Study Reveals Why Some Cosmetics Cause Allergic Reactions

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  • Some chemicals present in beauty products remove natural fats in the skin cells triggering allergic reactions
  • A molecule known as CD1a found on the skin’s outer layer plays a role in the allergic reaction
  • Researchers hope that their work may point to a potential strategy that can stop allergic reactions in their tracks

Skin creams and other cosmetics are supposed to make you look better. Unfortunately, there are times when these products cause rashes instead. Findings of a new study now offer an explanation of what possibly causes these allergic reactions.

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Annemieke de Jong, from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and colleagues found that some chemicals present in these beauty products remove the natural fats in the skin cells, which may trigger allergic reactions.

de Jong explained that T-cells spring into action when the body’s immune system detects something foreign. However, many small compounds that cause allergic contact dermatitis lack the chemical group required for the reaction to occur. These chemicals should be invisible to the T-cells, but sometimes they are not.

The researchers believe that a molecule known as CD1a found on the skin’s outer layer may be the culprit that causes certain chemicals to become visible to the T-cells.

In experiments with human skin cells, de Jong and colleagues found that several common chemicals that are known to cause allergic reactions including those found in creams and fragrances can bind to CD1a molecules and activate T-cells.

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“These findings suggest that several hydrophobic contact allergens elicit T cell–mediated hypersensitivity reactions through displacement of self-lipids normally bound to CD1a, thereby exposing T cell–stimulatory surface regions of CD1a that are normally hidden,” the researchers wrote in their study.

The findings were based on experiments conducted in the laboratory and not on people, but the researchers hope that their work may point to a potential strategy that can stop allergic reactions in their tracks, such as by applying other fats to the skin to replace the ones that causes immune reaction.

The findings were published in the journal Science Immunology on Jan.3