Q: I was using an eye shadow that made my eyelids break out in dermatitis. (l have fragrance skin allergies). So l tried some aloe vera gel to treat it – big mistake! The rash turned very red and made my eyes incredibly itchy. Can you be allergic to aloe vera?
Dr. Skotnicki: People often assume “botanical” on products means it’s good for them. But a botanical skin product is simply any formulation made from plants for therapeutic, flavor or fragrance properties.
What’s also confusing is whether skin breakouts are the result of an allergy or an irritant reaction. The rate of allergy to botanical skin products is low. Yet, irritation reactions to them are widespread.
What you describe with aloe vera is most likely irritant contact dermatitis. Irritant reactions can be quite uncomfortable, setting off fairly immediate redness, burning, swelling and itching.
While aloe vera is supposed to soothe and decrease irritation, the eyelids are special skin. Once inflamed, there aren’t many products they will like. With this type of eyelid reaction, you need a 1 percent hydrocortisone ointment. I suggest using it twice daily (for up to two weeks) until the irritation settles down.
Lastly, you mention having fragrance skin allergies. While this may be true for you and fragrance allergy does cause allergic dermatitis to cosmetics, 90 percent of fragrance reactions will turn out to be irritant dermatitis.
With either true atopic dermatitis (the allergic condition) or irritant dermatitis, avoiding your triggers is the key. But as it’s difficult to avoid all fragrances, you may wish to investigate your triggers further with a dermatologist.
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