The Benefits of SkinSAFE: An Allergist’s View

SkinSAFE has revolutionized the process for treating contact dermatitis.

By Ira Finegold, MD
Jun 09, 2020

Treating allergic contact dermatitis used to be a long, laborious affair. Here, top allergist Ira Finegold, MD, MS, Professor at the Icahn school of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Allergy at Mount SinaiWest and Morningside, NYC explains how SkinSAFE has totally revolutionized the process – making it easier for everyone, not least of all, you…

Ira Finegold, MD, MS, Professor at the Icahn school of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Allergy at Mount SinaiWest and Morningside, NYC

“Before treating allergic skin conditions, my job is to discover the underlying causes. And the best way to diagnose contact dermatitis is through patch testing, which determines the exact substances causing inflammation or irritation to the skin. “   I see myself as a medical detective. 

The first time I used patch testing was in 1968. Back then, the problem was not the test itself, which, other than some minor improvements to the technology, has remained the same to this day. Instead, the problem was implementing the results. It was relatively easy if the number of positives were limited to one or two allergens ( agents that can cause an allergic reaction )  – in these cases I’d refer to classic texts such as Fisher’s Contact Dermatitis for a list of how and where the positive substances were used and give the list to the patient. 

If, however, multiple positives had been determined, a patient could leave the office armed with a huge file of papers. They would then have to go to various stores, searching the product shelves and scrutinizing ingredients (if they were even listed) to check for every single one of these substances. This would result in hours spent trying to find and avoid products containing substances that were positive from their patch tests. It also caused further confusion, because many substances have several different names – some commercial, others scientific. Furthermore, there was the possibility there were other products closely related to these substances that may or may not have been tested but could still cause a reaction. 

The whole process was inefficient and exhausting. As the years went by, this was further exacerbated as the number of new allergen substances available for testing exploded. It quickly became clear this old model was not only painful for my patients, but impractical.

Thankfully, Dr. Jimmy Yiannias from the Mayo Clinic changed all this. Because of his research and partnership with SkinSAFE, he has made it simple for both physicians and patients with sensitive skin to find tried and trusted products that avoid all the ingredients (and any related ingredients) that irritate and/or inflame their skin.

Here’s how it works. After a physician completes the relevant patch tests for a patient, the results are entered into the SkinSAFE app or website. A personalized shopping list is then automatically generated to help this patient find safe products they can use. This means, every patient can be confident that if a product is listed in their recommendations, it will not contain any allergy-causing ingredients that proved positive in their test results. 

SkinSAFE has truly revolutionized the use of positive patch tests by solving the dilemma of what to use, wear or apply to help soothe and treat a patient’s skin concerns. 

It is important to remember, however, the skincare and cosmetic industry is constantly evolving, so reactions can still occur if a product formulation alters. Let’s say a product previously reviewed by the SkinSAFE team was slightly changed by the manufacturer – perhaps a new ingredient was added without prior notice. SkinSAFE must then re-rate this product, causing what may originally have been considered ‘safe’ for a certain patient totally ‘unsafe’ from then on, simply because of one small formulation change. Of course, this can all be resolved by taking any offending product to an allergist or dermatologist to evaluate , or the patient could simply avoid it going forward. But still, it’s certainly worth noting.

To conclude, I believe SkinSAFE is a most welcome program that is open to everyone and enables all physicians to help their patients effectively and efficiently. It’s sad, because I sometimes see patients who’ve previously been tested by another physician with no knowledge of SkinSAFE. This patient is typically frustrated because it has been a real struggle to find the right products for their concerns.  

I’m just grateful I do know and regularly use SkinSAFE. The technology has made it so much easier for me to help my patients.”

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