10 Ingredients That Eczema Patients Should Avoid

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If you have eczema, you know the importance of staying careful about certain foods, products and environments that can trigger a flare. But what about the seemingly insignificant ingredients hidden in some of your everyday items? Here are 10 must-avoid ingredients for healthier, less-irritated skin.


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Neomycin Sulfate

Found in triple antibiotic creams, neomycin sulfate is used as an agent to help fight bacterial infections. It works by causing the bacteria to create abnormal proteins, which are used as a signal for the immune system to come and break down the infection. However, neomycin is a known allergen and can cause additional reactions on the skin.


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Balsam of Peru

Sounds like an ingredient in the Fountain of Youth, right? Not so much. Compounds from balsam of Peru are found in flavorings in drinks or tobacco products, fragrances in shampoos or sunscreens, and even pharmaceuticals like calamine lotion and hemorrhoid suppositories. It’s even found in some baby powders. The compound can cause allergic reactions and even hives after being ingested or when used on people with sensitivities to it.


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Fragrances

Cleanliness is important for good skin. But avoiding added fragrances and perfumes can make for happy skin. The National Eczema Association (NEA) reports that 8 to 15 percent of eczema patients have a fragrance allergy. With fragrance accounting for up to 40 percent of allergic reactions from cosmetics, the NEA no longer considers products with perfumes in their Seal of Acceptance Program. They also provide a list of acceptable skin care and household products for patients.


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Benzalkonium Chloride

This is used as a preservative in moisturizers, and even some eczema creams, but is highly associated with allergic, eye, and even respiratory irritation. The preservative is also found in household antimicrobial cleaning agents, and research suggests frequent use promotes “resistant bacteria in homes and food processing facilities.”


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Lanolin

It is reported that up to 7 percent of people with eczema are allergic to lanolin, an antibacterial agent that also helps soften the skin. The compound comes from wool grease after processing wool shorn from sheep. In nature, lanolin works to help keep sheep’s skin and hair moisturized, warm, and waterproof.


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Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Cocamidopropyl betaine has a high concern level for contamination from the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep website. Found commonly in shampoos and soaps, this irritating compound is used for its hair conditioning, anti-static, foam boosting, and cleaning properties. It is unclear whether the concern for irritation comes from the ingredient itself or “impurities” commonly associated with it.


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Formaldehyde

This is a commonly known irritant, both in and out of the body. The EPA notes that formaldehyde is found in many building materials, clothing, in fertilizers and pesticide, and as a by-product of gas burning appliances and cigarettes. It also is used as a preservative in cosmetics and cleaning liquids. Commonly inhaled in small amounts, this can harm to the skin with greater on-contact exposure. Formaldehyde, used by some clothing manufacturers to prevent wrinkling or creases, may cause irritation of the skin.


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Propylene glycol

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry describes this compound as “a synthetic liquid that absorbs water.” It’s used in the production of polyester, to maintain moisture levels in medicines, and as an “antifreeze when leakage might lead to contact with food," meaning it’s likely in some foods in trace amounts. This is also used to create “smoke” in fog machines, theatre productions, and fire training, so keep watch on your skin if an event features fake smoke.


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Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)/methylisothiazolinone (MI)

Research has shown that contact dermatitis associated with MCI and MI is on the rise. The compounds are commonly used as preservatives in product mixtures, as well as “cosmetic and industrial products.” For example, MI can be found in your bath products for children or babies, eyeliner and face powders, hair dyes, skin creams, and paints and glues.


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Glucocorticoids

Oddly enough, Glucocorticoids are naturally found in the body, and work as part of our fight-or-flight response during a crisis to preserve functions like digestion, growth, and reproduction. They also help to mediate stress and affect food intake during the 24-hour sleep cycle. However, in oral steroid or injectable steroid forms used to treat eczema, these have some adverse side effects in the body. It’s best to speak with a doctor to determine a good fit for treatment.