Common Skin Irritants: What Gets Under Your Skin?

The skin protects the rest of our body by keeping out potentially dangerous irritants. But sometimes that protection can cost the skin some irritation in the form of a rash, pain or in the worst-case scenario, breakdown. Sometimes you know what will possibly irritate your skin, but sometimes, new allergies and sensitivities can develop seemingly overnight. Most skin irritants are just that, irritating. But some can lead to bigger issues, so it is important to carefully monitor your skin whenever something feels not quite right.

Some of the most common skin irritants are brought to us by good old Mother Nature in the form of plants, trees and shrubs that are infectious, either in part or as a whole. These include poison ivy, sumac and oak and are irritating even in the dormant winter months so be aware and know how to avoid them if you spend anytime outdoors. For some people these plants can pose a serious health risk beyond just the itchy rash, so if that describes you, take extra precaution. (Oddly enough, a small percentage of people have no effect at all from these plants.)

Household cleansers and laundry detergents can be another source of skin irritation as well. If you find yourself breaking out after every laundry day, switch to a new detergent, preferably one that is fragrance free, which will minimize the irritating chemicals that are in the formula. If that does not help, consider using something other than fabric softener.

If you use many different types of household cleansers, isolating the one that is causing the problem can be difficult, one reason that many people use a multi-purpose cleanser for all or most of their household cleansing jobs. If you have sensitive skin, try to use as many organic cleansers as possible. (These may also cause some irritations as well, so be careful.)

Cosmetics and fragrances are also a potential common skin irritant. If you suddenly switch brands and then develop a rash you should discontinue use of the new product immediately. If you find perfumes and colognes to be a skin irritant, then apply them to your clothing instead of directly onto your skin. Use care when trying new facial products, as this is some of the most sensitive skin on your body, and the place where rashes are most noticeable.