Jessica Alba, the beautiful, young entrepreneurial actress and mother also admits to being a highly allergic person. She has had multiple serious allergic reactions. I have followed her stories because dermatologic news is always interesting to me, especially when it is related to skin products.
Some of Jessica Alba’s reactions have included a prompt reaction of sneezing and hand “welts” on immediate contact with a common baby laundry detergent (this one sounds like an immediate type 1 histamine reaction along the hive spectrum). She also had an allergic reaction to a common hair care product that sent her to the emergency room on Father’s Day, and apparently affected her cornea as well as skin. It’s hard for me to attempt a diagnosis for this reaction, but it may have been a delayed type of allergic contact dermatitis, or another immediate type 1 histamine mediated contact urticaria hives reaction.
These types of serious reactions do happen. They happen due to contact with chemicals and also with natural things (like tomato plants). When they happen they are frightening and uncomfortable, to say the least. Which is why it matters for us to pay attention to what we use on our skin.
Why did Jessica Alba have these allergic reactions to skin care products?
What does it mean to be a ‘highly allergic person’?
Highly allergic people, like Jessica Alba, are the ‘canaries in the mine’ when it comes to allergic reactions. She was plagued by asthma as a child, and visited the emergency room numerous times due to allergic and asthmatic misadventures in her youth. Folks with asthma are hyper-immune and highly allergic. They get hives (which is a type 1 allergy), and are also more at risk for allergic type 4 reactions, which are delayed contact hypersensitivity dermatitis reactions (like itchy scaly rashes to perfume, metal and poison oak).
This type of hypersensitive skin and asthmatic condition is genetic! It’s called an atopic diathesis. People who are “atopic” are prone to eczema (the atopic dermatitis type of eczema), asthma, allergies, hives, and anaphylaxis. My family is “atopic”. A lot of my patients are too. I know hypersensitive skin well from the inside out, and from the outside too as a doctor. People with atopic skin have the classic version of ‘sensitive skin,’ which is why they/we can have bad reactions to products – this is also why I’m so opinionated about what constitutes a truly hypoallergenic product.
Let’s be honest – if you have highly allergic skin what type of products should you look for? “Non toxic”, “natural”, “hypoallergenic”, or…?
Jessica Alba’s allergic reactions also appear to be what motivated her to started her company, The Honest Company. She wanted to create home-use products that have fewer of the allergens and ingredients that sent her to the emergency room.