What to Do If a New Beauty Product Makes Your Skin Freak Out

Your emergency guide to dealing with hives, redness, and breakouts.

Three people putting soothing face masks for their skin
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

You wouldn't purposefully buy, then apply a mask that causes you to break out in hives all over your face, right? That's what's so frustrating about reacting poorly to a skincare product.

You think you're going to end up with glowy, dumpling skin, and out of nowhere, you end up with puffy red splotches everywhere. But, let's face it — we've all been there, and it always seems to happen at the worst possible moments ever.

That's why we reached out to a few pros to find out exactly what to do when you're dealing with three different emergency skin situations. Find out all their expert tips below.

How to Get Rid of Hives

If you get hives, you're likely dealing with an allergic reaction to something in the product formula.

"Hives occur because of either ingestion of a medication/food/supplement that causes this reaction, or because the skin comes in contact with an allergen that elicits a similar response," explains board-certified dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, and medical director of Art of Skin MD, Dr. Melanie Palm. "Typically, if it is due to a product, the hives are limited to the area of application or near to it."

In extreme cases, you could deal with anaphylaxis, which could cause extreme swelling or shortness of breath.

So what to do? First, you want to get that product off your face.

New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner recommends removing it with room temperature water, while Dr. Palm says you can use a bland gentle moisturizer. But be mindful not to scrub vigorously or use hot water, and don't try to camouflage the area with other cosmetics.

Next, you could take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine like Zyrtec or Benadryl. "These antihistamines stop the release of histamine from the inflammatory cells within hives and calm swelling, redness, and itching related to the rash," says Dr. Palm.

But most importantly, if you're experiencing serious side effects like shortness of breath, throat or tongue swelling, or generalized swelling, you should call 911.

How to Calm Skin Redness

You've just removed your face mask and now you have red skin that it looks like you got a horrible sunburn. Eeeek. But interestingly enough, there are a few things that could be to blame.

"Any one of several different ingredients could cause a reaction on the face from a mask," says Dr. Zeichner. "Fragrances and preservatives are common culprits, as well as acne ingredients such as salicylic acid or retinol. The skin may be more likely to develop a reaction if you are using anti-aging or exfoliating products already," he adds.

If your face was well hydrated or just cleansed, Dr. Palm said that it could have absorbed more of the perpetrating ingredient into the skin or sealed it in.

Your next plan of action is to remove it immediately, she says, and do several rinses with water to make sure it's completely washed off.

In addition, Dr. David Colbert of the New York Dermatology Group says you could use hydrocortisone cream, or products like Aquaphor or Vaseline to soothe the situation if irritation persists.

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How to Get Rid of Acne

What's the main reason you use a cleanser? To keep your skin clear and clean, right? Those are some of the many benefits of using a daily moisturizer, too. However, although less serious than hives — but likely just as annoying — sometimes these two staples cause zits to pop up out of nowhere.

Dr. Palm says that you could have used a non-comedogenic product, meaning it hasn't gone under testing that it won't cause breakouts. However, it could simply be a reaction to a product that your skin didn't like and we don't always react to products the same way. One person could react to this cleanser or moisturizer with hives or redness, while you got a pimple.

If you're acne-prone, it could be because the formula was oil-based, explains Dr. Palm. It could also be because you haven't exfoliated well or the product is expired and you're now dealing with bacteria.

Whatever you do, don't pick or try to pop it. This will cause the spot to become even more inflamed, and in the worst scenario, you could cause scarring.

To clear up the blemish, Dr. Colbert suggests using a product like the COLBERTMD Tone Control Disc and either applying a benzoyl peroxide gel or a topical antibiotic and cleansing with a salicylic acid cleanser.

While these remedies can help minimize reactions like hives, redness, and acne, it's always a good idea to contact your dermatologist to prevent any long-term skin damage.

Updated by
Erin Lukas

Erin is a Brooklyn-based beauty editor and has been with InStyle since 2016. She covers all facets of beauty for the site.

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