Tag

allergen

Featured, Healthy Living, Skin

Skin & Food Allergies Are Not The Same ThingFeatured

If You Can’t Eat It, You Can Probably Still Use It In A Cream.

“I’m allergic to almonds…can I use a cream with an ingredient extracted from almonds?” “I can’t eat coconuts…that means I can’t use coconut oil, right?”

If you have prick tested positive to something, it is more likely than not that you can still use it on your skin.

The main reason is that, while complex, skin and other allergies involve such different cells, systems, and modalities.

 

Quick Breakdown

There are 4 types of reactions that we tend to have. Type 1 and Type 4 are most relevant to prick tests and patch tests.

Type 1: asthma, naso-bronchial allergies, pets, dust mites, pollen, and food

  • Is IgE-mediated and involves antibodies.
  • Is what a lot of us think of when we think about an allergic reaction (the trouble breathing (anaphylaxis), puffing up, urticaria, etc.
  • While there can be some delayed responses, always something happens quickly — within 60 minutes. This reaction is very straightforward because it is IgE mediated and IgE exists in the body.
  • Food is included here but is more complicated (see below)

Type 4: contact dermatitis

  • Is non-IgE mediated and does not involve antibodies.
  • It is T-cell mediated.
  • The response is not immediate as with Type 1. It is delayed because there is more of a process. There has to be a sensitization that then triggers a reaction to occur. This can take a week to many weeks.
  • Instead of being IgE-mediated, this is T-cell mediated.

 

Food Reactions Can Be More Complicated

Food reactions include…

  • IgE-mediated: e.g. strawberries, peanuts
  • Non IgE-mediated: food protein-induced enterocolitis, which is T cell-mediated, does not happen immediately, and is usually outgrown, such as when a baby is allergic to the protein found in cow’s milk.
  • Non-allergic reaction which is metabolic: such as when you don’t have the enzyme needed to break down sugar lactose, i.e., you’re lactose intolerant).
  • Food allergies can be difficult to isolate because there can be many substances at play in one food. This is especially true for drugs. Drugs are made up of so many compounds so it is very difficult to isolate the trigger. This is why drug IgE testing is rare and very hard to distinguish. On the other hand, an allergy to a drug with skin manifestations can be patch tested.
  • Other food reactions include:
    • Adverse reaction (non-immune mediated)
    • Toxic (puffer fish toxin)
    • Conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is not an allergy but has the same symptoms.

 

Where It Gets More Complex for Skin: Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a different type of allergy with many theories still being explored. Inheritance plays a factor. One theory is regarding the presence of over-reactors — in which case, an over-reaction to food may also occur. And contact dermatitis is frequently a factor.

There is also “atopic march”: if you had eczema as child, you could be more likely to have asthma and naso-bronchial allergies as an adult.

For more on atopic dermatitis (eczema), check out What Is Eczema.

 

What To Know If You Have Skin & Food Allergies:

1. A prick test is for IgE, involves antibodies, and can be more complicated. Even if you prick test positive to shellfish, for example, your allergist needs to correlate the findings with your history to determine if you really cannot eat shellfish.

2. A patch test is very straightforward: If you patch test positive to something, contact with it will be a problem.

3. If your prick test is positive for something — unless you ALSO patch test positive to it — you can probably use it on your skin because the modalities and systems are so different. For example, if you prick test positive for almonds, the chances are very high that you can use a product on your skin with an ingredient extracted from almonds.

3. If you patch test and prick test positive to something, you need to avoid it in food and in your skin. For example, if you patch and prick test positive to nickel, you’ll react to it when touching it and if it is in your food.

 

Which Test To Get, and From Which Doctor?

For a patch test, see a dermatologist. For a prick test, see an allergist.

Some allergists do patch testing, too. But if you have a long history of stubborn skin reactions, we’d suggest seeing a dermatologist who is a contact dermatitis specialist for your patch testing. They are…specialists! They would have more patch test tray options, can really help identify what you need to avoid, and can identify other possible skin conditions that may also need to be managed. If you also have non-skin allergies, your contact dermatitis specialist can work closely with your allergist.

How to find such a doctor?

  • In the USA: search contactderm.org. You can search by zip code and members of the American Contact Dermatitis Society also use CAMP (the Contact Allergen Management Program) to show you not just the ingredients and substances you need to avoid but brands and products that you can use (where you’ll see VMV Hypoallergenics a lot!)
  • In the Philippines: PM VMV Skin Research Centre + Clinics, where patch testing is a specialty.
  • In other countries: ask your official dermatological society about local contact dermatitis experts who offer patch testing.

