New York: Do you know why many different chemical compounds found in creams, cosmetics, and other topical consumer products trigger allergic reactions in the skin? The way some chemicals displace natural fat-like molecules — called lipids — in skin cells may be the culprit.
This discovery raises the possibility that allergic contact dermatitis could be stopped by applying competing lipids to the skin to displace those triggering the immune reaction. Currently, the only way to stop allergic contact dermatitis is to identify and avoid contact with the offending chemical. Topical ointments can help sooth the rashes, which usually clear up in less than a month.
In severe cases, physicians may prescribe oral corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory agents that suppress the immune system, increasing the risk of infections and other side effects. An allergic reaction begins when the immune system’s T cells recognise a chemical as foreign. T cells do not directly recognise small chemicals, and research suggests that these compounds need to undergo a chemical reaction with larger proteins in order to make themselves visible to T cells.
“However, many small compounds in skincare products that trigger allergic contact dermatitis lack the chemical groups needed for this reaction to occur,” said study co-leader Annemieke de Jong, Assistant Professor of dermatology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.