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patch test

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!)

Healthy Living, Skin

Less Is More In Skincare, Too!Featured

Less Is More In Skincare, Too!

SIMPLIFY.

“Less is more” is a healthy philosophy for pretty much everything in life.
In food, less processed means more nutrients and less junk. Studies show that mindfulness — clearing the mind of clutter and focusing on the now — has significant health benefits for the brain and aging. In skincare, simple formulations with as few ingredients as possible minimize the risk of cross reactions — it’s a golden rule of hypoallergenicity. Plus, sticking to fewer products from fewer brands means there’s less guesswork involved when identifying what could be causing a reaction or acne.
“Less is more” helps doctors more easily identify what could be the cause of a problem. Frequently, the first step of allergy or contact dermatitis management (often, along with a patch test) is an “elimination diet” (our popular, ultra-reliable 7-Day Skin Fast). In the Skin Fast, you’re asked to stop using all products — except a very, very controlled few — for 7 days. This helps skin return to its most non-irritated state, so that when new products are slowly introduced (one every three days or so), problem products can be more accurately isolated.
The same applies to acne: acne can have several causes and certain types of acne can take days to develop…making it almost impossible to accurately identify which product is causing the acne when using many different ones.
Having fewer ingredients in a formulation is a best practice in hypoallergenicity…so much so that one of the quickest ways to spot a high-risk product is to look at how many ingredients it has: the longer the list, the higher the likelihood of reactions.
In addition, using multiple products can lead to over-treatment and drying of the skin…getting it to a borderline-irritated state so that anything new applied (whether or not you are actually allergic to it) could trigger a reaction.
This is why doctors tend to recommend sticking to few products and, ideally, from the same brand. It is impossible to ensure how products are made from one brand to another, ingredients can have different raw materials (some pure, some with additives such as trace amounts of preservatives or allergens), and many formulations are outsourced to third-party manufacturing facilities where vats can be used for mixing many different formulations, including those with allergens. Check out Why Sticking to One Brand Is Safer (an interview with EczemaBlues.com) for more on why using products from different brands can make the management of complex skin conditions difficult.

For more on hypoallergenicity and how less is more, check out:

HYPOALLERGENIC: What is it Really?
Why Sticking to One Brand Is Safer

For more on reactions:

Reactions: About, Allergic, Irritant, Sudden, Prevention, Using VMV & Other Products, etc.
Mythfoliation: If I Get a Reaction, The Last Product I Applied Is The Problem

Featured, Skin

Please Customize My Skin Care Based On My Allergens!

I just got a patch test and can’t use anything! Can you customize recommendations based on my patch test results?

Absolutely: it’s what we “dew” best!

The single most common question we receive is: I just got a patch test…can you help me find products I can use based on my allergens? Even though selecting products that don’t have your allergens can seem overwhelming (especially if the list is long…and we’ve seen some long ones!), this question is often simple and straightforward at VMV Hypoallergenics because the majority of our products contain as few as possible (often zero) of all 109 common allergens.*
Furthermore, our unique VH-Rating System allows clients to more safely shop for products by showing them, at a glance, which formulations have zero allergens, and which contain an allergen or more (which are then highlighted in the Ingredients List so you can check if their your allergens). The VH-Rating System has been so successful that we’ve received less than 0.1% reports of reactions in over 30 years.
If you have a more complex skin condition, a complicated history of skin problems, or lots of allergens in your patch test results, we often offer a series of questions that, while long and detailed, can help us make appropriate, highly specific recommendations. Our Save-Your-Skin Questionnaire is often used with our Skin “Detox” (7-Day Skin Fast), and can give you valuable information that you can use in the future with your doctor, or in your search for more products at VMV Hypoallergenics or elsewhere.
If you are interested in a customized recommendation based on your patch test results, contact us by email, drop us a private message on Facebook, or give us a call at (212) 217 2762.

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 shop our selection of validated hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com.

*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, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 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.

Skin

Could Your Skin's Patterns Be The Map To Its Cure?