 

How Else VMV Hypoallergenics Can Help?

Ask us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results and even possible cross reactants.

Otherwise, use the VH-Rating to shop safely for VMV products! Check out this helpful video on how it works.

At VMV, we make it easy to be guided by your patch test.

1) We practice allergen ommision

As our basis for what to omit, we refer to studies by independent groups of doctors who specialize in contact dermatitis, such as the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies. They regularly publish top contact allergens based on thousands of patch tests done in multiple countries.

2) We do our own patch testing…

…not just of the final formulation but also of each ingredient, raw material, and applicators (and we do allergen reviews of packaging, too).

3) Our VH-Rating System shows how many of the top contact allergens are NOT in a formulation.

If an allergen is included, the VH-Rating is lower and marked by an asterisk which corresponds to the ingredients list — you’ll see the allergen clearly marked with the asterisk and underlined, too. If they’re not allergens that you patch tested positive to, you can still use the product.

The VH-Rating System has been so effective that a clinical study published in a leading contact dermatitis journal showed less than 0.1% reactions reported in over 30 years.

4) We manufacture our own products.

We can ensure that our formulations are not mixed, stored, or handled in containers used for formulations with allergens, or otherwise contaminated by allergens..


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a VMV cream!)

Featured, Skin

What Is The Validated Hypoallergenic Rating System (VH-Rating System)?Featured

“Hypoallergenic” can be an ambiguous term. It is regulated in some FDAs, but not all. When regulated, certain evidence is normally required to justify the claim but requirements can differ. Our founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist wanted a more objective, consistent, and clear way to prove what “hypoallergenic” meant in formulations.

VMV Hypoallergenics was the first to validate what it meant by “hypoallergenic” for its products with a “grading” system: the VALIDATED HYPOALLERGENIC RATING System, or VH-Rating System, created in the late 1980s (VMV was founded in 1979).

What Is The VH-Rating System?

It works a bit like an SPF in that it is a clear, immediately visible “grade” given to a formulation. While an SPF shows the product’s tested protection factor against UVB rays, the VH-Number shows how many top contact allergens are NOT in a formulation. In both cases, the higher the number, the better the “grade.”

The VH-Rating System uses published contact allergen lists of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies — based on thousands of patch tests conducted in multiple countries — as independent references.

The VH-Rating System was the first and is still the only hypoallergenic rating system in the world. A study on it published in Dermatitis, the journal of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, concludes:

“The VH Rating System is shown to objectively validated the hypoallergenics cosmetics claim.”

Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis. 2011 Mar-Apr;22(2):80-97. PMID: 21504693.

The same study shows that VMV products had less than 0.1% reactions reported in over 30 years.

How It Works:

Check out this handy video in our YouTube Channel: Validated Hypoallergenic – The VH Rating System

Very simply, the higher the number, the more allergens are NOT in the formulation.

Every product has a VH-Rating on its label followed by a slash and the total number of current top contact allergens. The higher the VH-Rating, the more allergens are not included in the formulation.

In case an allergen is present, the VH-Rating will be lower than the total number of current top contact allergens. An asterisk will also be seen that corresponds to the allergen in the ingredient list (which will also be underlined) for quick identification.

Breaking Down the Elements

  • VH stands for Validated Hypoallergenic.
    • The product has been tested specifically for hypoallergenicity.
    • At VMV, this includes patch testing each raw material, ingredient, applicator, and final formulation.
  • -# (the minus sign followed by a number)
    • Shows how many allergens are ABSENT from the formulation.
  • /# (slash followed by a number)
    • Means “over this current total of top allergens.”
    • This shows the total count of the current top allergens.

A VH-Rating of VH-109/109 would be read as: “Validated Hypoallergenic MINUS 109 over 109.”

A rating of VH-108*/109 would be read as “Validated Hypoallergenic MINUS 108 over 109.” The asterisk alerts you to check the ingredients list for its counterpart, which would be the allergen present in the formulation.

Examples of VH-Ratings on products:

VH -109/109

The highest (current) VH-Rating: VH-109/109
  • Validated Hypoallergenic minus all 109 common allergens.

VH -108*/109

A lower VH-Rating: VH-108/109. Note the asterisk.
The asterisk from the VH-Rating corresponds to the present allergen in the Ingredients List … which is also underlined so you can’t miss it! If it’s not one of your allergens, you can still use the product.
  • Validated Hypoallergenic minus 108 of 109 allergens.
  • Allergens present in the formulation are identified with an asterisk and underlined in the ingredients list.
  • In this example, if you’re allergic to parabens, fragrance, or dyes but not to vitamin E (a great antioxidant), you can still use this oil-free moisturizer.

