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EXERCISE MAT: Allergen or Not An Allergen?

Allergen

Exercise Mat

Yoga mats, pilates mats, fitness mats, and rubber mats in gyms are important to keep you safe when working out. But most are made of or contain rubber, which is a top contact allergen. Where you find rubber, you tend to find other allergens like thiuram. Some thicker mats also contain foam, where latex becomes an additional issue. Many, including those made of potentially safer plastics (Thermal Plastic Elastomer or PVC), are dyed.
Keep in mind that¬†sweating is another factor that allows more contact of¬†irritants and/or allergens to react with the skin…so if you are allergic to any of these substances, contact with them while you’re sweating could make the reaction worse.
Don’t let these common allergens deter you from working out, however: daily exercise is too important! Try jute and natural cotton, which should be safer if they are organic, uncolored, and untreated.¬†Make sure you get a patch test to confirm what you are sensitive to ‚ÄĒ it may not be the material itself but ingredients in disinfectants or soaps used to clean the mat.
If you can’t find a mat without your particular allergens, placing an organic, untreated, white or uncolored towel between you and your mat may be enough to prevent contact. Wash your mat, towel, and clothing in a hypoallergenic laundry soap¬†or hypoallergenic shampoo. And if you can,¬†leave them to dry outdoors so the breeze and the sun get rid of airborne chemicals left over from gym disinfection (like¬†chlorine or bleach, which are both common irritants and photoallergens).

If you have a history of¬†sensitive skin, don’t guess: random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist 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.

Main References: 

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 ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äď454.
11.¬†Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629‚Äď633.

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 Society,¬†Dermnet New Zealand, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.


Laura¬†is our¬†‚Äúdew‚ÄĚ-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!)

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  1. […] handles (on bags, gym equipment, bike handles, steering wheels, etc.), weights, helmets, and exercise mats, medical gloves, devices and equipment, even balloons, pillows, mattresses, menstrual cups, […]

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