Patterns aren’t just for understanding behavior. Your skin problem’s pattern can be the very roadmap to its solution!

Look at your skin. Really look at it. If you observe your acne, rashes, dry patches, and dark splotches as carefully as you would an inkblot test, you might be surprised at how much your skin is telling you about the causes of its problems…and how to fix them.

Face

You indulged in a new moisturizer and all you got was an angry, red rash? Curse you, moisturizer! Before you take a pitchfork to that tube, study the pattern of the redness carefully. For the moisturizer to be a good suspect, the redness should appear over most of the entire face, which is how you normally apply a moisturizer. If you notice that the reaction is concentrated in specific areas, you’re better off looking at another product that you tend to use on those areas, even if you’ve never had a problem with that product before (irritations and allergies can develop over time).
If you notice that the skin reaction is worse on one side of the face, think about where you normally sit in the car, on the bus, at home, and in the office. Does that side tend to face a window or be closer to a lamp? You might be looking at a photosensitive reaction — redness or darkening due to exposure to sun or light, or from allergens in your skincare or makeup reacting to sun or light.
Your bedsheets could also be a problem: if you tend to sleep on one side more than another, allergy- or acne-causing materials in your pillowcase or ingredients in your laundry detergent could be causing your skin reaction.

Forehead, Cheeks, Upper Back

Is your acne concentrated on the forehead, cheeks, or upper back? It might be caused by your shampoo, conditioner, and hair styling products. Comedogens (ingredients that clog pores) and allergens (which can irritate pores and lead to infection, then acne) in some of these products could trickle down onto the skin (particularly with sweat) to cause acne and other skin problems.
If you use helmets for biking or sports, or headscarves or hats, consider them, too. Many contain rubber, dyes, bleaches, and preservatives, which can all cause skin problems.

Around the Eyes

Do you wear glasses with metal parts? Nickel is regularly at the top of published lists of common allergens, and reactions on the nose, ears, and around the eyes could point to a nickel sensitivity. Eyewear without metal parts may not be entirely safe for you either if they contain allergens like benzophenones in the plastic or thiuram in rubberized parts.
A case study was presented where a woman was erroneously diagnosed with vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin) due to whitened patches around her eyes. A dermatologist suspicious of the symmetry of the whitening ordered a patch test. The results showed that the patient was sensitive to rubber. As the patient worked in a laboratory, the doctor asked if she used protective eyewear. It turns out that the patient had developed hypo-pigmentation (loss of pigmentation) as a reaction to the rubber on her lab goggles.
Eye makeup and eye serums can also be an issue, of course, and a reaction to this would normally be concentrated on the areas of application.

Mouth, Lips, Chin, Jaw

If you have chronic dryness and blisters on the lips, check out this case study showing how simple avoidance — in this case, of mint and nickel (the patient’s allergens) — can be powerful at clearing up a problem entirely! If you share this patient’s allergies, avoiding mint may seem simple but allergens often cross-react or are related to other allergens…so we’d suggest avoiding flavors altogether.
Nickel can be present in braces. If you’ve tested positive for a nickel allergy, make sure to tell your dentist and orthodontist about it.
Some colors used in lipsticks can contain nickel. Ask the manufacturer about the concentration of nickel in their dyes or pigments to be sure (note that a nickel sensitivity often comes with a cobalt sensitivity, too).
Nickel can also be present in mordants, or metals in fabrics. If you tend to use scarves, opt for natural, uncolored fabrics because mordants are used to help dyes adhere to cloth.
There are other allergens present in fabrics. If your problems seem to be where your skin tends to come into contact with clothing, ask your doctor about a patch test with clothing allergens included. Safer scarf options include pale, natural colors and non-scratchy, non-stretchy fabrics.
We also regularly see acne, dryness, darkening, rashes and other problems around the mouth and on the chin, lips, and/or jawline as a result to a sensitivity to fluoride and flavors in toothpastes and oral care products (peri-oral dermatitis) which also responds dramatically to simple avoidance. A halogen sensitivity also benefits from avoiding iodides, bromides, chlorine, and similar substances (check out this halogen-Free Diet for a great guide).