Need More Help?

Ask us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results and even possible cross reactants.

Where to get a patch test?

  • In the USA: search contactderm.org. You can search by zip code and members of the American Contact Dermatitis Society also use CAMP (the Contact Allergen Management Program) to show you not just the ingredients and substances you need to avoid but brands and products that you can use (where you’ll see VMV Hypoallergenics a lot!)
  • In the Philippines: PM VMV Skin Research Centre + Clinics, where patch testing is a specialty.
  • In other countries: ask your official dermatological society about local contact dermatitis experts who offer patch testing.

Haven’t had a patch test but have a history of very sensitive skin? Choose products with the highest VH-Rating!


Our team of “dew gooders” at VMV Hypoallergenics regularly shares “skinsider” tips! Follow us on Instagram for more of their hacks, “skintel” and tutorials!

Allergen, Not An Allergen, Featured, Skin

It’s Complicated: Allergic Versus Irritant ReactionFeatured

It's Complicated: Allergic Versus Irritant Reaction

A reaction is a reaction…isn’t it?

Yes, in that a skin reaction usually looks and feels “off.” No, in that a skin reaction can be irritant or allergic. Some substances can be irritants but not allergens (such as the iodine on the bottom right of the photo above) or allergens but not irritants (such as the lemongrass essential oil on the top left of the photo above). Always trust your dermatologist to make the diagnosis, but this is a quick overview to help you understand the difference between the two:

Irritant

An irritant reaction is a form of contact dermatitis but it is not an allergic response. According to DermNet NZ, “Irritant contact dermatitis is a form of contact dermatitis, in which the skin is injured by friction, environmental factors such as cold, over-exposure to water, or chemicals such as acids, alkalis, detergents and solvents.”
Irritant reactions have a relationship with the concentration of the ingredient in a product, the frequency of your skin’s exposure it, and how long your skin is exposed to it. While a diagnosis needs to be made by your dermatologist, here are examples of what an irritant reaction might look like:

  • You use a moisturizer most of your life and experience relatively mild symptoms like dryness that you don’t think of as a reaction, but that are, in fact, mild irritant reactions. If you spread on more of the moisturizer or use it more often, you notice more dryness or possibly other symptoms like redness. If you stop using it for a while, the symptoms subside. And when you use it again, you don’t notice a problem unless you use more of it or use it more frequently.
  • Babies often get an irritant reaction from their saliva around the mouth and on the chin. The reaction goes away as they drool less as they get older.
  • Temporary burns from strong chemicals like chlorine.
  • Itching and redness after touching certain insects.
  • Dry, red, itchy skin from winter or dry, cold air.
  • An instant redness or itching after applying a certain threshold amount of a cosmetic product (in an allergic reaction, the symptoms would appear regardless of the amount applied).

Allergic

An allergic reaction is a true allergy, meaning that the body has an immune response to an allergen.
You can use something for weeks, months, or years without a problem and then only later develop an allergy to it. This happens once your cells recognize a substance as foreign. After this, on repeat exposure, the allergic reaction occurs even with exposure to small amounts of the allergen (whereas an irritant reaction would require a certain threshold amount to elicit a reaction). If you are allergic to a substance or develop an allergy to it, any percentage of it for any amount of time on the skin will cause a reaction.

Irritant Versus Allergic

The percentage of an irritant or allergen (how much of it was applied or how much of it the skin was exposed to) is important in differentiating irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.
Irritants at a high concentration cause acute irritant contact dermatitis (marked swelling and blistering), such as after just a one-time exposure to a strong acid. At lower concentrations of an irritant and/or constant exposure to it, a chronic irritant contact dermatitis can develop. You might see this in the hands — the skin becomes thick and leathery — of people who work in the health, laundry, or cleaning industries from the frequent exposure to strong soaps and cleaning agents. That said, you could also actually build a tolerance to mild irritants over time.
In allergic contact dermatitis, you may be exposed to an allergen for weeks, or even most of your life, and not react to it. This changes once your skin’s T cells recognize the allergen as “foreign” or “bad,” and develop an immune response then a delayed response that continues every time you are exposed to it from that moment on. Once this immune response is set, any amount of the allergen shortly after contact with your skin will cause a reaction.
An allergic reaction can coexist with an irritant reaction. For example, dryness or redness from the frequent use of alcohol, bleaches, chlorine or other disinfecting products could be an irritant reaction. But if the products also contain fragrances, preservatives, formaldehyde or other top allergens, you might also develop an allergic reaction.
Contact dermatitis experts are the specialists to accurately identify whether the skin changes you are seeing — dryness, redness, dark patches, and other symptoms — are an irritant or allergic reaction. A patch test is important to accurately identify which substance or ingredient is causing the reaction, and patch tests can also confirm if a reaction is allergic or irritant. After you get your patch test results, you’ll know exactly what you need to avoid. And often, just simple and careful avoidance of the substance can give you relief and clarity.

