View Full Version : Soft pastels - possible pastel allergy?

10-06-2008, 11:10 AM
Hi everyone

I have developed a rash of red spots all up the inside of my right forearm and a few on the front of my neck and I wondered if this was perhaps an allergy to soft pastels. I have recently got some Unison pastels and have only used them twice so far and have noticed this rash today after using the Unisons for the second time yesterday afternoon.

I wear a dust mask (so I haven't been blowing dust), I use a disposable glove on my right (pastelling) hand, I always wear a top with full sleeves and I always clean up afterwards using a damp cloth. I don't have any respiratory problems.

I have used harder pastels such as FC Polychromos, rembrandt and pastel pencils without any problems so far. Do you think that I may have an allergy to soft pastels in general or maybe just the Unison range of pastels. Has anyone else experienced this with Unison pastels? Or any other soft pastels, and if so have you found an alternative soft pastel to use.

I was planning to buy more Unison pastels eventually and make this my soft pastel brand but I don't want to buy more (or in fact any soft pastels) if it looks as though it may be a health hazard for me.

Apologies for starting another thread about health hazards but most of the other threads I have seen concentrate more on pastel dust inhalation.

Sorry, one last question - Do you think this may be a warning sign for me to give up using pastels altogether. I would be gutted if I had to do this.

Please advise.

Many thanks

:( Pam

10-06-2008, 12:29 PM
Pam.... I surely hope that isn't the case! Have you changed laundry soaps or anything lately .... or eaten a lot of strawberries? I'd check all possibilities but then, there are always allergy tests you could take to really make sure. I'll be hoping for the best for you! Donna R.

10-06-2008, 01:12 PM
Pam - before you give everything up - try using gloves and wear long sleeves.

You may want to wait till the irritation stops and then do this.

I know how attached I am to my pastels so I hope it's not an allergy.

Also - do you work with the artwork on an easel so the dust falls into a "catcher tray". i use a piece of mat board about 5 inches wide and scored in the middle so it folds and that catches the dust. It may help?


10-06-2008, 01:58 PM
Have you tried Gloves in a Bottle (tm). It is a barrier cream that when I am working with sticks, I put the cream on my hands and forearms. This is because some pigments can be toxic. You may also want to give pan pastels a try, you use tools and a lot less dust.


Deborah Secor
10-06-2008, 02:50 PM
I've never yet heard of contact dermatitis from pastels. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course, but do check it all out before deciding that's what it is....


10-06-2008, 03:00 PM
I would certainly go back and review all that you've been doing over the past two weeks, new soaps, new medications, weeding the garden, new foods, new pets?
I've never heard of anyone being alergic to pastels.

Of course allergy tests by a doctor is the ultimate resource if you can't figure anything else out.

10-06-2008, 04:03 PM
I keep thinking about you and wondering what is going on..... I am allergic to the preservative in dried fruits.... such as those in trail mixes. I LOVE dried apricots but, alas, they do not love me! It could be nerves too, I've had a raging case of hives from tense unpleasant situations.... let's consider everything!!! Donna R

10-06-2008, 04:13 PM
That does sound like an allergic reaction. I have a dust allergy that mysteriously does not extend to pastel dust. My daughter, a pharmacy technician and medical expert, has suggested that my dust allergy is actually to dust mites (they are miniscule and found imperceptibly in house dust). Since I'm also even more allergic to mold, it could just be that house dust has mold spores in it.

Allergy identification is trial and error -- having to test each possible thing that could have caused it. Do you use perfume or cologne? I remember my grandmother always touched her perfume to the inside of her wrists and the hollow of her neck, the places you got the rash suggest it might be a perfume if you recently changed perfumes. If you changed dish soap and wear gloves doing dishes, it could be dishwater getting on your arm but not your hand.

Maybe the Pan Pastels would be a good choice to use with your hard pastels if you have to let go of your Unisons. They looked like they'd be even less dusty than using hard pastels because you're not even handling them directly unless you finger smudge. Also the Sofft tools may help in handling the Unisons if you love them too much to give them up.

One last idea for the brainstorm, since you already mentioned you wear full long sleeves as well as the glove and it got up inside the sleeve if it's the Unisons causing the rash. A turtleneck could help with your neck, and those long Cinderella gloves girls wore for the prom in white cotton could be an added arm barrier if you want to just bundle up and go on using them. It's not like latex gloves but at least it's a barrier that doesn't have an opening at the wrist, and they could run up inside your long sleeves.

Good luck on finding out what it is. Hope it turns out to be something else and you can go on using the Unisons you love, or that some of these suggestions help to get around the problem.

10-06-2008, 04:39 PM
Sure you haven't romped in some poison ivey??
I've never heard of cantact rash with pastels either, and very little should have been produced by the Unisons. and up your arm?
I would suggest like others you check other possiblities very well.

10-06-2008, 09:41 PM
Considering your precautions - mask, glove, long sleeves - I can't imagine it is the pastels. Wait until the rash disappears and try the pastels again!


10-07-2008, 05:40 AM

Thanks to everyone for your advice. I think I need to try and think back the past 2 weeks to see if I can remember anything that may have caused the problem. I'm so relieved to hear that you don't think the pastels may have caused it. I think the obvious thing to do now is wait until the rash has disappeared and then try the pastels again and see what happens. There's plenty more I can be doing in the meantime to carry on with my learning - like improving my pencil drawing.
robertsloan2 - I like your suggestion about the long gloves as a barrier. This may be a cheaper alternative to buying pots and pots of barrier cream (which I was also thinking of trying).
Donna R - thanks for your posts. It does take a while for me to reply back. I am asleep when you're awake and vice versa.

Thanks again

10-08-2008, 07:03 PM

You're probably not allergic to the specific pigments, but you might be to other additives in the pastels. Gum tragacanth or metyl cellulose may be the binding agents, along with champagne chalk (probably not allergic to that). I would agree to try using long sleeves, maybe gloves and the barrier cream. Sorry to hear about your problems, and good luck with your protections.

10-09-2008, 06:37 AM
Hi Paula

Thanks for your reply - I nearly almost missed seeing it. I wondered too whether it may be some sort of additives that may have been the cause. I haven't touched any pastels this week so far but I can feel myself yearning to use them again - hopefully it's just a 'one off' and won't happen again. I think I may give in at the weekend and see what happens and in the meantime I will plan my body armour!