Skin allergies are one of the most common causes of conditions of the skin. They are typically caused by a problematic immune system which becomes hypersensitive after being exposed to a certain substance which it views as “harmful” even though it isn’t. As a result, the next time these substances enter the body, the immune system releases vast amounts of antibodies, supposedly to combat these “harmful” substances, but in the process cause adverse reaction in other cells of the body.
The substances are called allergens and they can be anything from pollen breathed through the air, dust mites that thrive in carpets and furniture surfaces. They are also encountered in pets, especially dogs and cats. With respect to skin allergies, they usually occur when skin comes into contact with skincare products containing allergens, cosmetics, perfumes, etc.
How do skin allergies work?
When the immune system encounters a substance that can potentially cause disease, it produces antibodies called IgG or immunoglobulin G and IgM or immunoglobulin M. With the production of these antibodies, the immune system now becomes sensitized and able to neutralize the substance, helping you to recover from the disease after a few days.
As time goes, your now sensitized immune system is ready to produce large amounts of antibodies rapidly the next time it encounters the same substance. This rapid production of antibodies makes you able to recover from the disease quickly, so that it’s possible you won’t even suffer any symptoms.
With skin allergies, on the other hand, the situation is a little different. When an allergen – for instance, a cosmetic ingredient – comes into contact with your skin for the first time, your immune system will also produce antibodies, only this time, instead of IgG and IgM, it produces IgE or immunoglobulin E.
The IgE will also bind itself with the cosmetic allergen and does the same thing it did with any normally harmful substance, prompting the sensitization process. Without this sensitization, no skin allergies occur.
Because the immune system has already been sensitized to the cosmetic allergen, the next time you get exposed to it, your body mass produces IgE, which then attach themselves to the allergens, and eventually the mast cells. The mast cells are a type of cell containing many chemicals that can cause inflammation, foremost among them is histamine. The IgE causes the mast cells to release these chemicals to surrounding tissue, causing inflammation, redness (erythema), and itching (pruritis) in the surface of the skin. The reaction that is seen on the skin surface is called a wheal or a hive and is considered as one of the common symptoms of skin allergies.
Types of Skin Allergies
There are three main types of skin allergies: food allergy, contact dermatitis, and atopy or allegic inhaled dermatitis. Skin allergies can be caused by an allergic reaction to ingredients or preservatives in food, such as horse meat, beef, pork, eggs, fish, chicken, corn, soy, preservatives and dyes, dairy products, poultry products, etc.
Contact dermatitis is a type of skin allergies caused by allergens coming into direct contact with the skin. Common among these allergen types are poison ivy and ragweed. Ragweed can also be a cause of inhaled skin allergies, as well as, pollen, house dust, dust mites, mold, animal dander, feathers, grasses, trees, and shrubs.