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

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Have you come across somebody on the way just scratching a part of the body or have you come across somebody with red patches all over or even rashes?
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 less likely to cause contact dermatitis.

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.

He said: “Several factors 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 in too much quantities, are likely to cause contact dermatitis, which lead to itchy and bumpy rash on the skin at the site of contact with the oil.

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“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 a 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.”

Muyiwa explained that most ingredients in cosmetics and creams have been approved by the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), for consumer use, hence technically, they are safe for application.

He said: “However, trigger factors 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 the 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.

“One of the major components of bleaching creams are hydroquinone and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), among others, including citric acid. Prolonged administration of products containing these increases risk of photosensitivity and subsequent skin burn and in worst-case scenario, cancer. Like one of the holy book says. “Let all things be done in moderation.” As much as one is working towards looking good and presentable always, one must also not forget that these products are mostly chemical-based and prolonged administration of these products may likely trigger an adverse effect.

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“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.

“In terms of safest or best cosmetic products for all skin types, it may vary with individuals. But what is generally recommended are pH balanced skin care products, that is, those that have an acidity that is similar or close to the skin’s normal acidity level. Healthy human skin is acidic and has a pH ranging from between 4.3 and 6.0. Generally, gentle toilet soaps, creams and cleansers are advised and unduly harsh soaps, creams or cosmetics discouraged. Soaps, liquids and creams with strong antiseptics are not advised for normal skin care and skin bleaching products are also strongly discouraged.”

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 be on 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 predispose 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.

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“These include 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. Many people with long-term use of bleaching agents, particularly steroid-containing and hydroquinone-containing creams, develop these complications in the long run. Furthermore, the complications of harmful cosmetic products can go beyond the skin. Some of these products can be absorbed into the blood stream and cause systemic problems. There are several documented cases of a disease called Cushing’s syndrome caused by the excessive and long-term use of topical steroid creams for skin lightening. The corticosteroids in topical steroid creams can be absorbed by the skin and result in multi-organ damage.”

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 is strongly discouraged.”

She disclosed that in most cases, the treatment of these skin infections 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. Also, skin infections resulting from the use of these harmful skin care products can be treated”.

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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.

He said: “The less cosmetics you use, the less likely you are to develop side effects from them or their interactions with each other or other substances. Instead, try some natural alternatives. If you want to have beautiful skin, drink lots of water, as it hydrates the skin and makes it supple. Also, eat foods that are rich in vitamins A, C, and E like avocado, carrots, leafy vegetables, nuts and green tea, among others”.

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