Body Washes Are a Common Cause of Skin Allergy

There has been a recent push towards making more eco-friendly decisions when purchasing any number of products–from foods to paper products to skincare. What many consumers may not know, however, is that not all eco-friendly personal care products are great for their skin, especially many body washes and shampoos that are currently on the shelves and marketed as “better” choices for both your skin and the environment. In fact, alkyl glucosides, ingredients commonly found in these types of products, have been named the 2017 allergen of the year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society (Dermatology News).

What Are Alkyl Glucosides?

Alkyl glucosides are a popular type of surfactant derived from natural sources, which is why they’ve gained such a large spotlight in recent years as being “eco-friendly.” Just some of the natural sources of alkyl glucosides include coconut oil, palm oil, rapeseed oil, corn, wheat starch, and potatoes (Dermatology News). You can find these ingredients in a large variety of skincare and personal care products, such as shampoos, body washes, liquid cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, and deodorants.

The problem with using products that contain alkyl glucosides, however, is that although they are derived from natural sources, these ingredients are now understood to be common sources of skin irritation and allergic reactions.

Why “Eco-Friendly” Does Not Always Mean “Better”

While making eco-friendly choices certainly has its merits, choosing a product to use on your skin based purely on this type of labeling is not always the best decision. Unfortunately, many ingredients meet the criteria of the labeling, but may not be suitable for people with sensitive skin types.

A 2014 paper published in Contact Dermatology explains that although alkyl glucosides were not expected to lead to skin sensitivities and other negative reactions, testing has shown that they are, in fact, common causes of allergic contact dermatitis for many people. Some of the top products that triggered negative skin reactions due to their alkyl glucoside content were skin cleansers, shampoos, sunscreen, and deodorant.

Even more recently, a 2017 study published in Dermatitis has reported similar findings. Interestingly, this study also found that the rate of allergic contact dermatitis from alkyl glucosides has been on a steady increase since the clinical trials for this paper started back in 2009. As a result, dermatologists are seeing an increasing number of patients come into their offices for patch testing to determine if alkyl glucosides could be to blame for their red, itchy, scaly skin. In this study, the products that caused the largest number of reactions were leave-on moisturizers and hand creams (Dermatology News).

Does This Mean I Shouldn’t Use Products that Contain Alkyl Glucosides?

Unlike some other ingredients currently in use, alkyl glucosides aren’t necessarily “bad” ingredients to use on your skin. With that in mind, certain skin types may do best steering clear of these ingredients. For example, dry skin types should generally avoid foaming cleansers and washes, including those that use both chemical and natural foaming ingredients like alkyl glucosides.

Additionally, if your skin tends to be very sensitive, or if you notice an allergic reaction manifested as redness, itching, and scaling, you may want to take a closer look at your products to see if they contain alkyl glucosides. If so, it is a good idea to schedule a visit with your dermatologist for a patch test to determine the cause of your specific allergy.

Your dermatologist should also be able to help you choose a more appropriate body wash and other skincare products that won’t irritate or dry out your skin, based on the result of your patch test.

If you’d like to learn more about finding the best products for your unique skin type, take a look at our blog outlining the 16 Baumann Skin Types, or share your questions with us on our Facebook page!

September 11, 2017 Contact Dermatitis, Eczema/Dry Skin