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Check out the other posts related to contact dermatitis:

Allergen-Not An Allergen
Get A Patch Test Or Photo-Patch Test
On Contact Dermatitis, Sensitive Skin, and Patch Testing: Interview with an Expert


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Skin

Top Recommendations for Patients With EczemaFeatured

Eczema is characterized by inflammation, barrier defect, blistering, itching, and very dry skin. Eczematous skin can get so dry that it cracks…and then microbial infection can become an additional problem.
What to do to keep skin with eczema smooth, happy, and healthy…and steroid free? Let’s start with what not to do.

What To Avoid:

  • Harsh soaps;
  • Hot water;
  • Frequent washing;
  • Drying alcohol (not all alcohol is drying);
  • Natural remedies (without your doctor’s ok) — many natural ingredients are common contact allergens;
  • Using topical steroids every day for a prolonged period of time — this can be dangerous to your skin and cause other serious health problems;
  • NOT using topical steroids if prescribed by your doctor;
  • Not taking other prescribed medication and not following your doctor’s instructions;
  • Using products with allergens, especially perfumes, dyes, preservatives or any other allergen identified by a patch testing.
  • Your allergens in everything else: skincare, makeup, shampoo, clothing, digital equipment, plants and fruits, house cleaning products, laundry detergent, room sprays, vaping, scented candles, etc.

Best Practices:

1) Practice Strict Allergen Avoidance.

Contact dermatitis is a common cause of eczema and flare-ups, which is why patch testing is standard in the diagnosis and management of the condition. Once you know what your allergens are, you can avoid them in your skincare, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, clothing, phone cases, house cleaning products and laundry soap, and more.
For more on common allergens, check out our popular Allergen-Not An Allergen tab. For products free of all or most common contact allergens, check out VMVHypoallergenics.com. If you would like customized product recommendations based on your particular patch test results, contact us or drop us a private message on Facebook

2) Less Is More, and Hypoallergenic Is Best.

The fewer products the better, and hypoallergenic products — without the top allergens as published by dermatologists who do lots of patch testing — are the safest options.

3) Your Dermatologist Is A Long-Term Partner, Not A Fling.

Your skin, as with all other organs, changes over time. If your eczema is being managed well, schedule an appointment with your doctor once or twice a year for a general checkup. Your patch test might need to be repeated because you may have developed new allergies (or outgrown others). And of course, follow your doctor’s instructions for flare-ups.

4) PRAM: Prevent, Repair, Antimicrobial, Moisture.

Normalizing eczema means babying your skin:
Prevent:

  • Avoid your allergens as strictly as possible.
  • Use very gentle cleansers, soaps, lotion…everything. Think “gentle” in terms of textures, too: no rough or abrasive fabrics or materials.
  • Look for products that are validated as hypoallergenic and that contain as few ingredients as possible.
  • Prevent flare-ups before they can even start by being consistent about your daily care and trying a steroid-free soothing balm or anti-inflammatory balm if you feel that there is a risk of a flare.

Repair:

  • The skin’s barrier layer becomes compromised in eczematous skin. Look for moisturizers that provide barrier repair like virgin coconut oil.
  • “Repair” here also means: quickly and properly address a flareup should an emergency happen. Your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid for a short amount of time. Immune-modulating and other anti-allergy drugs may be called for if the eczema is generalized or recurrent despite strict allergen avoidance. Antihistamines or centrally-acting medicines can help relieve severe itching.
  • Part of repair is normalizing skin quickly after a flare. Early on, apply virgin coconut oil (VCO) to soften the crust as it forms (the crust makes the skin dry, hard and itchy). Keep applying the oil for occlusion, giving skin a secondary barrier against water loss.

Antimicrobial:
Opportunistic bacteria and viruses can enter microscopic cracks in very dry skin to cause a secondary infection. This makes the management of eczema more difficult, and can make itching and dryness worse. Remember that some antimicrobials are allergens, too, so use a non-allergenic option like monolaurin) or ask your doctor for guidance as prescription drugs may be needed for a secondary infection.
Moisturize:
Avoid drying ingredients in skincare and be generous about applying occlusive, healthy moisturizers. It’s so important that layering moisturizers for extra protection is often recommended: follow a daily moisturizer with virgin coconut oil (VCO replaces the fatty acids that make up the skin’s cell walls which are destroyed with inflammation).

