Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Skincare Allergy Revelation | AKA I Finally Figured Out Why My Face Hates Everything I Love

I've been playing around Asian beauty products and techniques for over a year now, and along the way I made some interesting discoveries about myself, and my skin. What started out last year as a realization that my alcohol allergy extended beyond ingestion, turned into a revelation about what my alcohol allergy really is, and the fact that I've had other allergies my whole life and never knew it.

In The Beginning, There Was Memebox...
It started with Memebox: those pink boxes delivered dirt-cheap Korean cosmetics to my doorstep and I couldn't wait to layer them all onto my skin fast enough. My skin would go through phases where it would be clearer than it had ever been before, then turn into the most painful, demon-ridden, slab of irritation I've ever experienced. It was about that time that I heard many people talking about sensitivity to alcohol and how it can damage and dry out skin, and even cause more acne for acne-prone/oily skin. After hearing this, it dawned on me that I was allergic to alcohol when consumed, so it was very possible that my skin could not handle absorbing it either.

I Finally Thought About It Just A Little Bit More...
It wasn't until recently that I accidentally started reviewing a cream with alcohol, and after a couple weeks I realized I didn't have a reaction to it. At first I was horrified that I had been applying it to my skin unknowingly, but then I was perplexed by the fact that my skin didn't freak out like my son after eating a candy bar. With the help of an amazing soul on the /r/asianbeauty subreddit, this revelation (as well as others) became unbelievably clear: It wasn't just alcohol that my skin was reactive to, it was the type of alcohol that caused an allergic reaction, just like consumption. Alcohols based from grains or yeast, like Ethanol and Ethyl Alcohol, are the same types of alcohol that I am allergic to internally, so it makes sense that those particular types of alcohols cause such negative reactions externally.

Not Just Alcohol, but Snails too?
This idea about alcohol really shed a whole new light on skincare for me. I'm still treading lightly with alcohols, because not all are good, and fatty alcohols (good alcohols) can also be clogging for acne-prone skin too. But allergies in general got me thinking about other products I react to.
The Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence was and still is a much raved about product, that my skin hated with a passion. Deep, painful cysts covered my face and in just a matter of two short days. I had perviously loved products with snail, so this had to be a reaction to the bee venom, right? I'm mildly allergic to bee stings (remember that for later) so this must have been a bad idea. I continued to use other products with smaller amounts of snail mucin until I came across the CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Essence, which is another highly raved about snail product, and when my skin broke out in cysts again I was left sad and frustrated.
Then I discovered that snail mucin allergies are commonly linked to dust mite allergies from what I've observed online, and dust mites and shellfish are linked allergies, AND snails are mollusks which are shellfish.
I actually am allergic to dust mites, and pollen, but shellfish you say? I actually love seafood, but when I eat it I get bad pains in my shoulder - crippling pains that usually lead me to overdosing on painkillers. It's bad, and it wasn't until recently that I realized I get these same pains when I drink alcohol. I actually am not only allergic to the same dust mites linked to snail allergies, but it appears I have a bit of a shellfish allergy as well. My dreams of bathing in a pool of snail mucin goodness are smashed to pieces.

That Bee Venom Allergy I Told You Remember, That's Helpful Here ;-)
It wasn't until I was 27 years old that I had been stung by my first bee, which didn't quite send me into anaphylactic shock, but did cause me to break out in hives and for my arm to swell at an alarming size. I loaded up on Benadryl and was ok after a couple hours, but this wasn't a very fun experience. This is what let me to think that my reaction to the Benton Snail Bee Essence was due to the bee venom, but was actually from both the bee and the snail (even more sadness).
But this allergy appears to not stop at bee venom - no, friends, it's not that simple. I tested a few products like the Shara Shara Honey Bomb Ampoule, the LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule, and the It's Skin Propolis Power 10 Formula - which resulted in similar reactions to what I experienced with the snail mucin products. Being allergic to bee venom means I'm also allergic to bee products like propolis and royal jelly - honey seems to be ok for me when eaten, but I'm still testing out external application. Another skincare dream down in the mud.

So What Did I Really Learn?
Well, I know I'm allergic to alcohol, but I learned my skin can in fact handle certain alcohols, so this is good news! The tricky part is now narrowing down alternative alcohols to that my skin isn't sensitive to. I learned that because of my dust mite allergy and mild shellfish allergy, and my breakouts from high-content snail mucin products, I am reactive to snails, but can handle mucin in small amounts. I also learned that because of my bee allergy I can't use anything with higher amounts of honey, propolis, royal jelly, or bee venom.

It's a sad day for my skincare wishlist, but it's hopefully a very happy day for my skin!

1. Food Allergy Information
2. Shellfish Allergy Information
3. Dust Mite and Snail Cross Allergies 
4. Dust Mite and Snail Inhalant Allergies
5. Snail Anaphylaxis During Dust Mite Immunotherapy
6. Cross Reactivity Between Dust Mites and Snails (in vivo)
7. Cross Reactivity Between Dust Mites and Snails (in vitro)
8. Snail Growth Factor Allergy with Micro-needling
9. Relationship of Dust Mites and Crustacean Allergies

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  1. What a bummer about the snail and bee allergies! I'm sorry you had to go through all of that to find them out. Thanks for sharing, especially about the related allergies. What are some of your favorite products without?

    1. I am in love with the Skin Ceramics Donkey Milk Yogurt Cream right now. And the Goodal Waterest Lasting Water Oil. They've been amazing!

  2. Holy cow, I would never have imagined so many connections between potential allergens and adverse reactions to skincare products! I'll have to keep a close eye on the ingredient lists on my products and see which ones aren't friends with my skin. I'm allergic to shellfish, pollens, stingy bugs, certain dyes & fragrances, all sorts of fun stuff :(

  3. I'm so glad you figured it all out. I'm allergic to dust mite and shellfish. I never tried snail ... But it is good to know I shouldn't!!!

  4. Can't handle snail or beeswax. Or some forms of coconut. So far, propolis seems okay, though!

  5. Hi, just as an FYI for allergies. Snails are mollusks,specifically univalves, which means they're related to things like clamp and oysters (bivalves), squid and octopus. Dust mites, on the other hand, are arthropods, so related to things like crabs, shrimp, beetles, etc. There is sometimes overlap, but when people say "shellfish" they don't usually differentiate between the two. Some people can be reactive to one and not the other. Something else to note - with a bee allergy, if you're ever in contact with something like jellyfish or anemones, you could have a more severe reaction. The venoms might have some compounds in common.