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vmv hypoallergenics

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!

Featured, Skin

Natural Flower Extracts Can Be Allergenic?

Gorgeous as these flowers are, it’s important to remember that if you have very sensitive skin, even the most natural extracts and oils of flowers, fruits, and various plants can be allergenic. Many flowers are on published allergen lists — individually, or as part of Fragrance Mixes. Other flower or plant oils are comedogenic, too (to learn about some allergen flowers and plants, check out the Allergen, Not An Allergen tab on VMVInSKIN.com).

But isn’t natural safe?

“Natural” is so frequently associated with “safe” that it may sound counterintuitive…but if you have a history of skin reactions, you might actually need to avoid natural skin products and cosmetics.
Less processed and organic foods are certainly healthier than their counterparts. But allergens can cause problems no matter how natural their origin. Food and skin allergies don’t work in the same way (different cells are involved) but in terms of natural origin, the same warning applies: if you’re allergic to a food (say, peanuts or strawberries), you should avoid it no matter how organic it is. In skincare or makeup, if you’re allergic to lavender, rose, or fragrance mixes in patch tests (which include moss and other plants), you should avoid them no matter how organic they are.
But I love natural things (sad face)…
Don’t we all! Blooms are beautiful to look at and be around, and it would be a shame to avoid them if you don’t need to. 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 instead.

If your patch test does show a sensitivity to flowers and flower-related ingredients, you don’t need to give up indulgence entirely. Our clinically-valid spa treatments are as “skindulgent” and sublime as they are therapeutic. And our skin-safe Skintelligent Beauty Makeup delivers beautiful, high-performance pigments that wouldn’t be out of place at the botanical gardens (without sacrificing your skin’s health). All that soothing care, vibrancy, and color sans the rashes, acne, and hyperpigmentation? Now that’s beautiful!

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.

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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

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.

Skin

How Does Hypoallergenic Help Dry Scalp & Dry Hair?

“What do I do for dry hair or dry scalp?”

First, we need to understand that the two conditions are different.

Dry Scalp

Dry scalp — itching, flaking, or both — is frequently an irritation. It could be a chronic contact dermatitis or a reaction to allergens in hair products. Some common culprits include allergen surfactants like “amido-amines” (cocamidopropyl betaine, cocamide-dea), or other common allergens like dyes, fragrances, or preservatives.

Dry scalp can also be caused by the fungus pityrosporum going on overdrive. It might sound a little gross but a) we need to get more comfortable with the microorganisms that keep us healthy instead of bombing them all to oblivion — check out this awesome New Yorker article on the Human Microbiome Project; b) we all have pityrosporum within our hair follicles (it’s meant to be there); and c) our skins and hair have a nature-perfected balance between diverse microorganisms. Sometimes, such as after using too many “antiseptic” or antibacterial hair products or taking oral antibiotics, this balance gets thrown off. In the scalp, pityrosporum and other healthy microbes usually keep each other in check. With the overuse of “antimicrobial” hair products or after antibiotics (why scientists are moving way from the “napalm” approach to microbes), too much of the bacteria that normally would control pityrosporum get killed off and pityrosporum has too much of a free reign. Then it goes on a bender.

Before you start freaking out about an uncontrolled multitude of mutinous microbes, relax. It’s usually surprisingly easy to improve dry scalp.

  • Choose allergen-free shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products. Essence Clark Wash “Big Softie” Hair & Body Wash and Essence Skin-Saving Conditioner are good options.
  • Ease the dryness by gently massaging an oil or lotion with non-irritating anti-fungals such as monolaurin into the scalp. Try Grandma Minnie’s Oil’s Well. It contains pure virgin coconut oil, which is excellent for hair (it’s an ingredient in so many intensive hair conditioners for good reason) as well as monolaurin, an effective, coconut-derived, non-allergenic, antifungal.
  • Try to steer clear of hair styling products for a while to prevent exposure to allergens as much as possible.

If your dry scalp remains even after switching to hypoallergenic options, you could have seborrheic dermatitis and/or psoriasis. These two conditions are usually very manageable but do need a proper diagnosis and some additional care. While the allergen avoidance described above would still be recommended, you may need some lifestyle changes (stress management, improved diet and exercise), and some specific medicines.

If you don’t see an improvement in your dry scalp with the steps above, consult a dermatologist — ideally one who specializes in contact dermatoses as well as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis — and ask your doctor about getting a patch test. Often, simply knowing exactly what you need to avoid can result in dramatic changes.

Dry Hair

This is physical damage of the hair strand itself and is normally due to an injury to the hair shaft. Such injuries can happen in several ways. Harsh ingredients found in some anti-dandruff shampoos can cause injury to the hair shaft, as can frequent color stripping and/or dyeing; regular hair curling, heating or straightening treatments; frequent blow-drying or other heat styling; styling, particularly with strong-hold products; and pulling of the hair strands (using hair elastics and headbands).

What to do?

