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Eczema health centre

Cosmetics and eczema

People who have eczema should take care when choosing cosmetics, sunscreens and other toiletries to avoid irritating their skin and triggering a flare-up. There are certain ingredients to avoid – and there are also ingredients to look for that can be good for their skin.

Certain types of cosmetics and toiletries may not be appropriate for people with eczema because they can irritate the skin or cause a flare-up. Even products labelled as 'hypoallergenic' – meaning they are less likely to cause a reaction but aren’t allergy-proof – 'dermatologically tested' and 'natural' can cause a reaction, so don't be tempted into thinking that they will be completely safe.

In general:

  • People who wear make-up should take care when selecting products. Liquid foundation and mascara in particular can irritate eczema, and some people may react to lipsticks, especially matte ones that tend to be drying. Choose lighter coloured eye shadows, eyeliner and mascara; matte eye shadows are less irritating, but iridescent and types with shimmery flecks can be more irritating. Avoid waterproof mascara and eyeliners – the solvents used to remove them can be an irritant.
  • Hair dyes can cause a reaction, but it may occur after several years of repeated exposure to the same product, so always do a patch test before using one.
  • Nail varnish hardeners can cause a reaction, not on the nails but if the nail varnish hardener comes into contact with skin.
  • Men should avoid using shaving foams, astringents and aftershaves, but they can use a soap substitute if they like to have a wet shave.
  • Cosmetic moisturisers have a large number of ingredients, making them more likely to cause problems than simple medical emollients, making the latter a better choice for moisturising your skin.
  • People with eczema may be more sensitive to the sun, but sunscreens also contain the same ingredients as other toiletries that should be avoided. Do a 5-day patch test to check for a reaction. Sunscreens that contain mineral-based reflectors with titanium dioxide are less irritating than other types.


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