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Is the "Allergen of the Year" in Your Natural Skin Care Product?

Discover what might be lurking in your face, hand and body products

The American Contact Dermatitis Society just announced the new, rising-star allergen. They do this annually for allergens that are causing more and more allergic reactions. For 2017, the winner is...... Alkyl Glucosides!

Does your natural plant-based skin care product contain the alkyl glucosides?

Alkyl glucosides are a sweetheart ingredient for many, natural skin care lines. They are biodegradable, derived from plants (coconut, palm and rapeseed oil) and less irritating to their chemistry cousins in the sodium lauryl sulfate family. These alkyl glucosides are found in rinse-off products like shower gels, shampoos and hair dyes. They are also found in leave-on products like sunscreens, fragrances, moisturizers, and deodorants. Leave on products have lower concentrations (around 5%). Rinse off products have higher concentrations (33%). Smart Skin Care Tip:  This concentration difference is pretty normal and tells you why you want to rinse off rinse-off products well!

Why is this naturally-derived skin care ingredient becoming such an allergen?

It is because plant-based skin care products are trending in popularity. The more you expose your skin to a potential allergen, the more likely you are to develop an allergic reaction. The classic example is poison oak and ivy, both of which contain a common allergen – 100% natural and commonly an allergen. Remember before you were allergic to poison oak/ivy and you could get exposed without getting a rash? Then, all of a sudden, exposure lead to the allergic rash. That’s how your skin’s immune system works with this type of allergic reaction (called delayed hypersensitivity). The popularity of plant-based natural skin care is causing more and more allergic reactions to plant based ingredients, like alkyl glucosides.

What are other names for members of the alkyl glucoside family that can cause skin allergy?

  • Lauryl glucoside
  • Decyl glucoside
  • Cocoa glucoside
  • Cetearyl glucoside
Also, the sunscreen Tinosorb M contains decyl glucoside as a component ingredient!

Who is most at risk for allergic reactions to alkyl glucosides?

Anyone, but especially people with sensitive, allergic skin called atopic dermatitis (the classic type of eczema that runs in families). You can be prone to atopic dermatitis even if you never had eczema. If eczema, asthma or seasonal allergies run in your family, you may be prone to atopic dermatitis. And therefore, you may be classified as an atopic with sensitive skin who is at higher risk to allergic reactions to things such as alkyl glucosides.

How many natural products contain alkyl glucosides?

A scientific study just published looked at the top 20 sunscreens and facial moisturizers sold on Amazon, and they found 15% contained alkyl glucosides. Of the 20% best-selling facial sunscreens alone, 10% contained them. The bottom line is that allergic reactions are part of life. To minimize your risk, chose products that are specifically formulated to be hypoallergenic. There is no hard and fast rule for what can be labeled as “hypoallergenic” so seek advice if you have sensitive skin.

The products at are primarily hypoallergenic and many are natural – they are a rare bridge to the gap between hypoallergenic, pleasant to use, and highly effective.

Some of my favorite options include: Sunscreens: Suntegrity BB Cream Sheer Strength Spray Sheer Strength Matte Raw Elements Stick Facial Moisturizers: Daily Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin Daily Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin Natural Lotion Shower/Bath/All-purpose Skin Cleansers: Hypoallergenic Shower Gel Natural Bar Soap Facial Cleansers: Extremely Gentle Facial Cleanser Natural Bar Soap Toleriane For more healthy skin tips, check out my new, YouTube Channel at Reference Boozalis E, Patel S, “Allergen of the Year” alkyl glucoside is an ingredient in top-selling sunscreens and facial moisturizers, Journal of American Dermatology (2017), doi: 10.1016/ j.jaad.2017.10.013.