Is Your Moisturizer Causing Rashes and Other Allergic Reactions?

Dr. Janet Zand

September 27, 2019

When taking care of your skin, you want products that make your skin healthier and better looking. The last thing you want is for your skin care products to cause health problems.

But now we know that even some “natural” skin care products are not necessarily safe, especially for those people who are sensitive to them. In addition, some are, in fact, toxic. That’s what Samantha discovered.

Two years ago, she developed painful blisters on her hands. After repeated trips to the dermatologist, her painful rash was diagnosed as a severe allergic reaction to parabens, a group of “safe” man-made preservatives that your skin readily absorbs. You can find parabens in many lotions, moisturizers, deodorants, shampoos, and cosmetics — even those with a high price tag, and even many that are sold in health food stores.

Samantha had been using the same high-quality moisturizer for decades. It happened to contain parabens. But they had never been a problem. And she had no idea that they might cause any in the future.

Then she started using a body wash that also contained parabens. The combination of these two products was enough to cause her severe reaction. When she stopped all products with parabens, her rash disappeared. And it doesn’t return as long as she stays away from parabens.

Why Use Preservatives?

Unfortunately, you can’t escape parabens and other man-made preservatives. After water, methyl and ethyl parabens are the most commonly used ingredients in cosmetics. Preservatives prevent body care products from growing fungi and other microbes. Cosmetics and skin care products are designed to have a long shelf life. No one wants to open a jar of moisturizer and find it’s moldy and spoiled. Parabens are among the most widely used preservatives because they’re inexpensive, odorless, and considered to be nontoxic.

There are dozens of chemicals in skin care products, as you can see by reading their labels. Avoid any products with the word “parabens.” You can find them in health food stores. Système 41 skin care products are free from parabens and other synthetic chemicals. You can get more information by calling 800-791-3446 or by visiting the website.

Other Toxins in Body Care Products

Recently, researchers have found high amounts of lead, a powerful neurotoxin that affects the brain, in more than 400 different lipsticks. In fact, one lipstick from L’Oreal (Maybelline Color Sensation) has 275 times more lead than the lip balm with the least amount of lead (Wet ‘n Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm). Many of them contained twice as much lead as previously thought. And no amount of lead is safe. None!

In spite of this, the FDA sees no harm from the miniscule amounts of lead in lipsticks. The problem is, all they’ve done is report the amount of lead in these products. They haven’t analyzed either lead’s safety or its health consequences.

While the FDA says there’s no problem with the lead in lipsticks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagrees. It is particularly concerned with exposure to pregnant women, because lead crosses the placenta and gets into the fetal brain where it can cause serious neurological and behavioral problems. Please tell all the pregnant women you know to avoid lipsticks containing lead.

A major problem with lead is that your body doesn’t excrete it. It accumulates in your tissues. This is why all of us should be using lead-free lipsticks or at least ones with a very low amount. You can check your favorite brands on-line at And you can find lead-free lipsticks on the Internet and in many stores. They may be quite expensive or priced under $10. The less expensive lead-free lipsticks include Revlon’s Superlustrous Love That Red, The Body Shop’s Garnet, and Wet ‘n Wild lip balms.

Minimize Your Exposure and Detoxify

The first step is to switch to a lipstick that’s lead-free. This is a good opportunity to get rid of old lipsticks that may contain harmful bacteria as well as lead. Next, remove any concentrations of lead from a lifetime of past usage.

Yes, this is possible.

In 2008, a Chinese study showed that 5 grams of modified citrus pectin (PectaSol) taken three times a day for three months reduced blood levels of lead in a group of children with toxic amounts of lead. This was an important study. It proved that you can remove lead safely and effectively with an oral supplement. Prior to this time, most doctors considered intravenous chelation therapy as the only effective means to remove lead. Now we know it’s not.

You can find PectaSol – the only form of modified citrus pectin that has sound scientific studies behind it – in several formulas at many health food stores. I like PectaSol the best because it contains alginates as well as pectin. Both bind to lead. PectaSol also removes other toxic heavy metals including arsenic and mercury. But it doesn’t remove beneficial metals like calcium and magnesium.

PectaSol can’t remove parabens either. So it really is vitally important that you avoid these toxins in the first place. When you can’t pull toxins out of your body, you need to put more beneficial substances in your body to help support your immune system.

This includes antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods to keep your gut healthy, and hydrating water and antioxidant-rich tea. Make sure you choose organic foods whenever possible so you aren’t canceling out your efforts to reduce your toxic load. Exercise can help as well.

Nevertheless, you should not rely solely on your ability to remove toxins from your body or combat them with antioxidants to protect you. Try to reduce the number of toxins going in whenever possible. Samantha started to react to just two products containing parabens.

How Many Personal Care Products Do You Use?

It’s more than two. In fact, the average woman applies 12 different personal care products just in the morning. And the average woman using that many products is applying not just parabens but a cocktail of 168 different chemicals.

Some of these chemicals might be safe in trace amounts – at least according to the studies their manufacturers cite. But what happens when you apply layer upon layer upon layer?

Stay away from parabens whenever you can. You need to avoid not just “parabens” on the label but also any ingredient that begins with the prefix propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, or isobuyl-. These all tip you off that unsafe chemicals may be included.

And of course, stay away from lead as well. Most women reapply their lipstick throughout the day. So once again, that’s layer upon layer that you’re putting on your body. Worse, we often need to reapply because it comes off while we were eating or drinking. You’d probably be horrified to find out that your shampoo or moisturizer contained lead – even though you would be a lot less likely to swallow those products.

Look for companies that share your commitment to beauty AND health. If you try to sacrifice your health for the sake of beauty, over time you’ll likely lose both. Instead, look for products that will help protect your health while enhancing your appearance—it really is possible.


Darbre, P.D. et al. “Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors,” J Appl Toxicol, January-February 2004.

Darbre, P.D., et al. J Appl Toxicol January 2012.

Kearney, Christine. “Lead Levels In Lipstick Much Higher Than Previously Thought.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 15 February 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.

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