Hands & Feet

Notice some random, and stubborn, dryness on your fingers? If it’s on the the thumb and the index finger, it could be from holding coffee mugs with metals or rubbers on the handles. Or, as in the case of one psoriasis patient, from touching paper! This patient’s psoriasis was finally well controlled. Part of her successful management was her disciplined avoidance of her allergens: dyes and preservatives. Still, she had dry, scaly patches on one hand that just wouldn’t go away.
Her dermatologist grilled her about what she was using that could be causing the patches. The patient was adamant: nothing! Because she was so happy about her therapy’s success, she was exacting about avoiding dyes and preservatives, and was (rightfully, in our opinion…it’s not easy) proud of it. The doctor persisted, asking if the patient had begun working again (she was retired) or had any other changes in her life that could be sources of accidental exposure. They finally got to new hobbies. The patient said that she had recently started playing weekly bingo. Delving deeper, the dermatologist asked the patient to show him what she used when playing the game. The patient returned with an ink-stained marker and paper. Sure enough, where her skin came into contact with the ink and where she rested her hand on the paper (thiourea, one of her allergens, is related to dyes and preservatives and is common in paper) matched the pattern of her dry, scaly patches. After just a few weeks of minimizing contact with the pen and paper, the patient was scale-free from head to toe.
Problems on the feet can be due to elastics in socks, as well as rubbers, colorants, metals, or glues in shoes. Laundry detergent could also be a factor.
An interesting case we are monitoring is of a patient whose irritations are on the soles of the feet, and who is mostly allergic to propolis. His doctor is narrowing in on the possibility of the wooden floors of the patient’s home possibly containing propolis from floor wax…or even as a transfer from bees!
For either hands or feet, if the nails or webbing between the toes are involved, make sure to consult a dermatologist to rule out other skin conditions.
IMPORTANT: If you notice a dark spot that looks almost like a bruise on the fingers or toes, don’t dismiss it so easily. Show it to your dermatologist at your next skin cancer screening as it could be an early sign of some skin cancers (even in non-white skin).

Underarm & Body

A doctor shared a fascinating case of a patient whose underarm darkening would not go away. The patient had already switched over to our allergen-free Essence Skin-Saving Antiperspirant, Essence Skin-Saving Body Washes and Fawn & Launder Hypoallergenic Laundry, and was conscientious about not using any other products on the area.

The doctor reviewed her case in detail. The patient’s patch test showed an allergic reaction to metals and nothing else. She asked the patient to come in again so that she could take another look at the darkened area. The doctor noticed that the darkened skin was in a pattern: the darkening was limited to a circle at the perimeter of the underarm, and there was no darkening in the center. This perimeter area is where the skin would most come into contact with shirt sleeve openings and the sides of a bra. Thinking back to the patch test results, the doctor asked the patient to use only white or otherwise un-dyed materials in bras and shirts. It took a few months but the darkening subsided significantly.

Why did this darkening happen if the patient was primarily allergic to metals? In addition to causing redness, dryness, scaling, itching and other abnormal symptoms, an allergy to metal can also cause darkening…and there are often hidden metals in clothing. As mentioned above, mordants are chemicals that are added to clothing to help dyes adhere to fabric. This is why, when the patient stopped using fabrics with color, the darkening subsided.

Due to their function, mordants are common in colored clothing, including denim. The photo below shows a man’s metal allergy on the upper thigh due to the mordants in his jeans (for other people, a common problem the blue colorant, indigo). This patient was highly allergic to nickel, and his pattern revealed that he was also reacting to the nickel in his cell phone, which he tended to keep in his pocket:

If the itching, redness or darkening is on your knees or around the groin area where clothing tends to gather or crease, you could be reacting to your clothing or underwear. Use allergen-free body cleansers, wash your clothing in hypoallergenic laundry soap, and choose clothing that is less stretchy and as un-colored as possible.

