When skin cream can make your skin scream

Pollutants, air conditioning, even changeable weather can play havoc with skin, but many popular treatments only make matters worse…


According to the experts, around 50% of us suffer regularly from some form of dermatitis.

This can range from dryness and itching right up to painful rashes and blistering.

Technically there are two forms of dermatitis; allergic – in which the body’s immune system reacts against a particular agent, and irritant – in which the surface of the skin is visibly affected by contact with another material.

It is particularly prevalent in women and often stems from clothing or cosmetic products. The irony is that the causes of the problem, the allergens, rarely get the blame. Instead victims consider themselves to have delicate or sensitive skin.

In 2006 the Mayo Clinic drew up a rogue’s gallery of the top ten allergens most often identified as the real culprits in an episode of dermatitis.


Nickel (nickel sulphate hexahydrate) frequently used in jewellery and for clasps or hooks in clothing.

Gold (gold sodium thiosulphate) most often found in jewellery

Balsam of Peru (myroxylon pereirae) derived from a tree resin and used as a fragrance in perfumes and skin lotions.

Thimerosal, a compound of mercury used in antiseptics and as a preservative in some vaccines

Neomycin sulphate, a topical antibiotic common in first aid creams and ointments, also found in cosmetics, deodorant, soap, and pet food

Fragrance mix, a group of the eight most common fragrance allergens found in foods, cosmetic products, insecticides, antiseptics, soaps, perfumes, and dental products.

Formaldehyde, a preservative with multiple uses found in paper products, paints, medications, household cleaners, cosmetic products, and fabric finishes.

Cobalt chloride, found in medical products; hair dye; antiperspirant; plated in metal such as snaps, buttons or tools; and in cobalt blue pigment.

Bacitracin, another topical antibiotic.

Quaternium 15, a preservative found in cosmetic products such as self-tanners, shampoo, nail polish, and sunscreen or in industrial products such as polishes, paints, and waxes.


These were the most common offenders in a list of over 70 allergens which had been identified from more than 1500 case studies.

Treatment can be problematic, the best possible approach is to avoid the allergen altogether but that may not always be possible.

The application of corticosteroid cream can help, but at least 3% of patients were allergic to that.

In fact, more recent studies have shown that the majority of commercially popular cosmetic products designed to help minimise the effect of dermatitis actually contain ingredients that can have the opposite effect.


Shea Butter, this soothing ingredient may seem completely harmless, but anyone with a nut allergy could find themselves with a heightened sensitivity to it.

Triclosan, used in most antibacterial soaps and hand sanitisers is also a well-known irritant that can cause itchy rashes on palms and fingertips.

Parabens, used extensively by cosmetics manufacturers because it is the cheapest of stable preservatives, it is almost impossible to find products that don’t contain parabens like methyl, propyl, and benzyl hydroxybenzoate, all of which are known allergens.

Retinoids, despite all sorts of acne-fighting and skin toning (anti-ageing) properties, this is also a powerful irritant which can cause redness and itching. It makes the skin more sensitive to the sun in summer and prone to dryness in winter.


Most of the skincare and maintenance products available on the shelves will contain one or more of these elements creating a never ending spiral of irritation and counter irritation leaving your sin without respite.

But there are alternatives available if you look hard enough.

The MHM shop offers DermaBalm Dry Skin Cream which you can buy here for £19.99 per bottle or £17.99 if you order more than one.

Whatever product you decide to use, check its ingredients to avoid those irritants and don’t be afraid to consult your GP if skin problems persist, they will have immense experience and will have some tried and trusted solutions.




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