The American Contact Dermatitis Society has named an ingredient commonly found in eco-friendly body washes, shampoos, liquid soaps and other personal care items “allergen of the year.”
This, of course, raises questions as to whether products labeled as “eco-friendly” or “all-natural” are necessarily better for your skin. Dove Body Wash, a popular product for those with sensitive skin, is an example of a product that contains this ingredient. Here’s what you need to know.
Alkyl glucosides — the allergen of 2017— are a type of mild surface-active agent that can be derived from eco-friendly, natural sources like coconut oil, palm oil, grapeseed oil, corn and wheat starch. Because of their widespread use in personal care, skincare and household products, it is very likely that you use one or more products that contain alkyl glucosides. Not only can they be found in your body washes, shampoos and soaps, but you’ll also find alkyl glucosides in deodorants, sunscreens, paper products and some foods.
Although these ingredients were not expected to cause skin irritation or other side effects, a paper published in Contact Dermatitis found that alkyl glucosides likely trigger more instances of allergic contact dermatitis than originally believed. The paper outlined a 19-year study that followed just under 12,000 participants with contact dermatitis and found that 30 of them had an allergic reaction to alkyl glucosides, and another 16 reacted negatively to a mixture of compounds, including glucosides and other non-related chemicals.
Should I Ditch My Eco-Friendly Products?
While most people won’t experience an adverse skin reaction, the number of people who have an outbreak has been increasing over the past decade, according to a 2017 study in Dermatitis.
This may indicate that as alkyl glucosides are being used in more and more products, an increasing number of people are beginning to see signs of skin redness, itching or flaking caused by these ingredients.
Alkyl glucosides, however, aren’t necessarily “bad,” and they can be a more eco-friendly choice than some synthetic compounds. For some people, using products that contain glucosides won’t present any skin issues and they don’t have to dump their products.
On the other hand, some skin types may do best to avoid alkyl glucosides and other common skin irritants that could worsen dryness, redness or flaking. As a general rule of thumb, dry skin types should steer clear of cleansers and other products that foam, which is exactly what products containing alkyl glucosides do. Sensitive skin types or anyone who is already struggling to manage eczema, rosacea, psoriasis or other common inflammatory skin conditions should also avoid potentially irritating ingredients.
As with many other topical ingredients, if your skin can tolerate alkyl glucosides well, there’s no reason to stop using products that contain them. If you can’t seem to clear up redness and itching, you might want to talk a closer look at the ingredients that are in your skin-care products to try to find the culprit.
If you’re still not sure if alkyl glucosides could be to blame for your skin allergy or rash, make an appointment to see your dermatologist.
Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.