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What are salicylates and how can they impact you?

Do you experience unexplained skin reactions after eating certain foods or using cosmetics with ingredients derived from certain plants? If you don’t have any allergies, then salicylates could be the guilty party. This chemical compound occurs naturally in many plants that we eat every day, like strawberries, broccoli, spinach, ginger, honey, and many more. Besides naturally occurring in our food, salicylates are also synthetically manufactured and both the natural and synthetic versions are widely used in medications, skincare products, food, hair care, perfume, and other products. Salicylates are typically used because of the properties that make them a preservative, bactericidal (kills bacteria), and antiseptic.

Most of us have no problem with salicylates. Our bodies can handle the quantities that are in our food perfectly fine. The added salicylates coming through medications and cosmetics are also processed and broken down safely for most of us. However, large doses can cause problems for anyone.

What is salicylate sensitivity?

Some people have a salicylate sensitivity (sometimes referred to as salicylate intolerance) where the body is unable to properly metabolise and excrete salicylates and even a small quantity can be a problem. Salicylate sensitivity is an adverse reaction to the presence of salicylates that manifests in allergy-like symptoms. It’s not known what percentage of people have salicylate sensitivity, but studies have found that rates are more frequent in people who suffer from asthma, food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (reference). Salicylate sensitivity can also be developed through over-exposure to high quantities of salicylates for long periods of time.

Salicylate sensitivity can be tough to identify since it manifests like a food allergy with responses that can include stomach pain, diarrhoea, swelling, itchy skin, hives, rashes, skin discolouration, breathing difficulty, fatigue, itchy eyes, and more (reference). There are currently no tests for salicylate sensitivity either, so one way of identifying the sensitivity is to rule out other allergies. If you think you might have a salicylate sensitivity it is best to see your doctor.

Woman looking at camera
Jar of cream

Salicylates in skincare

Salicylates naturally occur in most, if not all essential oils, and so even skincare products that are 100% organic, made solely from natural ingredients can trigger adverse reactions for people with salicylate sensitivities if they use ingredients that naturally contain salicylates. Totally avoiding salicylates can be nearly impossible, but as a guide, if you have salicylate sensitivity or have reactions to your skincare products look for ingredients marked as salicylic acid (often labelled as beta hydroxy acid or BHA), methyl salicylate, sodium salicylate and calcium salicylate. 

You are most likely to find salicylates in products that are marketed as anti-dandruff, anti-acne or exfoliating. This is because salicylates help to lift and remove the outer layer of dead skin. You will also want to look for any fruit extracts and essential oils. The percentage of salicylates in fruit extracts and essential oils is much higher than in the whole food form, so they are more likely to contribute to sensitivity than simply eating the food. 

Think of it like fruit juice. It is easy to drink 1 litre of orange juice. It’s a lot harder to eat the number of oranges required to get 1 litre of juice. In having the juice, you are having higher quantities of things like sugar (and salicylates) than you might have had were you to have eaten the whole fruit. Essential oils and fruit extracts are the same.

Continuing with the above metaphor, if you are on a salicylate-free diet, a piece of fruit alone might not trigger a reaction, but a small amount of juice could since it is more concentrated. Essential oils and fruit extracts are concentrated even further.

Salicylate-free ingredients in skincare

Generally, oils from seeds and butters do not contain salicylates or are extremely low in salicylates. Waxes are also usually free from salicylates. Look for ingredients like:

Hemp oil in a glass jar and hemp seeds

Moisturisers for salicylate sensitive skin

Moisturisation makes a huge difference when you have dry, flaky, itchy, scaly skin that comes with an intolerance to salicylates. Being able to lock that moisture in reduces the itchiness and risk of skin breakage that can make salicylate sensitivity even less tolerable.

Zero Tolerance Cream All Over Moisturiser

At Arianrhod Aromatics, Iamme specifically developed the Zero Tolerance Cream for people who have extremely sensitive skin and who cannot tolerate salicylates or essential oils.

Zero Tolerance Cream is a 100% natural primary moisturiser intended to provide hydration all over the body without any fragrances or other ingredients that may cause irritation. The base ingredients of Zero Tolerance Cream are cocoa butter, cupuaçu butter and rice bran oil, all of which are salicylate-free and will help soothe your irritated skin. Combined with a touch of silk amino acids to lock in the moisture and Zero Tolerance Cream will keep your skin hydrated and itch-free.

Here’s what one of our customers has said about Zero Tolerance Cream:

“Always a winner. I have been buying this for years & now buy for my daughter & sister who love it too.”

Hemp Cream All Over Moisturiser

A second choice from the Arianrhod Aromatics range is Hemp Cream. As the name suggests, Hemp Cream is based on hemp flower oil combined with rice bran oil and silk amino acids to provide a nutrient-rich moisturiser for use all over your body that is both salicylate-free and histamine-free.

Arianrhod Aromatics Hemp Cream was developed to be an alternative to Zero Tolerance Cream for customers who are looking for the benefits of a completely natural hemp-based moisturiser. Hemp has been used throughout the ages in skincare routines as it is an excellent skin rejuvenator with healing properties that are second to none.

If your skin is already suffering from severe salicylate sensitivity dryness and irritation, Hemp Cream is the best choice to help your skin heal. Our customers rave about how effective our Hemp Cream is, here’s what Tanya told us:

“Quality product! Easily absorbed into the skin. Very soothing, so incredibly healing. I have been struggling with redness & scarring on my face & neck for many years. Noticeable difference within one month, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you Arianrhod Aromatics.”

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