How To Care For Skin With Eczema

Based on what we know about eczema, we recommend this daily regimen:

  1. FACIAL CLEANSING: Red Better Deeply Soothing Cleansing Cream
  2. SHAMPOO & BODY CLEANSING
  3. CONDITIONER: Essence Skin-Saving Conditioner
  4. MOISTURIZERS:
  5. FOR CRUSTS OR VERY DRY PATCHES: Grandma Minnie’s The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm
  6. FLARE-UP PREVENTION: steroid-free Red Better Calm-The-Heck-Down Balm
  7. SUN & LIGHT PROTECTION, BARRIER PROTECTION: (physical sunscreens that double as a barrier cream to help prevent contact irritations)

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Is Eczema?
What Causes Eczema?
Eczema Flare-Up? Here’s What To Do…


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Skin

Eczema Flare-Up? Here's What To Do…Featured

If you’re noticing a flare coming, try staving it off with a steroid-free soothing balm or anti-inflammatory balm. If you experience a flare-up, follow what your doctor prescribes.

First, practice mindfulness.

Eczema is an inflammatory condition. Panic and stress can fuel inflammation. Make your first action to practice your calming techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises.

Next, do what your doctor tells you…which is probably a steroid.

For emergencies, dermatologists will usually prescribe a topical steroid. For bad flare-ups, dermatologists may prescribe a steroid of moderate to high potency in a cream base for acute eczemas, and in an ointment base for chronic eczemas.
While a topical steroid may be necessary — which means you should use it as prescribed — remember that steroids are not meant for daily use over a long time (like a regular cream).
The goal is to quickly address the emergency, then move to softening the skin, and prioritize prevention to avoid future flare-ups as much as possible. Done right, strict allergen avoidance and a simple regimen that is ultra-gentle and prioritizes barrier repair should reduce your need for a steroid to one or two times a year, if that.

Then, focus on normalizing and getting back to prevention…

…by softening the dry skin that develops as the eczema moves into a subacute, then to a chronic phase.
Virgin coconut oil (VCO) applied at any phase of eczematous skin is soothing, and moisturizing. It is also, importantly, a gentle yet potent antimicrobial (secondary bacterial, fungal and even viral invaders can penetrate cracks in dry skin and worsen eczema and itchiness). VCO is also ideal for barrier repair because it replaces the fatty acids that that make up the skin’s cell walls which are destroyed with inflammation. Just remember to choose a 100% pure, organic virgin coconut oil, or one with monolaurin for additional antimicrobial protection.
All the above normalizes eczema, lessens inflammation, and helps remove dried-up crust, making the skin much less itchy. Once you’re in this phase, circle back to strict allergen and trigger prevention and your gentle regimen.
TIP: VCO is especially soothing on flaring skin when stored in the refrigerator here it naturally “butters” (it melts upon contact with skin). Or, use the VCO as a cold compress on eczematous skin.

Do NOT:

  • Ignore your doctor’s orders.
  • Reach for natural remedies without your dermatologist’s approval (many natural ingredients are common contact allergens).
  • Continue to use your topical steroid beyond what is prescribed to calm an acute flare-up.

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Is Eczema?
What Causes Eczema?
Top Recommendations for Patients With Eczema


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Skin

What Causes Eczema?Featured

Eczema causes include…

a. Contact dermatitis

From…

  • Allergens in skincare and makeup;
  • Clothing, jewelry, eyeglasses, accessories;
  • Phone and computer materials and protective cases;
  • Flowers, plants, and fruits;
  • Insecticides, dishwashing liquids, laundry detergents, house cleaning solutions;
  • Airborne allergens from perfumes, room sprays, even vaping.

There are many more common contact allergens than you might think. This is why a patch test is normally done if eczema is suspected. For more on common allergens, check out our popular Allergen-Not An Allergen tab. For products free of all or most common contact allergens, check out VMVHypoallergenics.com. If you would like customized product recommendations based on your particular patch test results, contact us or drop us a private message on Facebook.

b. Atopic dermatitis:

Atopy means an inherited allergy. It is…

  • …Atopic dermatitis when the target organ is the skin;
  • …Rhinitis if the target is the nasal passage;
  • …Bronchial asthma if the target is the bronchial passages (the lungs).

c. Hereditary or acquired:

Because atopic dermatitis is hereditary, it often starts in infancy or early childhood.
Contact dermatitis, on the other hand, tends to develop later as we become more exposed to allergens in things that we use, touch, and are otherwise exposed to.

d. Nummular eczema…

…is caused by a combination of factors that include:

  • Atopic skin with bacterial contamination;
  • Insect bites;
  • Friction and irritation from rough materials; and/or
  • Allergic contact dermatitis.

