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Use products with few ingredients to avoid skin reactions, infections – Experts

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Some skin products

You might have probably come across someone just scratching a part of the body. Or met someone with red patches or rashes all over. That could be as a result of skin reaction or infections.

It is quite common for some people to react to certain skin care products such as body creams, cosmetics, soaps, deodorants and antiperspirants, among others. The symptoms of allergy include, skin rashes, itchiness, swellings and pus.

To avoid this situation, health experts have advised that consumers take precautions when selecting products and pick only those with few ingredients, as they are unlikely to cause contact dermatitis.

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The immediate past National Chairman of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Young Pharmacists Group (PSN-YPG), Olagunju Muyiwa, said the term used to refer to itchiness, redness or irritation of the skin is called dermatitis. When caused by something that touches the skin, it is called contact dermatitis.

Several factors, Muyiwa explained could trigger contact dermatitis through skin care products, such as creams, cosmetics, soaps, deodorants and antiperspirants. They include the type of fragrance used, preservatives and colourants among others. Some natural products, particularly, essential oils, are known to produce nice fragrance, but if used superfluously are likely to cause contact dermatitis, which lead to itchy and bumpy rash on the skin at the site of contact with the oil. “Most times, when people purchase new skin products, it’s probably based on recommendation or the intrinsic desire to try new things. All could go well with the new product and desired outcomes achieved. But there is tendency for the body not to tolerate some of these products. In this situation, the product causing the irritation should be identified, which can only be achieved by narrowing down the problematic product.

“If there is a mild reaction and the person has not started any new product, one product should be removed from the regimen at a time to see if the skin condition improves. It may take up to two to four weeks before a difference is observed. Overtime, such individuals may come to realise what kind of products they are sensitive to, either in the form of preservatives or fragrance and then know how to best avoid them.”

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Trigger factors, he said, differ from one individual to another. “What may be acceptable to person A may pose irritation risk to person B and vice versa. So, it depends on compatibility of the skin with the ingredients of the cosmetic product. For safety sake, chronic administration of these products are discouraged. One of such example is a facial cleanser that makes your skin squeaky-clean. Over time, the cleanser may no longer “clean” the skin. Instead, it may compromise the exterior barrier of cells known as the stratum corneum.

“Some of the major components of bleaching creams are hydroquinone and alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs), among others, including citric acid. Prolonged administration of products containing these substances increases risk of photosensitivity and subsequent skin burn and in worst-case scenario, cancer.”

He, therefore, warned: “Be careful with cosmetic products with such preservatives as parabens, formaldehyde, formalin, imadazolidinyl urea, isothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and quaternium-15, as they are likely to cause contact dermatitis.”

A Consultant Physician and Dermatologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Dr. Olufolakemi Cole-Adeife said some people may have sensitive skin or skin conditions, which could make them react to some skincare products.

Examples of such skin conditions are atopic dermatitis, rosacea and seborrhoeic dermatitis. Also, some people may be allergic to certain chemicals in some skin care products that other people use without any issue. This condition is called allergic contact dermatitis. “The symptoms of infections may include skin rashes, dryness or scaliness of the skin, itchiness, tingling or peppery sensations on the skin, as well as swelling, redness or darkening of the skin,” she explained, adding: “In severe cases, the skin may become weepy and develop sores. These symptoms are usually most pronounced after the use of the skincare product”.

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Cole-Adeife explained that harmful cosmetic products could cause skin irritation and damage, which may initially be reversible or temporary, but can become irreversible or permanent, if the product is continuously used.

She said: “The regular use of antiseptic liquids and soaps can remove the normal bacteria flora, meant to stimulate healthy skin. This normal flora is protective and beneficial to the skin and its absence may result in some skin abnormalities like dryness. It can also expose the skin to colonisation by harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses resulting in skin, hair or nail infections. The use of skin lightening or bleaching agents can result in a myriad of complications such as thinning of the skin, stretch marks, skin discolouration like redness and hyperpigmentation, excessive hair growth, malodour, poor wound healing and a propensity to skin infections.

According to Cole-Adeife, mercury-containing creams and soaps could also result in kidney damage and ultimately kidney failure. “It is important to note that children are more vulnerable to harmful skin care products. This is because their skin is much thinner than adults’ and they are likely to absorb a higher amount of harmful chemicals from creams and soaps. Children should never be exposed to mercury-containing soaps. They should also not be exposed to any steroid containing cream without a doctor’s prescription and prescribed creams should not be used beyond the duration specified by the doctor.

“These steroid-containing creams should certainly never be mixed into the children’s daily body creams, as is being done by many mothers nowadays. This practice is very harmful to the child’s skin and whole body and should be strongly discouraged.”

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The treatment of these skin infections she asserted, involves stopping the use of these products. “The skin can be quite forgiving, and when the products are stopped early enough, many of the complications are reversible. As treatment, a person is often advised to switch to plain, gentle skin care products and encouraged to eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Sunscreen creams to shield exposed skin from UV rays is often recommended.”

Chairperson of Public Relations, Young Pharmacists Group (YPG), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), Pharm. Funmbi Okoya, said: “Cosmetics can be classified as drugs, when they contain substances that have a physiological effect on the body. Therefore, antifungal creams, steroid-containing creams, antidandruff shampoo and Sun Protection Factor (SPF) creams, among others are cosmetic drugs. Cosmetics counterfeit, especially those containing drug substances, can cause a wide range of localised side effects, depending on where they are applied, as well as systemic side effects, depending on the quantity that enters the blood.

“Common local side effects include allergies. Harmful cosmetics are even more likely to cause severe side effects, depending on what dangerous substances are used and its respective quantities. To avoid harmful or counterfeit cosmetic products and their side effects, make sure to use only NAFDAC registered products purchased from a credible store. Also, consult your pharmacist or dermatologist before trying any new cosmetic products.”

Okoya advised that people should not bleach their skin, as skin whitening is the same as skin bleaching and skin lightening is often a milder form of skin bleaching. Meanwhile, studies have shown that skin toning has no serious side effects.”

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