10 Of The Most Common Skin Irritants

By:    Published: May 1, 2012

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The skin is the body’s largest organ and as such, it comes into contact with numerous things, such as clothing, bed sheets, water, furniture and other humans each day. However, some of those things can irritate the skin and cause an adverse reaction such as itching, burning, swelling or even blistering. Since so many things touch your skin every day, it can be difficult to determine the source of irritation, but the following 10 are likely culprits.

Clothing

This is a tough irritation to deal with since you pretty much have to wear clothing wherever you go. It can also be tough to pinpoint the source of the irritation as many parts of clothing can cause a reaction. Rough fabrics, dyes and chemicals in those fabrics, as well as clasps, closures and metal parts can irritate the skin. If you’ve experienced skin irritation from clothing, examine the area of irritation to determine which piece of clothing could be at fault.

Hair Removal

Whether you shave, wax or use a depilatory, the way you remove hair can irritate your skin, especially if you don’t moisturize your skin. When shaving, always use shaving cream, or if you prefer shaving in the shower, do so in warm water to prevent razor burn. When using a depilatory, use it on a small part of your skin to test for a reaction before using it on a large area of your body. If you prefer to wax, be sure the wax isn’t hot enough to burn your skin and always moisturize your skin after removing hair from it.

Latex

Sensitivities to latex can range from mild to severe and can develop through repeated exposure over time. Latex is commonly used to make gloves and condoms, so if you have a latex allergy, be sure to use latex-free alternatives of these products. Latex can also be found in the elastic bands of some clothing, particularly bra straps, so if you’re sensitive to latex, you may want to avoid clothing that contains elastic.

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals like surfactants, dyes and fragrances that can irritate the skin. Many of these chemicals can linger on your clothing even after the detergent has been washed away, and this can cause an allergic reaction once you put that clothing on. To avoid this, look for dye-free and fragrance-free detergents and dryer sheets.

Heat

If you sweat a lot, you may have experienced heat rash, which is caused by excessive sweating. When the sweat ducts become blocked, they trap sweat under the skin, resulting in tiny, itchy bumps on the skin. Heat itself can trigger this reaction as can an overheated workout. The best way to treat heat rash is to cool the skin and to stay out of the sun. Sunblock can exacerbate the reaction as it can contribute to the sweat blockage and can cause a reaction on its own from the chemicals it contains.

Makeup

Cosmetics are a common culprit of skin irritation because of the number of chemicals, dyes, antiperspirants, preservatives and fragrances they contain. Many of these ingredients can break down into even more harmful substances that can damage the skin. Like with hair removal products, be sure to test makeup on your skin to see if it causes a reaction before buying it. If you have sensitive skin, look for products specifically made for your skin type. Furthermore, don’t use makeup that’s expired and clean your makeup brushes with hot, soapy water to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Perfume

Like makeup and many of the other products on this list, perfumes and colognes are filled with fragrances that can cause a rash or other allergic reaction to appear on the skin. Because it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact fragrance that’s causing the irritation, it may be best to discontinue use of perfume if you’ve had a reaction and use fragrant body oils instead.

Nickel

Nickel is most commonly found in costume jewelry and can cause the skin to turn color after a short period of time. Nickel can also be found in zippers, hairpins and sunglass frames. Since nickel is found in so many products, it can be difficult to avoid, but staying away from costume jewelry and items made of painted or covered plastic or metal is a good start.

Soap

If your skin has been feeling dried out lately, it may be from the soap that you’re using. Soap strips the skin of its natural oils, which can leave your skin feeling, and looking, dry and itchy. When taking a shower, be sure to thoroughly rinse off all of the soap and moisturize your skin with lotion after afterward. If irritation persists, you may want to replace your soap, and even your hand soap, with a moisturizing cleanser.

Household Cleaners

Many household cleaning products contain harsh chemicals like bleach, ammonia, phosphates and acids that are highly caustic. These products can also give off toxic fumes that can irritate your eyes, throat and nasal passages when inhaled. Since hiring a maid probably isn’t an option for now, take precautions while cleaning to prevent irritation. Wear gloves and a dust mask and try to switch to environmentally-friendly alternatives that contain less harmful substances.

These are just a few of the most common skin irritants. If skin irritation is an ongoing issue and is causing adverse effects on your daily life, seek medical attention.

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