin care and personal care products are very good and effective. But different companies have different methods, testing protocols, and formulations. While certain ingredients or certain actives might be effective, others may create resistance over time. Or, the rest of the formulation may contain irritants or allergens. Even if a product’s overall quality is excellent and you are happy using it, there could be other ingredients that could cause irritations later through a slow repeat insult of repeated exposure over time.

Important to remember whether you are using VMV products or another brand’s products: the more products you use and the more you mix products from different brands…

  • the higher the risks of potential cross reactions and irritations;
  • the more difficult to identify culprits should you develop a reaction (a reaction is not automatically caused by the last product used; your doctor will have to try to determine the cause of a reaction by a proces of elimination or patch test, both of which can be more difficult with many products involved);
  • the poorer the chances of getting in-depth customer support (you can expect company representatives to have solid knowledge about their own products, but they probably will not have access to much information about other products).

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Tips On Preventing Reactions

Try to stick to one brand:

  • Products formulated, tested, and manufactured by one company stand a better (but not guaranteed) chance of sharing the same quality and protocols, and of working well together. The company will be better able to give you more knowledgeable support, as their representatives should have been trained on all the products that they make.
  • Always try an impromptu “patch test” before purchasing a product. Click here to view, print, or save The VMV Patch Test, a step-by-step guide in our online skintelligencenter on how to do this simple procedure.
  • Always introduce new products one at a time, with at least 3 days in between to make sure you’re not allergic. Do this even with VMV products (we omit all allergens but you may be sensitive to an ingredient that isn’t an allergen).
  • Read all information on a product that is included on the packaging, in leaflets or brochures, or online. They may contain important cautionary or usage notes.
  • Follow all instructions carefully. This is crucial when using active ingredients but is important when using any personal care, skin care, or health product.
  • If you develop a reaction, try the 7-day Skin Fast to help your skin recover and then to re-introduce one product at a time—this can help you and your doctor narrow down the possible culprit (it may not be the last product you applied).
  • If you have allergies in your family, or have a history of skin sensitivity or reactions to personal care products or other skin problems, we urge you to get a proper dermatological consultation with a boarded dermatologist. Ask your doctor about a patch test—this painless procedure involves a little bit of an investment up front, but because it shows you exactly which substances and ingredients you in particular are sensitive to, it can save you significant expense, time, and frustration that can come with random trial and error. If your doctor is also a member of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, your results can be entered into the Contact Allergen Management Program (CAMP) which can tell you specifically which products/brands you can use.

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Click here for the 7-Day Skin Fast (Reaction 1st Aid)

Click here for tips on selecting a dermatologist.

Click here for more information about getting a patch test.

Click here for help in finding a dermatologist in your area who does patch tests.

Click here for more information about allergens.

Click here for more on hypoallergenicity.