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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to a Facial?

By J. Beam
Updated May 17, 2024
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Facials and facial treatments, such as waxing and exfoliation, are common procedures performed in day spas, salons, and dermatology facilities. An allergic reaction to a facial is not an uncommon occurrence. This is commonly known as contact dermatitis, a medical term that refers simply to an allergic reaction caused by direct contact of the skin with any given allergen. An allergic reaction can be the result of fragrance, plant-based substances, or chemical agents.

The signs of contact dermatitis include redness, swelling, and irritation, such as itching, dryness, and cracking. In some cases, blisters or rash may develop. The symptoms primarily include any type of skin irritation, but always in the area where the offending agent came into contact with the skin.

While very mild irritation may result from certain types of facials, this is still a possible indicator of an allergic reaction to a facial product. If moderate to severe irritation occurs, this indicates that one or more ingredients in the products used has caused contact dermatitis. Obviously, it is best to avoid such products in the future, but the only way to positively identify the offending agent is through allergy testing. If necessary, testing can be performed by a dermatologist or allergy specialist.

Individuals with sensitive skin, including those who have displayed symptoms of mild irritation from even the simplest cosmetics, should ask their esthetician or dermatologist to perform a patch test. Testing a product on a small area of skin before applying it to large areas is the best way to avoid a larger problem. If the area in question shows no signs of allergic reaction after 24 hours, it can be considered safe to proceed with use of the product.

An allergic reaction to a facial is treated in two ways. The first is to avoid using the offending product again. The second depends largely on the severity of the reaction and symptoms. Over-the-counter medications and creams, including hydrocortisone and antihistamines, may help relieve redness and itching. If the symptoms are severe, including extreme discomfort, signs of infection, or symptoms that do not respond to over-the-counter treatments, individuals should contact a medical professional for further treatment. Until the symptoms are gone, the person who had the reaction should avoid putting any additional cosmetic products on her face except for mild soap and water.

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Discussion Comments

By SarahGen — On Jun 03, 2013

Is an acne breakout an allergic reaction? I did a facial yesterday and woke up with several cystic pimples.

By burcidi — On Jun 03, 2013

@ysmina-- There is an incorrect assumption that natural or herbal things don't cause allergies but that's not true. Natural oils in facials can definitely cause allergic reactions.

I'm also allergic to tea tree oil, so it's highly possible you are too. I wish you had done a patch test on your arm first. Remember to do this from now on before you get a facial. You never know what your skin might react to.

By ysmina — On Jun 03, 2013

I've had many facials before and never had a problem. But the facial I had yesterday caused an allergic reaction. My face became itchy, tingly and red after it was applied. I told the girl right away and she washed it off, but the itching and redness continued.

I had to take an antihistamine medication at home and I applied pure aloe vera gel which calmed my skin.

I asked them about the ingredients of the facial before I left and they said that it has natural oils like tea tree oil and vitamin E oil. I guess I'm allergic to one of these.

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