Allergens in our cosmetics: Beauty at a cost

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Food Allergy Awareness Week is celebrated annually to promote knowledge of food allergens and their impact. Food allergens are not exclusive to foods and drinks, but also the beauty and cosmetic products we use. Epidermal products such as make-up and moisturiser will not cause severe anaphylaxis, however they will cause contact dermatitis [1]. In contrast, products such as toothpastes are at risk of causing anaphylaxis as allergens will be absorbed into the gums and cause a systemic reaction.

Examples of food allergens that can be found in beauty products are peanuts, corn, milk, coconut, shellfish, wheat, sesame, egg, tree nuts and soy.

Luckily food allergen research is not a new topic. Copious amounts of scientific papers are in the domain highlighting their effects, and to a certain degree, their findings can be extrapolated to food allergens in beauty products. Among research, we are helping contribute to progression in allergen understanding with de la Bastida et al. using one of our anaerobic workstations to study soy-based products [2].

Here are some hints and tips for identifying and dealing with food allergens in products:

  • Check the ingredients. Some beauty products have ingredient lists hidden under ‘peel-back’ labels.
  • Use social media and blogs for ‘cheat sheets’. If you search a certain product, there will be a list of their allergens. Similarly, you can search for each allergen and the products you are allowed to use will be listed.
  • Always do a patch test. Apply the product to sensitive parts of the body, such as behind the ear or the crook of the elbow. A reaction within 24 hours indicates an allergy.
  • Request samples of beauty products before committing to full size product purchases.

Are you in the food testing industry? Our Whitley WASP Touch® could save time and money in your laboratory. With this product, we have a free one-year Quality Counts Scheme (Europe only) with the option to continue this service.

Quality Counts scheme at DWS


1. Jovanovic M. Kontakt-Sensibilisierung und Allergene in der Zusammensetzung von Kosmetikprodukten - aktuelles Wissen. Medizinische Überprüfung. 2021;74(5–6):159–66. doi:10.2298/mpns2106159j
2. Ruiz de la Bastida A, Peirotén Á, Langa S, Curiel JA, Arqués JL, Landete JM. Auswirkung der Lagerung und Hitzeeinwirkung auf die Gehalte an bioaktiven Flavonoiden, die in fermentierten Sojadrinks produziert werden. LWT. Januar 2022;154:112872. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2021.112872

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