These factors make the skin hyperactive, causing the large circular patches that characterize nummular eczema.

e. Seborrheic dermatitis

Also known as skin dandruff of the scalp or face often starts as scales. If irritated or secondarily infected (those opportunistic microbes again!), they can become eczematous.

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Is Eczema?
Eczema Flare-Up? Here’s What To Do…
Top Recommendations for Patients With Eczema


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Skin

What Is Eczema?Featured

Eczema is…

…not any “sensitive skin.” Eczema is a general term for atopic dermatitis, which is the inflammation in the upper dermis of the skin.
This inflammation brings about “edema,” which is swelling from fluid retention. The fluid then moves upwards to the epidermis (the skin’s topmost layer), collects in between cells, and eventually becomes fluid-filled “bubbles” on the skin’s surface.
These bubbles get bigger, then enlarge, become blisters, dry up, and crust over, which is when they can get itchy and develop cracks. Opportunistic microbes can invade the skin through these cracks, causing more dryness and itching.
Redness is common, too, and indicates an active inflammation from…

  • The barrier defect inherent to atopic dermatitis; and/or
  • An offending product with an allergen — which is why patch testing and using validated hypoallergenic products are so important;
  • A secondary infection; or
  • Dry, crusty skin.

Removing the cause removes the inflammation and reduces the redness.
Note: Food can also contribute to redness. Scratch testing can help but positive results do not always correlate with the eczema flare-ups.

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Check out the other posts in this series:

What Causes Eczema?
Eczema Flare-Up? Here’s What To Do…
Top Recommendations for Patients With Eczema


Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Beauty, Healthy Living, Skin, Skinthusiasm

Skincare To Swipe Right On

Skincare To Swipe Right On

You’re so good about eating well (your friends say you should start charging for tips), exercising daily (people call out your name when you walk into the gym), sleeping more, controlling stress, and being happier (your new nickname is sensei). For your skin, you’ve done your research (you’re on a first-name basis with beauty bloggers), you’ve become a formidable “skintellectual” and have your alpha hydroxies and antioxidants down (your dermatologist asked for your opinion about a new sunscreen). And you’ve finally, carefully chosen a skincare partner. This is the moment of truth: you’ve hit the end of what you can control. Your skin is now largely in the hands of the products you’ve selected to deliver on their promises and (please!) not cause damage you’ll have to correct later. Your power over your skincare product ends as soon as you put it on. Will it do what it says it does? Is it as safe as it says it is?

Skincare As Dating

We use the word “partner” for a reason. When dating, you work on you, scope out the options, identify a possibility, do some background checking, gauge his or her friends and then…you wait and see. Sometimes that trust is well placed and leads to a rewarding relationship. Other times, you’re let down. You might get hurt. You need time to recover. You’re left with scars.
Luckily, skincare needn’t entail as big a leap of faith as love. There are well-established standards of proof that are far more reliable than, “but he seemed so nice!”

Beauty is “Proof,” Proof Beauty

Slightly tweaked, Keats’ famous lines are an ode to that gold standard of scientific validity: the randomized, double-blind, evidence-based clinical study — which we at VMV Hypoallergenics have always done. Our investigative studies are scientifically robust and impressively so. One published study is eyebrow-raising; we have over 75. In the hyperbolic world of cosmetics, true beauty lies in evidence. Putting your faith in the double-blind study is far better than flying blind.

Research Terms To Swipe Right On

“Clinically tested” can mean lots of things. Some tests are more subjective, mainly consisting of people sharing their thoughts about a product (“99 out of 100 women say they saw an 80% reduction in wrinkles”). There is nothing wrong with this type of test, but it does rely primarily on the test subjects’ own opinions of what they see in the mirror, how they feel, and even how much they like the brand and the type of product they were given. Other tests use qualitative data like before-and-after photos. While helpful, these photographs are generally considered to be less conclusive than quantitative data such as objective measurements of certain biological aspects of the skin using specialized equipment. Rare in cosmetics, double-blind (meaning the subjects never know what they’re using). “Evidence-based” means randomized, double-blind trials with quantitative data — which is standard in prescription pharmaceuticals, and at VMV.

