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Are Ingredients In My Shampoo Causing A Reaction?

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I know I'm having a reaction to my new shampoo. Is there any way to find out which specific ingredient is causing the reaction?

Yes, there is a way to find out if you are having an allergic reaction to ingredients in the shampoo. This is not an immediate type of reaction like an allergy to animal dander, pollen, or food. It is typically called allergic contact dermatitis. It is a delayed type of allergy reaction.

Allergic contact dermatitis is a skin reaction. It is due to an allergy to something touching your skin. Typical triggers include nickel, lanolin, fragrances, and latex. There may be ingredients in your shampoo that are causing this, including:

  • Fragrances
  • Preservatives
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate

This can be diagnosed with allergy patch skin testing. It identifies specific allergens causing allergic contact dermatitis. Make an appointment with an allergist for evaluation and management of your symptoms. There are standard allergy patch test panels available. Sometimes testing can be done with other specific contact allergens. Once a diagnosis is made, you can discuss treatments and remove specific allergens.

Allergy, Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema), Diagnosis
Answered by

John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

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Dr. James only addressed a skin allergy, i.e., contact dermatitis. Perhaps there was more information this person provided as to the symptoms she experienced that would point to this diagnosis. However, there have been noted anaphylactic reactions to one of the preservatives that could have been in her shampoo, one that is used in several products and medications, and that is polyethylene glycol (PEG). It has been lately recognized to cause allergic reactions and has been increasingly studied as a possible cause of them. See Stone Jr, CA, Liu Y, Relling MV, et al. Immediate hypersensitivity to polyethylene glycols and polysorbates: more common than we have recognized. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2019; 7 (1533-15540.e8)

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