Patterns Matter

If you have stubborn darkening, redness, dryness, itching, acne or other skin problems, pay close attention to where they occur. Patterns can be helpful in determining the causes of skin problems, as can a patch test and an investigative dermatologist.

In addition to our allergen-free products, if you have clothing contact dermatitis we suggest browsing through dye, latex and rubber-free clothing like those offered by Cottonique. Fun fact: one of Cottonique’s founders was a patient of our founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist — he started the company after her diagnosis of his clothing contact dermatitis.

Disclosure: VMV has no commercial or other relationship with Cottonique except having done a clinical study for how their allergen-free clothing can help those with clothing contact dermatitis.


“Dew” More:

To shop our selection of validated hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Leave a comment below, contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

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.

Learn 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.

Ask VMV, Skin

Are Natural Ingredients Really Good For Sensitive Skin?

Yes and no. Yes because natural (or really, organic, which is a regulated term) means less processing. Less processing means less contaminants (like specific chemicals used in growing, storage, or extraction), additives (like flavors, colors, fragrance, or preservatives), or alterations (like bleaching or heating). Because many contaminants, additives, and alterations are common allergens, organic can mean less risk of an allergic reaction. No, natural ingredients are not necessarily good for sensitive skin because many natural extracts (although by no means all) are common allergens.

“But I was told to look for ‘hypoallergenic’ for my super sensitive skin…which means ‘natural,’ right?”

Natural does not mean hypoallergenic. In fact, the opposite is frequently true. Many natural ingredients are highly allergenic, such as fragrance oils, citrus, beeswax, fruit and flower extracts, tea tree oil, ylang, ylang, etc. The image above is a very small snapshot of many, many published studies on contact reactions and allergies to several natural ingredients.

Food and skin allergies should not be equated (because different cells are involved, you could be allergic to a food and still be able to use it as an ingredient in skincare, and vice versa — don’t experiment without your allergist’s guidance, however). But in both food and skin allergies, an ingredient’s level of “naturalness” isn’t necessarily what makes it allergenic. If you are allergic to strawberries, bee stings, dairy, mangoes, pollen, or dander, you should avoid them no matter how organic they are. In skincare and cosmetics, if your patch test shows that you are allergic to chrysanthemum, lavender, or citrus extracts, you should avoid them even if they are certified organic.

“But what if I’m committed to a completely natural, totally unprocessed lifestyle?”

This might be the goal, but it would be close to impossible to achieve. Almost anything in nature needs some type of processing to be used in skin care, so that they can be mixed and stabilized. Even if an ingredient is truly “raw,” it still probably underwent a little rudimentary processing. For example, virgin coconut oil needs to be pressed out from coconut meat. Strictly speaking, just the pressing is a type of processing. What you would need to know is what specific processing was done and how much of it was done. Our virgin coconut oil is certified organic from soil to tree, and is first-and-cold-pressed — meaning we basically just press the oil. Some other coconut oils are processed with heat which can alter some of the oil’s chemical makeup. Other coconut oils are processed with additives that can be allergens, which can leave traces in the oil and cause reactions (check out this helpful article in skintelligencenter.com for more on virgin coconut oils).

In other natural ingredients, processing can yield surprising results. For example, the distillation process to make essential oils — even organic, “raw” oils for massages or scents — can create chemicals that did not exist in the original plant. And even if they were somehow processed not to create these new chemicals, many natural oils are comedogens or allergens just as they are.
One other important consideration: whether or not an ingredient is natural has little to do with its efficacy. Studies that are “evidence-based” (double-blind, randomized trials with quantitative data) are the gold standard to prove efficacy, but they are relatively rare in cosmetics. Publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal or presentation in a medical conference is rarer still but adds even more scientific validity to the study. Unless a natural ingredient is proven to be effective, it may not yield the results you’re looking for. If the natural ingredient is also a photo-allergen (reacts with light to cause darkening) or is comedogenic, it could also be working against you by causing dark splotches or acne. Check out this article for how hypoallergenic can help all skin concerns.

