Featured Healthy Living Skin

Skin & Food Allergies Are Not The Same Thing

If You Can’t Eat It, You Can Probably Still Use It In A Cream.

“I’m allergic to almonds…can I use a cream with an ingredient extracted from almonds?” “I can’t eat coconuts…that means I can’t use coconut oil, right?”

If you have prick tested positive to something, it is more likely than not that you can still use it on your skin.

The main reason is that, while complex, skin and other allergies involve such different cells, systems, and modalities.

Quick Breakdown

There are 4 types of reactions that we tend to have. Type 1 and Type 4 are most relevant to prick tests and patch tests.

Type 1: asthma, naso-bronchial allergies, pets, dust mites, pollen, and food

  • Is IgE-mediated and involves antibodies.
  • Is what a lot of us think of when we think about an allergic reaction (the trouble breathing (anaphylaxis), puffing up, urticaria, etc.
  • While there can be some delayed responses, always something happens quickly — within 60 minutes. This reaction is very straightforward because it is IgE mediated and IgE exists in the body.
  • Food is included here but is more complicated (see below)

Type 4: contact dermatitis

  • Is non-IgE mediated and does not involve antibodies.
  • It is T-cell mediated.
  • The response is not immediate as with Type 1. It is delayed because there is more of a process. There has to be a sensitization that then triggers a reaction to occur. This can take a week to many weeks.
  • Instead of being IgE-mediated, this is T-cell mediated.

Food Reactions Can Be More Complicated

Food reactions include…

  • IgE-mediated: e.g. strawberries, peanuts
  • Non IgE-mediated: food protein-induced enterocolitis, which is T cell-mediated, does not happen immediately, and is usually outgrown, such as when a baby is allergic to the protein found in cow’s milk.
  • Non-allergic reaction which is metabolic: such as when you don’t have the enzyme needed to break down sugar lactose, i.e., you’re lactose intolerant).
  • Food allergies can be difficult to isolate because there can be many substances at play in one food. This is especially true for drugs. Drugs are made up of so many compounds so it is very difficult to isolate the trigger. This is why drug IgE testing is rare and very hard to distinguish. On the other hand, an allergy to a drug with skin manifestations can be patch tested.
  • Other food reactions include:
    • Adverse reaction (non-immune mediated)
    • Toxic (puffer fish toxin)
    • Conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is not an allergy but has the same symptoms.

Where It Gets More Complex for Skin: Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a different type of allergy with many theories still being explored. Inheritance plays a factor. One theory is regarding the presence of over-reactors — in which case, an over-reaction to food may also occur. And contact dermatitis is frequently a factor.

There is also “atopic march”: if you had eczema as child, you could be more likely to have asthma and naso-bronchial allergies as an adult.

For more on atopic dermatitis (eczema), check out What Is Eczema.

What To Know If You Have Skin & Food Allergies:

1. A prick test is for IgE, involves antibodies, and can be more complicated. Even if you prick test positive to shellfish, for example, your allergist needs to correlate the findings with your history to determine if you really cannot eat shellfish.

2. A patch test is very straightforward: If you patch test positive to something, contact with it will be a problem.

3. If your prick test is positive for something — unless you ALSO patch test positive to it — you can probably use it on your skin because the modalities and systems are so different. For example, if you prick test positive for almonds, the chances are very high that you can use a product on your skin with an ingredient extracted from almonds.

3. If you patch test and prick test positive to something, you need to avoid it in food and in your skin. For example, if you patch and prick test positive to nickel, you’ll react to it when touching it and if it is in your food.

Which Test To Get, and From Which Doctor?

For a patch test, see a dermatologist. For a prick test, see an allergist.

Some allergists do patch testing, too. But if you have a long history of stubborn skin reactions, we’d suggest seeing a dermatologist who is a contact dermatitis specialist for your patch testing. They are…specialists! They would have more patch test tray options, can really help identify what you need to avoid, and can identify other possible skin conditions that may also need to be managed. If you also have non-skin allergies, your contact dermatitis specialist can work closely with your allergist.

How to find such a doctor?

  • In the USA: search You can search by zip code and members of the American Contact Dermatitis Society also use CAMP (the Contact Allergen Management Program) to show you not just the ingredients and substances you need to avoid but brands and products that you can use (where you’ll see VMV Hypoallergenics a lot!)
  • In the Philippines: PM VMV Skin Research Centre + Clinics, where patch testing is a specialty.
  • In other countries: ask your official dermatological society about local contact dermatitis experts who offer patch testing.

How Else VMV Hypoallergenics Can Help?

Ask us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results and even possible cross reactants.

Otherwise, use the VH-Rating to shop safely for VMV products! Check out this helpful video on how it works.

