Common Household Skin Irritants

Many common household items, from soap and cosmetics to lime juice, can cause skin irritation. Chemicals and other irritants are so common, in fact, that many people don’t pay attention to minor skin rashes that come and go. For some, however, rashes and other skin problems can be a chronic issue, and a little knowledge about common skin irritants will go a long way toward solving the problem.

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Below is a list of some household skin irritants:

1. Soap:

Although we are encouraged to wash our hands often to ward off bacteria and viruses, washing too much can lead to dry, chapped skin. Eventually skin can crack and bleed. Soap removes natural oils from the skin, and can also cause problems for people who are allergic to certain ingredients and fragrances found in a lot of soaps. According to Ygoy, some of the harsh chemicals used in soaps can result in contact dermatitis, which does not involve the immune system and is not classified as an allergy – but which still can be painful.

2. Clothing:

Wool is notoriously itchy, and some people are genuinely allergic to it. Other fabrics can also cause problems; according to DermNet, formaldehyde resins used on some fabrics can cause a variety of allergic reactions including dermatitis. If you suspect that certain articles of clothing are causing irritation, cotton and cotton poly fabrics are usually a safe option.

3. Clothing Detergent and Fabric Softeners:

People with skin allergies can be sensitive to the chemicals and fragrances contained in clothing detergent and fabric softeners. Some companies offer versions of their product that are free from fragrances and other allergens. eHow has published a list of Signs & Symptoms of Laundry Soap Allergies. And watch out for dryer sheets; they can cause itching and irritation.

4. Household Cleaners:

If your skin is at all sensitive, you’ve probably experienced dryness or irritation after having contact with some common household cleaners. Products ranging from all-purpose cleaners to dish detergent and toilet disinfectants can cause problems if they come in contact with your skin. COIT recommends that you wear protective gloves while using cleaning products and always make sure the area where you are using cleaners is well ventilated.

5. Latex:

Latex is a natural rubber found in many household gloves. Some people are hypersensitive to latex, and should avoid any contact with the material. The American Latex Allergy Association provides more information.

6. Fragrances:

We’ve talked about the fragrances contained in a variety of soaps and detergents. DermNet lists 8 of the most common allergy-causing fragrances used across many products for their fragrant and flavoring properties.

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7. Facial Creams:

If your skin stings or burns when you apply a facial cream, you should consider avoiding the product. Common irritants in facial creams include ascorbic acid, paraban preservatives, and alpha hydroxy acids. Wrinkle creams, skin peels, and cleansers can all be major skin irritants.

8. Plants:

Most of us are familiar with the red, itchy rashes caused by poison ivy, but there are other plant irritants that can lurk in your yard. Poison oak and poison sumac are two other common offenders. All three contain urushiol, which triggers an allergic reaction. It’s a good idea to learn to recognize these plants so you can avoid them. The Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center provides identifying information and photos.

9. Nickel:

Allergies to nickel are relatively common. Nickel is found in watchbands, zippers, costume jewelry, and other common items.

10. Sunscreen:

We’ve all heard the mantra: wear sunscreen outdoors to protect your skin from the sun! But some chemicals in sunscreens can irritate the skin or cause allergic reactions. The most common reactions are to sunscreens that contain PABA-based chemicals, so it’s a good idea to seek out an alternative.

This is only a brief list of the many skin irritants you might find in your home. Hand sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol that can irritate the skin, especially with overuse. Cosmetics, hair removal products, and antiperspirants can also be culprits. Even antibiotic ointments containing neomycin and bacitracin, or bandage adhesives can cause problems.

If you have recurring skin problems and can’t figure out what is causing them, consider having patch testing done by a dermatologist. Patch testing involves applying small amounts of common allergens to the skin to determine if an allergy exists. Once specific allergies are determined, products in a variety of categories that don’t contain the allergens can be recommended to the patient. Even if you don’t have a patch test, purchasing products that are free of common irritants, such as those produced by Pharmaceutical Specialties, Inc., can eliminate the causes of some skin irritations.

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