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The best way to find out if you’re allergic to a cosmetic


Corey’s curious: What’s in Mary Kay’s Timewise line that isn’t in anything else? I recently had a severe allergic reaction to it and I’ve never never had a reaction to anything else in my entire life. I’ve been using Sabon NYC`s Seaweed line, and Lush’s Ocean Salt and never has any problems. What gives?

The Left Brain Responds:

To start with, let’s take a look at the ingredient list for Timewise:

Water, Mineral Oil, Glycerin, Isotheral, Neopentanoate, Bentonite, Cetyl Dimethicone Copolyol, Octyl Pelargonate, Neopentyl, Glycol Dioctanoate, Myristyl Myristate, PPg-26-Buteth-26, Sorbitol, Sucrose, Distearate, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Oleyl Oleate, Tocopherol, Comfrey Extract, Burdock Extract, Hops Extract, Yarrow Extract, Meadowsweet Extract, Hydrocotyl Extract, Coneflower, Extract, Camellia Sinensis Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Triethanolamine, Sucrose Stearate, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Carnauba Wax, Lactose, Methylparaben, Cellulose, Propylparaben, C9-15 Alkyl Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Lauramine Oxide, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Titanium Dioxide, Ultra-marines, Chromium Hydroxide Green FD&C Red 4, D&C Red 33.

It’s hard to say which of these ingredients is causing you to have a reaction. Normally, I’d say it’s the fragrance since that’s typically the ingredient that people have the most allergic reactions to. But in this case, there doesn’t appear to BE a fragrance. Most of the other ingredients are used in a lot of other products, so it’s unlikely that they’re the culprits. That narrows the list down to the few ingredients that are relatively unusual. For example, you don’t see glycol dioctanoate or octyl pelargonate used that much. Some of the extracts, like Hops, Meadowsweet, and Hydrocotyl aren’t seen all that often either. Then again, it may not be a single ingredient. You could be reacting to a combination of chemicals that are unique to this product. There’s really no way to tell.

The Dermatologists’ Secret Allergen List

So what’s the best way to predict which products will cause an allergic reaction? I suggest you check with your dermatologist about C.A.R.D. CARD, or Contact Allergen Replacement Database, is a list of products that are free from specific allergens. Your doctor can help you use this tool to avoid products that are likely to give you reaction. According to PubMed, this approach has proved to be an invaluable tool for both physicians and their patients in contact allergy counseling. If you’re interested in learning more, check with your dermatologist.

What do you think? Do you have specific ingredients that you know you’re sensitive to? Leave a comment and share your suffering with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Miranda March 22, 2016, 12:23 pm

    From personal experience, I believe the propylene glycol and butylene glycol are the likeliest culprits.

  • Ann Kaufman April 6, 2016, 10:53 am

    I used mary Kay time wise repair kit. Since then I’ve had a outbreak on my lips. Swollen and tiny bumps inside lip. Anyone get same results?

    • Gesna Nichols March 29, 2017, 12:02 am

      I got that reaction from Mary Kay glosses and lip sticks. I stopped using them. Then, I was only getting the reaction on the edge of my upper lip. I determined it may be the Mary Kay foundation. I stopped using it a day ago. I notice no little bumps, dryness (like a burn) or swelling.

  • Andrea September 30, 2016, 9:58 pm

    I recently purchased the Mary Kay Time Wise repair kit. I had never used Mary Kay products in the past. Within hours of use my eyes were running and I was sniffling constantly. I’ve used it twice a day as recommended and have had this problem every day. I hate to give it up as I love the way my skin feels when I use these products…I’m not positive that it is the Mary Kay, but it is the only change I’ve made in the last week, so can’t help but think that this is the problem.

  • Denise January 24, 2017, 6:42 pm

    I’ve recently started using timewise repair Mary Kay kit and have broken out in hive starting with my neck getting very warm then itching arms two days in a row now. Yesterday it even spread to the back of my legs. My face also has a slight burning sensation.

  • Maria June 27, 2017, 12:12 am

    I used Mary Kay time wise retinol for the face and eyes. My left side of the face is swollen and burned. My left eye is swollen shut. This is the first and only time I used a Mary Kay product and I was given a sample through Glossybox. It has been 3 days and the itching won’t stop. I have a chemical burn patch in my cheek. I have had VPeels, chemical peels, retinols, glycolic acid, lactic, alpha-beta peels, microdermabrasion, BBL, and NEVER had this reaction. This is. Be product.

  • Pandora Seriani July 21, 2017, 8:43 am

    I used to be a MK consultant, when they were pink & not lavender. I used it non-stop until 20 years ago. Consequently, my skin was/is great, but at 65 it could go at any time, so I found a great MK rep & started using the time wise line. Well, I shouldn’t have. I changed, they changed, but my face hurts & I have little bumps, starting around my mouth and now my cheeks.. look like little hives, could be the return of rosacea, but whatever, it breaks my heart! My skin looks so great because of them & now I can’t use them!

  • Lexi July 24, 2017, 2:58 pm

    I was so excited to get started selling Mary Kay…until my face went absolutely crazy! I’ve never had a zit in my life, and literally I had a full face of acne within a week of using TimeWise 🙁 They zits were so bad it got to the point where my face was in pain. The minute I went back to my Neutrogena wash and Tarte Foundation: skin was perfect again. If anybody figures out what the culprit is, PLEASE share!

  • OJ October 21, 2017, 1:35 pm

    For all the commenters above, I have these kinds of reactions when exposed to castor oil, which is in this Mary Kay product, and in many lip balms. Small bumps all over (or just around my lips if it’s a lip product) followed by serious cystic acne if I keep using it.

    Unfortunately castor oil is generally perceived as safe and non-irritating, and it’s cheap, so it’s used in a lot of skincare and beauty products.

  • Kristi December 15, 2017, 1:27 am

    Check out aluminum too… I am very allergic to aluminum and that appears to be an ingredient. I recently discovered it in one of my medications after looking up the ingredients to figure out what was making me sick!

  • Vern March 13, 2018, 2:14 am

    I recently purchased the Timewise products from Mary Kay. After using the products for a little over a week, I developed a Rudolph like redness and swelling at the tip of my nose. It itches and if I scratch it it grows. And I have also had itching and bumps around my hairline. I’m going to stop using it and hope that it helps. But I just been a lot of money on this product and hope that somehow I can not feel terrible for spending fortune. I just need my skin to be at least back where it was. I would really like to know if anyone else has experienced this.

    • Perry Romanowski April 3, 2018, 7:51 am

      Yes, it sounds like you should stop using the product. Sometimes people have reactions to compounds that other people don’t have reactions to.

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