Marmur Medical Blog

When Your Personal Care Products Are Doing More Harm than Good – Identifying Allergic Contact Dermatitis with Patch Testing:

If you develop the pink, itchy, flaky, and sometimes painful skin characteristic of eczema and there is any concern you may be having an allergic reaction to a substance or product coming in contact with your skin, patch testing can be used to help identify the culprit. This is incredibly useful because identifying the cause is more challenging than it sounds! Why? Because more than 15,000 substances can cause an allergic skin reaction, it is possible to experience an allergic reaction to more than one substance, and it is also common to develop an allergic reaction to a substance that you have been exposed to previously without any problem.

Patch testing differs from a skin prick test, such as that done by an allergist. When you get a skin prick test (or scratch test), your doctor checks for an immediate reaction. Skin allergies tend to develop within minutes to hours, so a patch test checks for this type of skin reaction. This is not the type of reaction that occurs in contact skin allergy. That’s where we come in!

If you see us for patch testing, here’s what to expect:

  • One of our medical assistants will place small amounts of allergens (what can cause an allergic reaction) on your skin and cover each allergen with a patch. The purpose is to see if any allergens cause your skin to react.
  • You will leave the patches on your skin for 48 hours. If your skin reacts during this time, it may feel itchy or sore. Despite this, it’s essential to keep the patches on your skin so that you can get accurate results. If you remove the patches, loosen them, or get them wet, you’re likely to get inaccurate results.
  • After 48 hours, you will return to our office for the patches to be removed and for evaluation of whether any reaction consistent with allergy is detectable.
  • Another visit 48 hours from then (4 days from the time of initial patch placement) also takes place. It’s essential to keep this appointment because some allergic reactions require a full 96 hours to develop.
  • If patch testing reveals that you have one or more allergies, we will help create a treatment plan and counsel you on ways to avoid the substance(s) to which you are allergic. You will also be provided with a “safe product” list that includes an extensive list of brand-name items that does not contain any of the allergens of concern. This ranges from cleaning products to personal care products and beyond. You may need to apply medication to help the rash heal. All treatment plans include instructions to help you avoid what’s causing your skin to react.

Tips for preventing dry, chapped winter lips:

  1. Choose non-irritating lip products. Look for lip balms, lipsticks, and other lip products that contain ingredients like those listed below which are known humectants and/or contain other moisturizing properties. In a similar vein, avoid ingredients such as those listed below which can be potentially exacerbating to those with chapped lips, such as camphor, menthol, or eucalyptus. To be extra cautious, make sure your lip product is also labeled “fragrance free” and “hypoallergenic.”
  2. If your lips burn, sting or itch after using a lip product, stop using that product.
  3. Apply lip balm throughout the day and before you go to bed. If your lips are very dry and cracked, try a thicker ointment for a vehicle, such as petroleum jelly. This works effectively because ointments seal in moisture longer than waxes (like chapsticks) or oils.
  4. Protect your lips whenever outdoors by applying a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher. This includes the winter! Lip balms with mineral sunscreen ingredients, like titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, are typically the most optimal choice for those with chapped lips and should be reapplied every two hours while outdoors.
  5. Consider using a humidifier at home, especially in the bedroom while sleeping. If water intake is inadequate, increasing the amount consumed can be helpful, though this is not a solution in and of itself in those who already consume sufficient amounts of water on a daily basis.
  6. Avoid licking, biting, or picking at your lips. When your lips feel dry, it may feel natural to wet them by licking them, but this can worsen the problem. In fact, it can contribute to irritant contact dermatitis, a form of eczema, which is given a specific name, “liplicker’s dermatitis” when seen in this setting.
  7. Avoid the following ingredients:
  • Camphor
  • Eucalyptus
  • Flavorings, like cinnamon, citrus, mint, and peppermint flavors
  • Fragrance
  • Lanolin
  • Menthol
  • Octinoxate or oxybenzone
  • Phenol (or phenyl)
  • Propyl gallate
  • Salicylic acid
  1. Look for the following helpful ingredients:
  • Castor seed oil
  • Ceramides
  • Dimethicone
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Shea butter
  • Vitamin E AKA tocopherol
  • Glycerin

The great news is that patch tests are covered by most insurances. If you would like to schedule a visit with Dr. Maiman or Jennifer Schloth, PA please contact us to make an appointment. You can email or call us at 212-996-6900