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The Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Common Skin Irritants

From the WebMD Archives


3. Fabric Dryer Sheets

Fabric softener and dryer sheets can cause itchy, irritant reactions.

"You see rashes in places that are covered by clothing and relative sparing where the clothing is not," says Amy Newburger, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Scarsdale, N.Y., author of Looking Good at Any Age and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). "That's a big giveaway."

Belsito recommends sticking with fragrance-free liquid fabric softeners to fight static cling.

4. Clothing

Clothing, especially rough fabrics like wool, can be problematic for individuals who suffer from a skin disorder called atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 10% to 20% of children and 1% to 3% of adults develop this condition.

If you suspect that your clothing fabric is causing itching, irritation or a rash, Belsito suggests keeping cotton and cotton poly fabrics in your wardrobe.

5. Heat

Hot weather, especially during summer months, can aggravate skin problems related to sweating. You might notice redness or chafing in certain areas, like the underarms, belly folds and groin, says Belsito.

6. Latex

Some people are hypersensitive to latex, a natural rubber found in everything from gloves to condoms. If you are sensitive to latex, you may experience welts under a bra strap or elastic waistband. Also, people who are allergic to latex may cross react to tropical fruits such as bananas and kiwis.

7. Fragrances

Fragrance allergies are really common, says Newburger. But there are some 5,000 fragrances that use many different combinations so it may be tricky to weed out the offending chemical. Some people might develop a skin rash or hives from musk, while others react to vanilla scents.

8. Facial Creams

Facial skin with its deep pores is very easily breached, says Newburger. That's why you should take extra care with your creams and skin care products if you experience stinging or burning when applied. These products may include wrinkle creams, cleansers, and skin peels.

Check the labels for some common irritants such as ascorbic acid, paraban preservatives, and alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid, malic acid, and lactic acid.