Does a skin reaction to milk warrant a further investigation into an allergy to ingested dairy products?
February 6, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Had a weird milk-skin contact reaction: does a skin reaction to milk warrant a further investigation into an allergy to ingested dairy products?

Snowflakey background details: This weekend I was at a Korean spa, and after a thorough scrubbing I was given a milk-containing rinse to splash on my face a few times. This resulted in a spectacular display of red splotches, hot to the touch, all over my face and chest (where the milk hit me.) Even one of my eyes became pink/bloodshot. After I saw the splotches develop I used soap and water to wash my face off, and after that and some time in the dark dry sauna (where I was hiding, because I looked scary) I recovered. It subsided in about 25-40 minutes, and I was in the clear by ~2 hours later.

I realize the rinse may have contained more than milk (and I suppose I can test this cheaply and easily in my own home), but it made me wonder:

Does a skin contact reaction to a food product potentially warrant investigation into dietary allergies?

I love and eat all sorts of dairy products, but as of late I also am very frequently having stomach problems (bloating) and extreme fatigue. I was sort of in denial about this (did I mention I love dairy products?) but now am wondering if I should take this all more seriously.

Thanks in advance!
posted by NikitaNikita to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
I seriously doubt this has to with milk. It's entirely possible there was zero milk in the rinse.

Have you contacted the spa to find out what the rinse was?

But in answer to your question, sometimes. There are people who are allergic to, say, mangos, who can cut and prepare mangos with no ill effects whatsoever, and there are others who will break out in hives.

But I'd find out what was splashed on my face, first. It's possible you have suddenly developed a serious allergy to milk. It's more like there were strong astringents or something funky in the "milk rinse."
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:11 AM on February 6, 2012

If you've never had a problem drinking milk before, it seems unlikely that your issues at the spa are the result of an allergy to milk. What you describe sounds like an allergic reaction, but I'd tend to doubt it was the milk.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:12 AM on February 6, 2012

allergy to ingested dairy products

Lactose intolerance isn't actually an allergy. It's the lack of a particular enzyme in your gut that permits you to adequately digest lactose, the type of sugar in milk. This causes the kinds of symptoms one might expect from eating anything else one cannot properly digest, but it's not an allergic reaction, which is caused by an oversensitivity of the immune system.

Needless to say, getting lactose on your skin isn't going to be in any way related to any symptoms which might result from an inability to properly digest lactose. It's purely a matter of intestinal function.

Now it's entirely possible that you were allergic to the milk or something in it, but this wouldn't have anything to do with classic lactose intolerance.
posted by valkyryn at 8:13 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, should have clarified that I knew the difference between lactose intolerance and dietary allergies, but don't know much about immune-system-mediated reactions to milk. As in, would the lining of the gut behave the same way as one's skin? Could an allergy have symptoms that mimic intolerance?
Agreed I should ask what's in it - I don't know Korean but maybe if I called someone at the front desk could help.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:24 AM on February 6, 2012

Well, milk contains lactic acid, doesn't it? Lactic acid is a commonly used skincare agent because it speeds up cell turnover and aids in sloughing off dead skin cells. Maybe the milk that this spa used had a concentrated level of additional lactic acid added to the milk concoction and that irritated your skin?

IANAD, I am just a kid who likes skincare products, and I've got sensitive skin and some dietary sensitivities too.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:29 AM on February 6, 2012

Follow up question: do you remember if the milk was like milk-milk or did it smell kinda sour? If it was more sour smelling, it might have been like a buttermilk or something and that usually seems to have higher concentrations of lactic acid. I think true food allergies have to do with ingestion and exposure (ie peanut allergy), not contact exposure.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:32 AM on February 6, 2012

Latex allergy, for instance, is a contact allergy. There are plenty of contact allergies.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:50 AM on February 6, 2012

I have both a contact reaction to milk products and a dairy allergy. You should talk to a doctor and get allergy testing. If you don't have to do it eliminating all dairy is really tough.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2012

If you had a dietary allergy to dairy and you still ate a lot of it, you would know by other means, guaranteed.
posted by rhizome at 10:56 AM on February 6, 2012

« Older Help! I have a five-minute teaching demonstration...   |   don't call me (for a while), I'll call you... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.