Looking to point blame for the unsightly rash overtaking your face? Check in your makeup bag or next to the bathroom sink. Cosmetics -- from foundations and bronzers to cleansers, lotions and masks -- can cause problems for your skin, causing dryness, allergic reactions and various forms of dermatitis. Some surveys show that up to 25 percent of people have had an unwanted skin reaction to a cosmetic.
It's hard to predict what might irritate your skin, and even your favorite products can suddenly turn on you after decades of use [source: WebMD]. But if you know your skin tends to be on the sensitive side, there are certain ingredients you should avoid. When choosing a cleanser, for instance, beware of sodium lauryl sulfate, a tough emulsifier, and drying antibacterial agents like triclosan. Dishpan hands are bad enough, but nobody wants chapped skin on the face [source: Percia].
While shopping for moisturizers and anti-wrinkle creams, watch out for artificial dyes, fragrances and parabens, which can set off allergic reactions. Keep exfoliating ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids to a minimum, lest you invite irritation by sloughing off too much skin [source: Girdwain]. In the makeup aisle, steer clear of known irritants such as ultramarine blue, mica, bismuth oxychloride and talc [source: Percia].
If you think a cosmetic may have irritated your face, wash it off immediately with a gentle cleanser. Then test it on a small patch of skin on the inside of your elbow, checking for redness, swelling, itching or burning over the next 48 hours [source: WebMD].