A Well-Rounded Partner

“Evidence-based” is in our safety as much as our efficacy. A study on our VH-Rating System, the only hypoallergenic “grading” system of its kind, was published in one of the leading journals on contact dermatitis and is proven to be effective at increasing customer safety, showing less than 0.1% reported reactions in 30 years. A new patch test study with multiple VMV products on hundreds of subjects showed zero irritant and allergic reactions, even in conditions allowing for greater contact of products on the skin and expected to produce reactions earlier and faster than normal. Another study on the non-comedogenicity of virgin coconut oil was presented at the American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS) meeting.
Our research includes investigative and case studies, too, and not just for cosmetics. Our research covers issues as diverse as nutrition and acne, psoriasis, pemphigus vulgaris, and mycosis fungoides (a type of cancer of the immune system). Such research is not cosmetic, but adds to our understanding of the skin, diseases, treatments, and treatment mechanisms. This knowledge contributes directly to how we develop all our products — from cosmeceuticals to basic care and even makeup.
One published study is a major achievement, unusual for cosmetics. We have over 75. We might be a skin health and beauty brand, but proof is our business.
proof
100% Skin Love
These medical measures are objective, well-proven, consistent and replicable. They reduce the risk of disappointment and adverse effects significantly.
It’s a pretty awesome thing, actually: unlike some dates, skincare that looks this good — this scientifically, objectively robust — “on paper” can be relied on. It will keep its promises. It will deliver. It’ll help you feel good, too. It’ll boost your confidence. It’ll never judge you, just help you. It’ll never ask you for anything in return. It’ll love you for life. It’ll love your friends and family. It’ll protect you. It’ll be loyal, and it’ll get more rewarding the longer you stay with it.
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It can show signs of internal problems before even a blood test, MRI or x-ray. Our skin is fundamental to how we live in the world. It controls our temperature, it expands and contracts as we need it to, it protects us. It is vital to how we sense fear and love. So much of intimacy and sexual attraction is about skin and touch. Skin-to-skin contact is important not just for sensuality but for us as humans  — studies have shown that babies suffer developmentally and physically by not being held enough; doctors advocate skin-on-skin contact between mothers and newborns for improved bonding, physical and emotional development and healing (even improved survival rates from body warmth). And our skin’s health is how we present ourselves to the world. Clear, healthy, vibrant skin is a great ingredient to that happy stew of goodness that helps you feel good about yourself.
Your relationship with your skin is not something to be taken lightly. At the very least, skincare should be expected to keep the promise built right into its name: care.
More Resources:
For more on testing at VMV, see About VMV: Our TestingAbout VMV: Clinical Studies, Published Articles, References or search skintelligencenter.com.
To shop our clinically-proven safe and effective products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. For help putting together regimen to help you achieve your skin goals, or for recommendations customized to your patch test results, ask us at (212) 217 2762.

Skin

Allergy to Fragrance: Understanding Fragrance Additives and Choosing ProductsFeatured

by Rajani Katta, M.D.

What do you think of when you hear the word “fragrance”? Many of us think about perfume or cologne. If you’re allergic to fragrance, though, it doesn’t stop there.

If you’re allergic to fragrance, you should definitely avoid perfumes. But fragrance is found in MANY other products. In fact, the vast majority of personal care products sold in the United States contains some type of fragrance.

That means that you’ll need to be careful with all sorts of creams, lotions, cosmetics, hair care products, and other skin care products. In other words, you’ll need to be cautious with ALL of your skin care products. 

You’ll also need to read labels. And you’ll need to learn some basic facts about fragrance allergy, because this is a surprisingly complicated area. You can’t just choose a “fragrance-free” or “all-natural” product and be done with it. Fragrance, and fragrance allergy, are complicated. There are actually hundreds of different fragrance additives, and many of them are chemically related to one another.

Fragrance on a Label:

What It Means 

The word “fragrance” on a label can be very misleading. When you’re reading that one word, it sounds like it’s one ingredient. In fact, studies have shown that this one word can indicate the presence of 40 or more different ingredients. That one “fragrance” word on a label should really be “secret mixture of fragrance additives.” 

What is Fragrance?

The term “fragrance” refers to a group of substances. There are hundreds of different substances that can be categorized as fragrance additives. Many of these are all-natural substances, derived from plants. Others are synthetic chemicals. Since many of these ingredients are chemically related to each other, it’s common for patients to react to more than one. 

Labeling Terms Are Not Always Helpful

Even using products labeled “fragrance-free” or “unscented” may not help, as some of these can legally contain fragrance additives. In fact, a recent US study that looked at best-selling body moisturizers found that for products that claimed to be “fragrance free”, 45% of these products actually contained at least 1 fragrance cross-reactor or botanical ingredient. 