At VMV, we make it easy to be guided by your patch test.

1) We practice allergen ommision

As our basis for what to omit, we refer to studies by independent groups of doctors who specialize in contact dermatitis, such as the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies. They regularly publish top contact allergens based on thousands of patch tests done in multiple countries.

2) We do our own patch testing…

…not just of the final formulation but also of each ingredient, raw material, and applicators (and we do allergen reviews of packaging, too).

3) Our VH-Rating System shows how many of the top contact allergens are NOT in a formulation.

If an allergen is included, the VH-Rating is lower and marked by an asterisk which corresponds to the ingredients list — you’ll see the allergen clearly marked with the asterisk and underlined, too. If they’re not allergens that you patch tested positive to, you can still use the product.

The VH-Rating System has been so effective that a clinical study published in a leading contact dermatitis journal showed less than 0.1% reactions reported in over 30 years.

4) We manufacture our own products.

We can ensure that our formulations are not mixed, stored, or handled in containers used for formulations with allergens, or otherwise contaminated by allergens..


Data regarding the effects (positive or negative) of topical skin treatments on fetal or infant development at this point may be inconclusive; but for anything taken orally, you should be conscientious and always consult your doctor beforehand. You’ll be seeing your gynecologist soon and regularly, then your child’s pediatrician. These visits, more than anything, will help you best monitor your baby’s healthy development. This information should not be considered medical advice. Particularly if you have a medical condition, before you change anything in your skincare or other practices related to pregnancy or nursing, ask your doctor.

Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Healthy Living Skin

Afraid Of Your Skin’s Tantrums? Try These 3 Tips To Keep “Problem Skin” Happy & Healthy

Do you live in fear that any little thing — a “gentle” new moisturizer, a hotel pillow, your hair — could set off your skin? Some discipline and lots of love keep “problem skin” happy and healthy. Practiced diligently, and combined with with good nutrition and exercise (the building blocks of health), these three to-do’s can even enable problem skin to “glow” out of its “terrible tantrum” stage entirely.

1) Get Your Problem Skin’s Support System In Place

Like many multifactorial health concerns, successfully managing problem skin (very sensitive, allergic, or reactive skin, atopic skin, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, cystic acne, rosacea, skin cancer, etc.) requires juggling several things, and the right support system of specialists is important.

Your team of caregivers should consist of the following:

1. Dermatologist who is a specialist in your condition.

Many physicians provide excellent care but might specialize in aesthetic services or dermatologic surgery. Seeing a specialist in your problem skin’s exact condition increases your chances of success.

Not every dermatologist is an expert in contact dermatitis. We’ve had fragrance-allergic clients who were given products labeled “fragrance-free” by their doctors even though the products contained ingredients closely related to fragrance. Contact dermatitis specialists are more updated on allergens, cross reactions, ingredient names, and relationships between different chemicals and ingredients. Allergic skin specialists tend to take very detailed histories to factor in what you might be exposed to in foods, at work, in your hobbies, etc. and help you identify triggers you might otherwise miss. Prevention is one of the most powerful, effective, and safest tools at your disposal, and it’s within your control. For it to work for your problem skin, make sure that you know exactly what to avoid.

A specialist will also be able to order the right diagnostic tests such as a biopsy or patch test. The latter is helpful for several problem skin conditions as it helps you identify which particular substances you need to look out for in everything from cosmetics to clothing, electronic equipment, and more. To find a doctor near you who offers patch tests, visit or ask your country’s dermatological society.

2. Allergist, if you also have food allergies.

Food allergies and skin allergies are not the same (different cells are involved). But if you also have food, bronchial or other allergies (determined by a prick test, not a patch test), you need an allergist on your team.

3. Make sure your doctors “play well together.”

If you have other health concerns, it is a good idea to put your specialists in touch with each other so that they work as a team, seeing your skin as part of a whole. For example, your allergist may have prescribed you an inhaler that has steroids or is another drug that is known to cause allergic or photo-allergic reactions. This is key information for your dermatologist. If you are taking neurological drugs and cystic acne is a concern, your dermatologist may want to ask your physician for possible alternatives.

4. Nutritionist, Trainer, Health App.

This may seem like an odd addition but proper diet and exercise are so important at reducing inflammation (a big factor in many skin problems) that it needs to be a priority. A nutritionist or gym trainer can help you with food choices in addition to exercise and motivation, but there are loads of free health apps that you can use on your phone to explore healthy recipes, to use as a food diary, and even for guided workouts at home.


