Skin Health
Allergens: What Are They?
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What Are Allergens?

  • Allergens are ingredients or substances that are proven to cause allergic reactions in skin.
  • They can also irritate pores, causing infection and acne.
  • Many allergens are also photo-allergens, which can be stimulated by light exposure (the sun but also indoor lights) to cause darkening.
  • And as allergens cause reactions, they cause inflammation, which is linked to several skin problems including acne, aging, psoriasis, eczema, etc.
A common misconception is that allergens are chemicals and that natural ingredients are non-allergenic. This is not the case. In fact, many natural ingredients and organic substances are highly allergenic. These include some natural essences and oils, fragrances, nuts, fruits, etc.

Allergens can be found regularly in cosmetics (hair care, body care, skin care, makeup, etc.) as well as in clothing (elastics, rubber, dyes), gym equipment and shoes (rubber, dyes), electronic casings (mobile phone cases, laptop computers), metals (in electronic casings, jewelry, belt and accessory buckles or accents) and even our environment (plants, fruits).

There are many substances considered the most common allergens, and this list changes regularly, with certain ingredients/substances being included or excluded.

We refer to the allergen lists of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Many more organizations around the world conduct patch tests, but these two organizations conduct the most patch tests (10,000 patients in 13 centers in North America for the NACDG; 18,000 patients in 10 European countries for ESSCA, for example) and publish their findings regularly. They use standard and expanded patch test series that include most of the same allergens used by other organizations in their patch tests.

If you have skin that is sensitive or prone to acne or pigmentation:

– Avoid allergens. At VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® this is as simple as choosing products with high VH-Ratings.

– Ask your dermatologist for a patch test. This painless procedure can show you which ingredients and substances you in particular need to avoid.

– If your dermatologist is a member of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, s/he can enter your patch test results into the Contact Allergen Management Program (CAMP). Instead of getting just a list of your allergens, you also get a list of specific products and brands that you can use.

For more on hypoallergenicity click here.

To find a dermatologist in your area that conducts patch tests, click here