That’s why I DON’T just tell my patients to use products labeled as “fragrance-free”. Instead, I recommend a short list of products. These are products for which I’ve personally reviewed the entire ingredient list and can confirm that they are truly fragrance-free.

All-Natural Fragrances Are Just as Concerning

Many of my patients in recent years have turned to essential oils or all-natural products for their sensitive skin.  Some have turned to products that are labeled with the term “no synthetic fragrances”. This particular term may also not be helpful, though — even 100% natural fragrances frequently cause allergic reactions. 

This product advertises its natural ingredients…

 

…and (correctly) advertises that it contains no synthetic fragrances…

Hidden Fragrance Chemicals

It’s difficult, even if you’re reading labels carefully, to identify all fragrance additives. You should definitely avoid products with “fragrance” or “perfume” or “parfum” in the ingredient list. However, even preservatives such as benzyl alcohol, or moisturizing ingredients such as rose oil, can act as fragrance additives. These ingredients may even be legally used in products that are labeled “fragrance-free”. This post discusses this issue in more detail. 

Other Products That May Contain Fragrance

If you’re allergic to fragrance, you do need to be aware of other types of products and exposures. Be careful with household products, such as floor cleaners, room fresheners, aromatherapy products, and household cleansers. I’ve seen several reactions from essential oil diffusers, so be cautious. Even products worn by your spouse or children can cause problems if they come into contact with your skin.  

The natural fragrances in aromatherapy candles and essential oil diffusers can also trigger allergic reactions.

The Bottom Line

Fragrance allergy is a complex area, and fragrances can be challenging to avoid. Be careful with all skin care products, and ask your dermatologist for product recommendations that are truly fragrance-free.

Dr. Katta is the author of “Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet” and you can read more of her work in her blog.
 

Reposted with permission. We publish articles by doctors who wish to provide helpful information to their patients and the public at large, or who respond to our requests to use them as professional resources. Doctors may or may not prefer to remain anonymous and we respect this preference. These resource articles do not in any way imply an endorsement by the physician of VMVinSKIN.com or VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® — they are intended for informational purposes only. While written by or with resource professionals, these articles should not be relied on for diagnostic accuracy or applicability to your particular skin, which requires an in-person ocular consultation with a qualified physician and possibly additional diagnostic tests.
 


Dr. Rajani Katta  is a board-certified dermatologist and recognized expert in allergic contact dermatitis. She has a deep passion for developing well-researched and practical educational resources that help people take action. For at least 17 years, she was a member of the clinical faculty for both the Baylor College of Medicine and the McGovern Medical School. She also serves as a member of the Media Expert Team of the American Academy of Dermatology.

She is the author of numerous medical journal articles and seven published books on the link between skin and diet, as well as allergic reactions of the skin. Her latest book, Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet, provides an evidence-based and practical approach to eating for younger skin.

Dr. Katta is the recipient of multiple awards recognizing her commitment to excellence in patient care, teaching, and research. A few of these awards are the National Merit Scholar, American Medical Women’s Association Scholastic Achievement Award, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and Women’s Dermatological Society Mentorship Grant.

She has also been part of the  Texas Super Doctors® list  since 2016. Follow Dr. Katta and find out about the “GLOW” diet when you read her posts on expert tips for health, skin and soul!

Allergen, Not An Allergen, Skin

THEOBROMINE in Chocolate: Allergen or Not An Allergen?Featured

THEOBROMINE in Chocolate: Allergen or Not An Allergen?

Not An Allergen.

Theobromine (in Chocolate)

Bromine is a halogen, which is a type of chemical that is found in several foods and other substances that can cause skin problems. Despite the similarity in the name, however, theobromine is not a halogen (it has only carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, no bromine), and is not a common skin allergen. It is a plant molecule found naturally in chocolate (in cacao beans) as well as some other plant foods like tea. The name comes from the Greek “theobroma” — roughly, god food.

Theobromine is a natural alkaloid that dogs find difficult to digest, which is why we shouldn’t let our dogs eat chocolate. For the majority of humans, theobromine makes the heart beat faster, but in the normal doses that we get in chocolate and tea, it is normally not a problem. Everything in moderation, of course. There are health risks associated with too much of anything, and this applies to chocolate and tea as well.

If you have a history of sensitive skin, don’t guess: random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist about a patch test.

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

For more:

On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever and One In Four Is Allergic to Common Skin Care And Cosmetic Ingredients.

To learn more about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity, click here.

References: 

Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

1. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59
2. W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009
3. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.
4. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97
5. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.
6. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.
7. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.
8. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38. 
9. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
10. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.
11. Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.

12. Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.
13. Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.