Categories
Allergen, Not An Allergen Featured

INFINITY STONES: Allergen or Not An Allergen?

Not An Allergen…but a Strong Irritant

SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: End Game.
If you have not seen the movie, stop reading here.

Infinity Stones

Infinity stones are extremely dangerous, but we feel that they are more likely to be irritants than allergens. Irritants should not be thought of as less bothersome than allergens. In fact, irritants can be, as in the case of chlorine, toxic or deadly with too much exposure. Based on what we know about the infinity stones as well as how irritant and allergic reactions work, we feel that these cosmic gems would be strong irritants based on five main justifications: rarity, molecular size, lack of the need for sensitization, speed and type of reactions, and that reactions tend to occur with more exposure.

1) Infinity Stones Are Really Rare

Our first justification for infinity stones as strong irritants but not allergens is their rarity. Common allergens tend be “everywhere.” Infinity stones are even rarer than our other fantasy allergen-not an allergen vibranium, which we theorized as Not An Allergen.

Not only are infinity stones extremely hard to find, each stone is unique — one of a kind. All six stones are either the six fragments of the oldest being in the universe who committed suicide due to loneliness (from comic archives), or the embodiment of six entities that existed before the universe came into being and that control every aspect of life and the universe (MCU). Being so rare and with a good likelihood of staying rare (pre-universal beings aren’t exactly next to the mints at your local convenience store), there is little likelihood of them becoming common contact allergens.

2) Molecular Size…They’re Gemstones

Allergens tend to have a small molecular size (less than 500 daltons), which allows them to be more readily absorbed into the skin. Infinity stones are solid gemstones with large molecules, and they are not ground up into a powder and applied. If there is anything absorbed, it seems to be the energy emitted by the stones…which, while also having a correlation in skin, is not a contact allergen.

There are different types of energy that we know that the skin gets exposed to, and that can affect the skin. These include: UV, lasers, infrared, visible light, radio frequency, ultrasound, cryo (cold) energy, and kinetic energy. Many of these energies can penetrate the skin, and even tissue and bone. But when they do, their action is different from sensitization. They break down cells.

As they appear and exist, and as they are used, the infinity stones are solid entities with a molecular size too large to penetrate the skin, which makes them less likely to be allergens.

3) No Need For Sensitization: Infinity Stones Can Hurt Anyone

Allergens cause allergic reactions after sensitization: exposure to the substance causes an immune overreaction in your skin that your cells then remember. This can happen quite suddenly and be a surprise, as sensitization can occur late (sometimes years later) to a substance that was previously never a problem. Once you have been sensitized — have developed an allergy — to a substance, your cells remember so that even a small amount of it can trigger an allergic reaction.

Irritant reactions are not allergic reactions and do not require sensitization. Think of them instead as “injuries” to the skin’s surface…specifically when an injury from friction, chemicals, certain physical materials, or even too much water or the cold happens faster than the skin can repair itself.

Irritant reactions can occur after just one exposure, especially if the irritant is a strong one like an acid or an alkali. Mild irritants may elicit reactions after repeated contact or exposure. And other irritants may cause certain people to develop a tolerance to them over time. The point is, allergens elicit allergic reactions…if you are not sensitized to the substance, you should have no problems touching it. Infinity stones seem universal in their ability to cause harm to anyone — with reactions being more severe with prolonged exposure and with some stronger beings having a higher tolerance — without requiring sensitization.

Another way of thinking about this is: a common contact allergen is not harmful to everyone; just to those allergic to it. But infinity stones seem to be problematic for everyone. No one seems to be able to hold an infinity stone for long without sustaining injury or death. For this reason, infinity stones tend to be housed in a gauntlet or other object (the Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, Time Stone in The Eye of Agamotto, the Space Stone in the Tesseract, for example).

4) Speed and Type of Reactions

Unlike anaphylaxis, contact allergic reactions (once sensitization has occurred) tend to occur not immediately but after a day or several days, while irritant reactions can occur quickly after contact. Certainly the power stone (as we saw in Guardians Of The Galaxy) elicits immediate reactions, as does using all the stones together, as we saw with Thanos, The Hulk, and Iron Man.

Strong irritants can cause gnarly reactions, even if you aren’t allergic to them. These can include redness, but also blistering, swelling, pain, and chemical burns, all of which we seem to see with infinity stones.

The “reactions” from prolonged contact with infinity stones seem to involve the skin — burns and other trauma that seem to spread quickly beyond the hand to the arm, neck, and face. In the case of Jane Foster’s “possession” and The Collector’s assistant’s explosion, these quick reactions also seem to spread and become systemic. While systemic reactions are more common with allergic reactions, they aren’t unheard of in irritant reactions, particularly to very strong irritants.

5) Amount and Length of Exposure Matter

An irritant removes the skin’s natural moisture and oils that it needs to protect itself. Once this occurs, the irritants can penetrate the skin even more and cause further inflammation and other damage. Allergens tend to be able to cause an allergy even with tiny quantities of the allergen or with short exposure. Irritants can require more of a substance or more exposure to it to elicit a reaction.

The infinity stones seem to cause more damage the more they are used, or the more of them are used together, as we can see from the lack of harm to some individuals in MCU who touch individual stones briefly (even non-super or celestial individuals like Hawkeye) versus the spreading damage to Thanos, The Hulk, and Iron Man after handling the stones for longer, or all together.

Finally, stopping contact with infinity stones — as in the case of Jane Foster, Drax, and Mantis with the Reality Stone, and any of the individuals under the mind stone’s spell after Loki’s scepter is destroyed — even without an antidote or medicine (or antihistamine?) seems to alleviate the symptoms completely…which is also consistent with an irritant reaction.

 

Infinity stones being fictional, there is lots we might be missing of course. But do you think we got it right? Would you have said allergen instead? Let us know in the comments!

 

 If you have a history of sensitive skin in real life, don’t guess: random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your non-fictional superhero dermatologist of choice about a patch test.

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

For more:

On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever and One In Four Is Allergic to Common Skin Care And Cosmetic Ingredients.

To learn more about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity, click here.

Sources:

Russel, B. (2019, February 6). The Definitive Guide to the Marvel Infinity Stones in the MCU: Powers, names, locations, and everything else you need to know before Avengers: Endgame. Retrieved April 29, 2019.

Fandom contributors. (2018, April 10). Infinity Stones.Retrieved April 29, 2019.

Dockterman, E. Everything to Know About Marvel’s Infinity Stones Before You See Avengers: Endgame. (2019, March 10). Time.

Mayo Clinic staff. (2018, October 4). Contact dermatitis. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 29, 2019.

InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Allergic contact dermatitis: Overview. 2017 Jul 13.

Ngan, V. (2003). Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Dermnet New Zealand. Retrieved April 29, 2019.

Additional References (Nonfictional): 

Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

1. Warshaw, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 49-59

2. W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009

3. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.

4. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97

5. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.

6. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.

7. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.

8. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38. 

9. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.

10. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.

11. Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.

12. Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.

13. Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.

Want more great information on contact dermatitis? Check out the American Contact Dermatitis SocietyDermnet New Zealand, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.