2) Avoid “Instant Gratification” (Steroids)

Steroids are serious drugs that, while necessary for emergency cases and quick relief, are not meant for long-term use. Sustained steroid application can result in thinning of the skin (which increases sensitivity and other problems), decreasing efficacy of the steroid (so you apply more of it, more frequently, which compounds the problem), severe rebounds when you’re finally taken off of them (which may require hospitalization), and, in some years-long cases, Cushing’s disease or even death. Yes, we’re talking “just” from topical steroid creams.

No matter how severe your skin condition seems, there’s a good chance it can be managed by an accurate diagnosis (this isn’t as easy as it sounds — dermatology has a staggering number of conditions), accurate identification of allergens, and consistent, conscientious allergen avoidance (which also can be difficult because allergens can be listed under names you’re not familiar with).

Try to avoid the “instant gratification” of a steroid by using alternatives like virgin coconut oil, monolaurin, or a steroid-free anti-inflammatory for milder reactions. and tell your team of specialists that one of your goals is to manage your problem skin without the (regular) need for steroids.

3) Be Disciplined About Avoiding Triggers.

Don’t be guided by claims of “natural” or “for sensitive skin”: be guided by your patch test results and be disciplined in your product selection. While it might be tempting to try new things with fabulous-sounding promises of safety, carefully study ingredients (and jewelry, clothing, electronics cases, etc.) for your particular allergens. It might be a challenge at first but this strictness is the most important foundation you can give your skin so it can “glow up” into self-maintaining health and calm.

Establish a strict sleep schedule: studies show that 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal. This not only goes a long way towards preventing inflammation (a major trigger of skin problems), but can mean profound changes in other aspects of your life, too, from increased efficiency to more peace and happiness.

Speaking of happiness, be disciplined about stress management: now, not some day. Like sleep deprivation, stress is closely linked to inflammation. And it’s not just mental or emotional stress: anything that stresses your skin or body (like allergens and junk food) count, too. Set “quiet time” each day to recenter. Keep a gratitude journal. Even a facial can have surprising de-stressing benefits! And see a professional (add her or him to your support system team) if you feel you need additional help.

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

Featured Skin

What’s New In Skin Allergy in NYC?



Gramercy Allergy & Asthma in New York City | Mar 15, 2016


I just returned from the American Contact Dermatitis Society 27th Annual Meeting  in Washington DC. This entire day was focused on new and emerging trends in skin allergy including hot topics in contact dermatitis. I was surrounded by experts from around the world in contact dermatitis- we shared patient stories and brainstormed about difficult cases.  I learned so much and am excited to bring back this information to you my patients in NYC.One exciting new development for my patients with contact dermatitis is the introduction of the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s new app for CAMP.   It’s a free and easy way of using your product list in stores.



If I’ve created a safe product list for you, put your search codes (found in the upper left hand corner) and you’re set to go.  A word of caution, as products formularies are updated, the list won’t automatically update.  This app is easy to use and you can create favorite lists of your “safe” products.  I  know you’ll find this helpful and a welcome addition to your safe list.

Some of the topics discussed were: 

  • Emerging sensitizers in contact dermatitis
  • The role of the skins microbiome in the development of contact dermatitis
  • Phenylenediamine allergy
  • Patch testing in pediatric patients
  • Food patch testing


Announcing the Contact Allergen of 2016! Announcing the Contact Allergen of the Year

There they announced the 2016 contact allergen of the year – Gold Sulfate.

More on this from the blog coming soon.  These contact allergens are important sensitizers in our personal care products.


One in four people are sensitized to commonly used products like
shampoos, soaps, makeup and lotions.

Past winners have included:

I also learned that VMV Hypoallergenics is introducing a Post-Patch Test Allergen-Free Set (launching soon) for people recently diagnosed with contact dermatitis (another starter set: Superskin-Starts-Here Set).  This is designed to get you started with sample size products to reduce the possibility of irritation. Twitter/VMVinNYC, Instagram and Facebook/VMVHypoallergenics.

I’ve brought back all of this information to the practice and am excited to help those with skin allergy. 


Visit Gramercy Allergy for expert care
— for kids and adults! —
of your allergy and immunology concerns.

Schedule an appointment if you need help with your difficult-to-treat skin.

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This article originally appeared on Itchy & Scratchy, Gramercy Allergy’s Medical Column on Fighting Allergies and Asthma in New York City.

Reposted with permission. We publish articles by doctors who wish to provide helpful information to their patients and the public at large, or who respond to our requests to use them as professional resources. Doctors may or may not prefer to remain anonymous and we respect this preference. These resource articles do not in any way imply an endorsement by the physician of or VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® — they are intended for informational purposes only. While written by or with resource professionals, these articles should not be relied on for diagnostic accuracy or applicability to your particular skin, which requires an in-person ocular consultation with a qualified physician and possibly additional diagnostic tests.