In a recent press release, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) discussed tips from board-certified dermatologists about testing skin care products before incorporating them into one's routine skin care regimen. The AAD noted that with so many skin care products available, including cleansers, moisturizers and cosmetics, it can be challenging to know which products to select.

The AAD indicates that while understanding one's skin type can help in selecting which products are formulated for a specific skin type, it's still possible that some skin care products may irritate the skin. Sometimes, a skin care ingredient, such as one of the preservatives, can trigger a condition called allergic contact dermatitis, which can cause the skin to become red, itchy, and swollen. Fortunately, board-certified dermatologists from the ADD say testing skin care products on several small areas of the skin first can help predict whether one will experience a negative skin reaction.  

In the press release, board-certified dermatologist Bruce A. Brod, MD, FAAD, stated, "There are more than 15,000 allergens that can cause allergic contact dermatitis, and skin care products are a common cause. Even products labeled 'hypoallergenic,' 'natural,' or 'clean' can cause a skin reaction, so it's helpful to test skin care products before using them as you would normally."

To test a skin care product, Dr. Brod recommends the following tips:

• Apply the product to a test spot twice daily for 7 to 10 days. Choose a quarter-sized spot on your skin where the product won't be rubbed or washed away, such as the underside of your arm or the bend of your elbow. Use the normal amount and thickness you would use as if you were applying the product regularly.
• Leave the product on your skin for as long as you would normally. If you're testing something that you would usually wash off, like a cleanser, keep it on your skin for 5 minutes or as long as the instructions say.
• If after 7 to 10 days you don't have a skin reaction, such as red, itchy, or swollen skin, go ahead and use the product.
• Keep in mind that some ingredients, such as retinol and glycolic acid, can irritate your skin, particularly if your skin is sensitive. This is normal and temporary.
• If you develop a skin reaction, gently wash the product off as soon as possible, and don't use it again. Apply a cool compress or petroleum jelly to relieve your skin, if needed. If your reaction to a product is severe and not relieved with cool compresses or petroleum jelly, you may need to see a dermatologist to help manage your symptoms.

Dr. Brod also stated, "Sometimes, discovering the cause of skin irritation is easier said than done. If it is difficult to pinpoint the exact ingredient causing your skin to react, talk to a board-certified dermatologist, who can help. You may need a medical test called patch testing to help find out what is causing your irritation."

Once the cause has been identified, noted Dr. Brod, it's important to avoid it. For example, if fragrance in skin care products is causing your skin to react, opt for products that are labeled "fragrance free.'" Remain cautious with certain skin care products that are labeled "unscented" or have plant-based botanical ingredients, as these products may still have fragrance-related ingredients.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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