Allergic Reactions to Acne Products: What You Should Know

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning about severe allergic reactions to acne products that can cause irritation and be potentially life-threatening. The risk of such severe reactions may be small, but the FDA is correct to warn consumers. Serious allergic reactions to acne products have been reported and differ significantly from the less harmful irritations mentioned on product packaging.

The FDA warning about allergic reactions to acne products applies to topical treatments with active ingredients of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. The gels, lotions, face washes, solutions, cleansing pads, toners and face scrubs are available under brand names such as Proactiv, Neutrogena, MaxClarity, Oxy, Ambi, Aveeno and Clean and Clear.

The FDA took action because it received 131 reports of allergic and hypersensitivity-related adverse reactions associated with these products between 1969 through January 2013. No deaths were reported, though hospitalization was necessary for 44 percent of the cases. Severe symptoms included: throat tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, low blood pressure, fainting or collapse. The FDA asks consumers to report any severe allergic reactions to acne medications to its MedWatch program.

3 Ways to Avoid Allergic Reactions to Acne Products

Adverse reactions can occur with any medication, even those that have been available over the counter for many years. While most adverse reactions will be mild, understanding potential risks and how to respond to them makes good sense.

Guard your safety by taking these steps when beginning to use any of the above products or any new topical medication:

  • Apply a small amount to an affected area for three days. If no discomfort occurs, follow the labeled directions for normal use.
  • Stop using the product if you develop hives or itching of the face or body.
  • Stop using the product and seek immediate medical attention if you develop throat tightness or swelling of the eyes, face, lips or tongue; feel faint; or have difficulty breathing.

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