  • First, be nice. At this point, it may not enough to use a very gentle shampoo (although that helps, too — see Essence Clark Wash “Big Softie” Hair & Body Wash above). The hair needs real babying to reduce the stress on stretched hair shafts or broken cuticles.
  • Before washing your hair, try giving it a protective barrier. Coat the hair shafts by gently massaging The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm through your hair. Use a wide-toothed comb to improve distribution. This can help keep harsh ingredients or detergents from getting into breaks in the hair shaft.
  • Avoid ingredients that can potentially break down hair such as dyes, fragrance, and  preservatives.
  • Use a very rich but non-irritating conditioner, and virgin coconut oil for repair.

To find a dermatologist in your area, visit AAD.org or your country’s official dermatological society.

To find a physician in your area who does patch tests, visit contactderm.org.

For a customized regimen or consultation, call us at (212) 226 7309.


“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.

Skin

Could Certain Foods Be Causing Your Itchy Skin?

So, you have dry, itchy skin. You slather on some cream to help with the dryness, but the itching is relentless and the dryness just comes back. What gives?

If your skin is prone to itching or is dry and red, inflamed, scaling, or oozing, common symptoms of eczema, then it’s possible food allergies or intolerances are at least part of the problem. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology “Eczema, also known as “atopic dermatitis,” is often associated with food allergy; approximately 37 percent of young children with moderate to severe eczema also have food allergies.” [1]

And the UCLA Food & Drug Allergy Care Center states,

“About a third of children with moderate-to-severe eczema experience acute worsening of their chronic rashes when they ingest trigger foods.” [2]

The numbers for adults are not readily available, but should be similar.

Common eczema food triggers are dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, peanuts (and other legumes), but other foods such as those in the nightshade family (bell peppers, eggplants, etc.) and acidic foods (tomatoes, oranges, etc.) can also further aggravate eczema and itchy skin. Keep in mind, these are common triggers, but any food or even spice, can cause an allergy or intolerance. Many people think because they don’t see an immediate reaction after consuming one of these foods that the food must not be an issue for them. While immediate skin reactions to a food are usually labeled as a true allergic response and can include hives and itching among other symptoms, delayed reactions, considered an intolerance or sensitivity, are also possible and can occur up to 48 hours after a food is consumed. The source of an immediate reaction is much easier to identify, but with delayed reactions you would have to review every single ingredient in the food you’d eaten in the past two days to try to determine what caused the reaction. Quite an undertaking.

So, how can you determine if food is triggering your eczema or itchy skin?

Sadly, false positives and negatives are common with blood and skin allergy testing (IgE), as well as intolerance testing (IgG), making them very unreliable when used alone. However, when combined with your history of reactions or an elimination diet and food challenge, the mystery begins to unravel. For example, you can temporarily remove the foods from your diet that appeared positive in allergy testing, this is called an elimination diet.* It’s best to meet with a dietician about your restricted diet as they can help ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients during this time. Then ask your allergist to help you conduct an in-office food challenge, consuming small amounts of the foods in question in a controlled medical setting and monitoring for any reaction. Remember to be on the lookout for delayed reactions after you’ve returned home. If you discover one or more foods trigger your eczema, you should find relief by eliminating the foods from your diet as much as possible. If a food does not cause an immediate or delayed reaction, certainly add the food back into your diet and enjoy.

If you’ve eliminated the foods that were triggering your dry, itchy skin, but your eczema hasn’t fully improved, consider moving to natural, pH balanced laundry and household cleaning products, moisturizing soaps, and identify any seasonal or environmental triggers that may still be plaguing your skin. And remember stress is often a huge trigger for eczema. Try to reduce stress with calming activities like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation.

Everyone’s eczema triggers are different, but once you’ve found yours, you’ll be well on your way to healthy, beautiful skin.


About our Guest Contributor: Jennifer Roberge is a mother of two. She blogs about her family’s battles with eczema, allergies, and asthma at It’s an Itchy Little World. After conquering her son’s severe eczema, she founded The Eczema Company, which offers specialty clothing and natural, non-toxic skin care for eczema.

For more information, enter “eczema” in the search field at skintelligencenter.com.

References:

  1. http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/children-allergies/Pages/eczema-in-children.aspx
  2. http://fooddrugallergy.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=39.

*Editor’s Note: The process of the elimination diet is similar to the “7-Day Skin Fast” we frequently recommend at VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® to safely try products on sensitive skin or skin recovering from a reaction.

This article is a Guest Contribution. We include articles contributed by doctors, experts or other individuals who wish to provide helpful information to their patients and the public at large, who respond to our requests to use them as professional resources, or who we feel can give our readers new insights into various topics. Contributors 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 guest contributor of VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® or any of its products, services or resource sites—they are intended for informational purposes only. While sometimes 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. For appropriate care for your skin, please consult your dermatologist.


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 validated hypoallergenic products — most of which are ideal for eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, chronic acne, melasma and other complex skin conditions — visit vmvhypoallergenics.com.

Need help? Leave a comment below, contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

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.