As well, the term “natural” is not currently regulated so it is almost impossible to confirm how natural a product is, how natural its ingredients are, or how much processing was done to those ingredients. The term “organic” is regulated and requires certification. Organic is certainly the best choice for most things. But hypoallergenic (validated “hypoallergenic” — ask for proof) trumps organic every time when caring for sensitive skin.

“What if I just do not want to use anything with chemicals?”


 

This is an admirable goal and one that many people share. Invented chemicals like PVC are toxic and the earth doesn’t have ways to break them down. Highly processed foods are proven to be damaging on many levels, from obesity to toxins that accumulate in the body. But lessening processed foods and trying to use more biodegradable options is not the same as “avoiding chemicals altogether.”
The line between “natural” and chemical is difficult to draw. “Chemicals” can mean almost anything, including “natural” ingredients. Everything in nature has a chemical structure, is composed of chemical elements (see the periodic table) and has a chemical structure. The chemical structure for water is hydrogen and oxygen, and is shown above. Also shown above is the chemical structure of glyceryl laurate (monolaurin). Monolaurin is derived from coconut oil and is an excellent, very natural, non-allergenic, non-drying antimicrobial (so natural it’s found in breast milk).
 

“What if I’m allergic to chemicals?”

It’s more likely that you are allergic to common allergens. Allergens (substances more likely to cause an allergic reaction) are determined systematically in patch tests on thousands of people in different countries and are published regularly. The recent publications regularly include results on over 20,000 people in multiple countries in North America and Europe. We also regularly monitor published reports regarding allergic reactions from other countries such as Australia and Japan.
If you have a history of reactions, skin sensitivity, dark splotches, or acne, look for proven, validated hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic claims. Or, even better, ask your dermatologist for a patch test. It is the most effective way to accurate identify what exactly you might be sensitive to. If you’re in the USA and your dermatologist is a member of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, she can even enter your patch test results into the Contact Allergen Management System (CAMP) and give you a list not only of ingredients to avoid but actual products you can use.

Shop:

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

Learn More:

To read more about natural versus hypoallergenic, check out Is Natural Hypoallergenic? The Answer May Surprise You (But Shouldn’t).

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.

Featured, Skin

Get A Patch Test Or Photo-Patch TestFeatured

This is one test that can change your life.

If you’ve had skin problems for years, a patch test is one of the most powerful tools to help you finally achieve clarity.
This painless procedure shows you exactly which ingredients or materials you, in particular, are sensitive or allergic to. A photo-patch test is similar but shows what is triggering your hyperpigmentation. The results from these tests can help you more accurately select products that do NOT cause your skin problems, and help you steer clear of ingredients (but also textiles, plants, and other substances) that you need to avoid, resulting in…
…no more (or far less frequent) redness, itching, and rashes;
…relief from chronically dry skin, scaling, and flaking;
…more consistent clarity in inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis;
…clarity of acne (allergens don’t clog pores the way comedogens do, but can irritate pores, causing infection and acne);
…more effective lightening of dark spots, blotches, and larger areas of skin.
Check out Skintelligencenter.com to learn more about patch tests and photo-patch tests.
To find a dermatologist near you who does patch tests, visit the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Featured, Skin

Choose Hypoallergenic Over Natural: 30-Day Healthy Skin ChallengeFeatured

Some things in nature can hurt you.

Natural ingredients could be causing or worsening your acne, sensitive skin, psoriasis, eczema, or hyperpigmentations.
While natural is WONDERFUL — eating natural, less processed foods so important for your health and using skin care with more natural, less processed ingredients can also be good (chemicals used in processing can be even more allergenic than the ingredient itself), natural does not mean hypoallergenic…and many natural ingredients are common allergens.
To learn more about what hypoallergenic means and how it can help several skin problems, check out Hypoallergenic: What Is It Really?
To learn more about the difference between hypoallergenic and natural, check out Is Natural Hypoallergenic? The Answer May Surprise You (But Shouldn’t)

Featured, Skin

What's New In Skin Allergy in NYC?Featured

DrJenniferCollins

By Jennifer Collins, M.D.

