Food Allergy Risk-Reduction Through the Seasons: Winter Skin Care Tips

For adults, kids, and teens managing food allergies, the winter season poses some unique challenges. One common question is how to keep skin and lips moist in the cold, dry winter months.

Because lip balms, moisturizing creams, bath oils, and sunscreen make direct contact with the mouth, eyes, or hands, they need to be treated with care, and as potential allergens. In addition to the non-food allergens, essential oils, and colours that you might find in skin care products, food allergens may also be present. For example, these products could contain wheat germ oil, sesame or sweet almond oil, or even dairy or soy ingredients. Fortunately, with a bit of research, keeping dry skin and lips at bay is a snap.

If you have a food allergy(ies), here are five tips that can help guide you in your search for a safer skin care product:

  1. Hypoallergenic isn’t non-allergenic. Watch out for the term “hypoallergenic” on skin care products. According to Health Canada, this doesn’t mean that the product is free of all allergens, but that the manufacturer has selected ingredients that have the least allergenic potential. But since there is a wide variety of food allergies, it’s important to read the ingredient label on all products for what you’re allergic to.
  2. Check the ingredients. Cosmetics, including many skin creams, lotions, and lip balms sold in Canada are not subject to the same labelling regulations as foods. For example, botanicals such as sesame might be listed as sesamum indicum, and sweet almond as prunus dulcis. If uncertain, contact the manufacturer for clarification.
  3. Phone it in. When in doubt, call the skin care product manufacturer to ask about specific food allergens of concern to you and your family, as well as any sources of potential cross-contamination during the manufacturing process.
  4. Ask your allergist or dermatologist. Your doctor might be able to recommend lip balms, skin creams, or sunscreen lotions to fit your needs. Some skin care products are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies especially for our specialized market.
  5. Keep it simple. For lips, the simpler the ingredient listing, the better. For example, in a recent article about Moisturizer Allergy, Dr. Matthew J. Zirwas, a dermatologist in the U.S., recommends plain petroleum jelly when allergy testing for reactivity to a given product is not possible, or is delayed. And if you have the time and inclination, you might choose to prepare your own skin lotions using basic ingredients such as mineral oil or other ingredients that aren’t on your list of allergens. Your allergist may be able to guide you here or offer skin patch testing with the product you are considering using, in a controlled environment. Finally, it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that if you’re already using a skin care product and are experiencing potential allergy symptoms such as itchiness, redness, swelling, or hives on your skin or lips, immediately stop using the product and seek immediate medical attention.

With a bit of research and some advance planning, you’ll have your skin covered!