Skin Problems & Treatments Health Home

Surprising Household Irritants

From the WebMD Archives


The underarms pose another sensitive zone for some people who use antiperspirants. “Their job is to actually clog your sweat glands—that’s how they work,” Garner says. “It’s an area that’s warm and sweaty. You’ve got skin on skin, which always increases your risk of irritation.”

Furthermore, Garner has lost count of patients with inflamed eyelids from using too many products. “Not a week goes by that I do not have someone in my office with eyelid dermatitis. The majority of time, this is going to be an irritation reaction.”

It’s often tough to figure out the exact source because many women use multiple eye cosmetics, as well as eye makeup remover and eye creams, Garner says. Patients can get into a vicious cycle. “They start getting a skin rash—usually a very itchy rash—and then people keep putting their cosmetics on to hide it, which actually keeps the rash going.” The best thing is to take a break from all eye products and let the skin heal, she says.

Antibiotic ointments: “Big problems through real allergies,” Garner says of these over-the-counter products. Many households treat cuts and scrapes with triple antibiotic ointments that contain neomycin, bacitracin and polymixin B.

But neomycin and bacitracin are common allergens, according to Garner. “It’s especially a problem because you’re putting that on injured skin. Whenever you put anything on injured skin, you’re more likely to react to it.”

The reaction often looks like “poison ivy on top of their cut,” she says. “Most people think it’s infected when that happens, but really, they’ve developed an allergy.”

Bandages: When some people apply bandages to the same patch of skin, they can develop irritation after a while, according to Garner. “They’ll end up with sensitivity to the bandage adhesives.”

Nickel: Many people notice an itchy, prickly rash on their finger after wearing a ring. Or certain earrings will irritate their earlobes. Most likely, they’re reacting to nickel, which shows up in jewelry and many other metal items.