Gramercy Allergy & Asthma in New York City | Mar 15, 2016
 
I just returned from the American Contact Dermatitis Society 27th Annual Meeting  in Washington DC. This entire day was focused on new and emerging trends in skin allergy including hot topics in contact dermatitis. I was surrounded by experts from around the world in contact dermatitis- we shared patient stories and brainstormed about difficult cases.  I learned so much and am excited to bring back this information to you my patients in NYC.One exciting new development for my patients with contact dermatitis is the introduction of the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s new app for CAMP.   It’s a free and easy way of using your product list in stores.

 
CAMP-App-DrJenniferCollins-RePublish-IMG_0025
If I’ve created a safe product list for you, put your search codes (found in the upper left hand corner) and you’re set to go.  A word of caution, as products formularies are updated, the list won’t automatically update.  This app is easy to use and you can create favorite lists of your “safe” products.  I  know you’ll find this helpful and a welcome addition to your safe list.
Some of the topics discussed were: 

  • Emerging sensitizers in contact dermatitis
  • The role of the skins microbiome in the development of contact dermatitis
  • Phenylenediamine allergy
  • Patch testing in pediatric patients
  • Food patch testing

 

Announcing the Contact Allergen of 2016! Announcing the Contact Allergen of the Year

There they announced the 2016 contact allergen of the year – Gold Sulfate.

More on this from the blog coming soon.  These contact allergens are important sensitizers in our personal care products.
 

One in four people are sensitized to commonly used products like
shampoos, soaps, makeup and lotions.

Past winners have included:

I also learned that VMV Hypoallergenics is introducing a Post-Patch Test Allergen-Free Set (launching soon) for people recently diagnosed with contact dermatitis (another starter set: Superskin-Starts-Here Set).  This is designed to get you started with sample size products to reduce the possibility of irritation. Twitter/VMVinNYC, Instagram and Facebook/VMVHypoallergenics.
I’ve brought back all of this information to the practice and am excited to help those with skin allergy. 
 

Visit Gramercy Allergy for expert care
— for kids and adults! —
of your allergy and immunology concerns.

Schedule an appointment if you need help with your difficult-to-treat skin.

Twitter_logo_blue   GramercyAllergy

Facebook    GramercyAllergy


 
This article originally appeared on Itchy & Scratchy, Gramercy Allergy’s Medical Column on Fighting Allergies and Asthma in New York City.
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.

Allergen, Not An Allergen, Featured, Skin

What Sensitive Skin Should Avoid: Can You Spot The Allergen In This Picture?Featured

What Sensitive Skin Should Avoid: Can You Spot The Allergen In This Picture?

Got sensitive skin? What in this picture should you be wary of? If you guessed the chemicals on the piece of paper on the left, you’d be wrong.

Everything in the photo above is a common allergen:

  1. The chemicals on the paper on the left (more on these below);
  2. The organic sprigs of lavender (top right);
  3. Mint (bottom right);
  4. Tree trunk (propolis — from beeswax — which can be present in the resin and the bark); and
  5. The grass (because of common insecticide ingredients or, even if completely wild, because of the pollens that fall on it from surrounding plants and flowers).

Bonus point: if you also said the adhesive tape on the edges of the paper on the left, you’re a rockstar skintellectual!

Natural is good for you, right?

Yes! Natural and organic things are SOOOO good for you on so many levels. Eating antioxidants in fresh fruit and vegetables is far better than taking nutritional supplements. Less processed foods means less added chemicals and allergens, many of which your body cannot process normally.

But natural does not mean hypoallergenic.

Many natural substances (like those above) are allergenic.

Should those with sensitive skin avoid natural or organic ingredients?

