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About allergies and products

Learn more about skin allergies and search for products which might suit you.

Our approach to helping with allergies

This page tells you all about skin allergies and how to identify products which might suit you.

Some ingredients can cause allergic reactions in a small number of people and we work hard to ensure we are using the lowest possible amount of these ingredients. Some ingredients are too important to leave out because of their function and benefit for most consumers.

We decide what goes into our products based on three things: what people prefer, our own safety checks and regulations of countries in which our products are marketed.

We know allergen information is important for the small percentage of people who may be sensitive to certain ingredients. That’s why we give clear information about what’s on our products.

What products can you use if you have an allergy?

A small number of people can become allergic to certain fragrance ingredients. Therefore, we aim to provide information on the presence of fragrance allergens to our consumers either on-pack or via our carelines. And in Europe we have created a database to help people find products which may be suitable. Find out more about ‘What’s in our products’ in your local country.

If you are not sure if you have an allergy to a fragrance ingredient, you should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional.

All about skin allergies to ingredients in home and beauty & personal care products

What is an allergy?

Our immune system keeps us healthy by fighting against anything harmful that enters our bodies – like bacteria and viruses. An allergen is something generally harmless that your immune system responds to like it’s a threat. You’ll usually get exposed to something a few times before that happens. But once you do, you’ll normally have that allergy for life.

Allergic reactions on your skin can often take a while to show – usually 24-48 hours after you came into contact with the allergen. You might hear this called ‘delayed hypersensitivity’, ‘type IV allergy’ or ‘contact allergy’. Most of the information here is about this kind of allergy, because most of our products can touch your skin in some way.

How do I become allergic to something?

There are two stages:

First, your body responds to an allergen and becomes sensitive to it. At this point, there aren’t any obvious symptoms, but the change to your immune system is permanent.

If enough of the allergen touches your skin again, that’s when you’ll start to see the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

‘Type IV allergy’ or ‘contact allergy' reactions normally appear 24-48 hours after you come into contact with an allergen. You might see redness or a rash, swelling, blistering, weeping, crusting and itching. If you’re allergic to one ingredient, you might also be allergic to similar things. A dermatologist can tell you which other ingredients, if any, you might need to avoid.

Don’t mistake skin irritation for an allergic reaction

Symptoms like redness aren’t always due to an allergy. If your skin’s irritated, it can look very similar to an allergic reaction. Often you’ll need to speak to a dermatologist for a precise diagnosis. With irritated skin, you’ll see similar redness or a rash, swelling and itching. You might also get tightness, soreness, tingling or burning. This all usually appears within a few hours of whatever has caused it. Then your skin might dry out or crack.

But there’s one big difference between skin irritations and allergic reactions – the effects of skin irritation won’t always happen again, even if you use the same product on the same bit of skin. But once you become allergic to an ingredient, a high enough amount of it will always cause your immune system to react the same way again.

What ingredients cause allergic reactions?

A lot of ‘type IV allergy’ or ‘contact allergy' allergens appear naturally in everyday life. Plant allergens like poison ivy and metals like chromium and nickel are good examples.

What do I do if I think I have a skin allergy?

If you recognise the symptoms we’ve listed and you think you could have a skin allergy, speak to your doctor or a dermatologist. It’s a good idea to make a list of all the products you used shortly before your allergic reaction. If you can, take the products and packaging with you so your doctor can see what’s in them.

A dermatologist will do some tests to figure out the cause of the reaction. They’ll examine you and ask questions about your symptoms and when they happened. They might also ask you to undertake a diagnostic patch test with the products you’ve used or specific ingredients within them.

Once you know what you’re allergic to, you can look out for it on ingredients lists and avoid it. Be wary of counterfeit products – you can’t always be certain what’s in them.

We can help you and your doctor figure out what you’re allergic to. If you require any information please contact our care line.

Do fragrances cause allergies?

There are small number of fragrance ingredients that have been identified as having the potential to cause skin allergies.

The International Fragrance Association regulates the way we use these ingredients. At Unilever, we try to use fewer of them and we use them at a lower level than the industry standard. If you are in Europe, we now also offer a searchable database to help anyone with an allergy to one of the ingredients to search for products that might be suitable for them. Select your country from the list.

What about preservatives?

Preservatives are important – they ensure our products are safe to use to the end of their shelf life by preventing the growth of bacteria and mould. We only use preservatives when they’re absolutely necessary, and always in as small an amount as we can. But again, a few people can be allergic to a few of these ingredients.

Medical Disclaimer

All content found on this Website (including text, images, or other formats) was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call for an ambulance immediately. Unilever does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this website. Links to educational content not created by Unilever are taken at your own risk.

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