There’s nothing worse than getting an allergic reaction from a new beauty product you’ve just purchased. After all that time you put into finding out which product to buy and the hard earned cash you spent on it, the last thing you expected is to have a firetruck red and bumpy face.

To avoid this dreaded situation we’ve enlisted the advice of one of our favorite derms Dr. Zena Gabriel (she’s a licensed medical professional and has been featured alongside brands such as l’Oréal and Neutrogena, so she’s legit). Here’s how all you have to know about allergic reactions to skin and beauty products:

First of all, how can you tell if you are having an allergic reaction to a product?

Allergic reactions usually happen within 24 hours of contact and the signs and symptoms are redness, itchiness, or a rash-like reaction.  

Okay! So if you have these symptoms, how long does it normally take a reaction to go away? Can it take weeks or even months?

If it is an acute allergic reaction it usually subsides within 2-4 weeks if you discontinue the product. The allergic reaction itself will subside but if you “wake up” your acne or your rosacea – which are chronic conditions – these might need to be controlled long term. But activating or exacerbating an existing condition is technically NOT an allergic reaction.

So we don’t just have the reaction to worry about but we also have to be concerned that it might flare up our other skin conditions. What are the steps to dealing with your skin once you have a bad reaction?

The first step is to discontinue the product immediately. You can begin an OTC (over-the-counter) hydrocortisone cream and take an OTC anti-histamine. If the reaction is severe then seeing a dermatologist is the best thing. You may need oral steroids or a prescription strength cream to ameliorate the reaction if it is bad enough.

How can we avoid these types of situations altogether?

Although it’s hard to have the patience – it’s best to spot test on your hand or a small patch of your face before completely introducing a skincare product into your regimen. Wait 48 hours to see if it’s compatible with your skin.

What are the most common ingredients that can give us bad reactions?

  • Nickel, frequently used in jewelry and clasps or buttons on clothing
  • Gold, common to jewelry
  • Balsam of Peru, a tree resin-derived fragrance used in perfumes and skin lotions
  • Thimerosal, a mercury compound used in vaccines and local antiseptics
  • Neomycin sulfate, a topical antibiotic common in first-aid creams and ointments. It’s also found in cosmetics, deodorants, soap and pet food
  • Fragrance mix, a group of the eight most common fragrance allergens found in foods, cosmetic products, insecticides, antiseptics, soaps, perfumes and dental products
  • Formaldehyde, a preservative used in numerous items including paints, medications, fabric finishes, paper products, household cleaners and cosmetics
  • Cobalt chloride, a metal found in medical products, hair dye, antiperspirant, and metal-plated objects such as snaps, buttons, and tools. Also found in cobalt blue pigment
  • Bacitracin, a topical antibiotic
  • Quaternium 15, a preservative found in cosmetic products such as self-tanners, shampoo, nail polish and sunscreen, and in industrial products such as polishes, paints, and waxes.