Not necessarily. Just because something is an allergen (an ingredient known to cause allergies) does not automatically mean you cannot use it…even if you have sensitive skin.  Instead of random trial and error (which can be expensive and painful), ask your doctor about a patch test. This painless test can tell you exactly which allergens you need to avoid. Armed with accurate information, you can enjoy the goodness of natural foods and ingredients that you know you’re not allergic to.
Want to know what the thing on the left is? Those are Finn Chambers, which are aluminum pans on a paper that is then stuck on your back in a patch test. Similar to a prick test for food allergies, patch tests help identify which allergens (natural or not) you in particular are sensitive to. Thinking about getting one? Check out CC’s own patch test experience now.
To learn more about the difference between natural and hypoallergenic, check out Is Natural Hypoallergenic? The Answer May Surprise You (But Shouldn’t) or browse through Skintelligencenter.com.

Featured, Healthy Living, Skin

Is Natural Hypoallergenic? The Answer May Surprise You (But Shouldn't)Featured

Is Natural Hypoallergenic?

The short answer is: no.

And that really shouldn’t be surprising. Think of how many allergy medication commercials you see when it’s pollen season.
But does this mean natural is bad? Absolutely not! Eating natural, less processed foods is a must for your health. Using skin care with more natural, less processed ingredients is also a good idea (chemicals used in processing can be even more allergenic than the ingredient itself). But in both cases, natural does not mean hypoallergenic.
Allergens-Peanuts-LVB-15Sep2015-IMG_0807-20150915
Hypoallergenic means less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Many natural substances, no matter how organic, are top allergens (substances known to cause allergic reactions). While food, dander, pollen and skin allergies operate differently (so differently that if you prick test positive to a substance the chances are that you can use it on your skin), the same logic applies: if you prick test positive to peanuts, dander or pollen, you would avoid eating them, no matter how natural or organic they are. If you patch test positive to lavender, citruses, and mint, you should avoid touching or using them, no matter how natural or organic they are.
If you haven’t yet had a patch test and you have sensitive skin or a history of reacting to skincare products, choosing products with natural ingredients could be making things worse. Many natural substances — such as tea tree oil, orange, fragrances, ylang-ylang, and eucalyptus — are top common allergens.
Allergens-TeeTreeOil-LVB-15Sep2015-IMG_0807-20150915
That said, it helps to know what you, in particular, are sensitive to. Just because something is an allergen doesn’t mean it’s one of your allergens. For example, nuts, lemons and shrimp are allergens but if you haven’t prick tested positive to them, you shouldn’t avoid them (in fact, they’re very healthy foods). Vitamin E and tea tree oil are top skin allergens but great ingredients. If you have not patch tested positive for them, you might still be able to enjoy their benefits.
Allergens-Mango-LVB-15Sep2015-IMG_0807-20150915
Avoid trial and error, which is highly unreliable. To find out your allergens, get a patch test.
Allergens-Flower-LVB-15Sep2015-IMG_0807-20150915
If your patch test shows you are sensitive to certain ingredients, natural or not, avoid them.
If you haven’t yet had a patch test but have sensitive skin, you’re better off choosing hypoallergenic over “natural” to prevent flare-ups, rashes, irritations and even acne, dark spots (many allergens are also photo-allergens, which react with light to cause hyperpigmentations), and chronic dryness.
On a final note: “natural” is not a regulated term so it could, theoretically, mean anything. “Organic” is well regulated but check for the official seals of the certifying authorities. “Hypoallergenic” is regulated in most markets, but not all, and standards differ. For more on the differences between “natural,” “organic” and “hypoallergenic,” check out Hypoallergenic or Natural? and watch this video in our YouTube channel.
Allergens-Shrimp-LVB-15Sep2015-IMG_0807-20150915
IMPORTANT: Food allergies and skin allergies operate differently.

Need Help?

VMV Hypoallergenics® formulations contain none, or as close to none, of all of the 109 most common allergens (based on over 25,000 patch test results). Our VH-Rating System (the first and still the only sensitive skin “grading system”) shows you at first glance how many allergens are not in a formulation…or, if there is an allergen present, which one (if it’s not one of your allergens, you can use the product with confidence). It’s so effective, a published clinical study in a leading contact dermatitis journal shows less than 0.1% reactions reported in over 30 years.
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.