There’s a minefield of toxins and substances in your house that, if you’re prone to allergies, can irritate your skin and make life very uncomfortable. Some of the culprits hit close to home. They’re the skin care products that we least suspect.
Before we proceed further, we should define a contact dermatitis as an inflammation of the skin. Symptoms include redness, itching and swelling. When triggered, a dermatitis will do one of two things:
1) Cause an allergic reaction, in which your immune system responds to an offending substance with red, itchy skin.
2) Cause an irritation, characterized by pain, stinging and burning.
Both responses are highly variable, with triggers unique to the individual. What’s more disturbing is that some of the worst culprits are common skin care products that we use on a regular basis.
Contact dermatitis can be a vicious cycle. If a product triggers a dermatitis, it’s not uncommon to cover the irritation with another product, like an eye cosmetic, which can make the problem worse.
And if you’ve got sensitive skin, or are prone to allergies and irritations, these skin care products are some of the worst offenders.
Hand Sanitizers – Clean hands are important, but some people use more hand sanitizer than their skin can handle, and suffer the redness and pain of a dermatitis as a result. The culprit? Usually ethyl alcohol, an ingredient in many sanitizers, but sometimes it’s another ingredient.
Hair Removal Products – These can be bad, but vary according to the individual and where they’re used on the body. The face and bikini line tend to be the most sensitive areas. The legs not as much.
Antiperspirants – Their job is to clog the sweat glands, which keeps you dry, but increases risk of irritation under the arm pits.
Eye Cosmetics – Eye make up can cause irritations on the eye lids – a situation made worse by the fact that some women use multiple eye products, and use cosmetics to hide the rash than ensues. If that’s the case, it’s better to take a break from cosmetics and give your eyes time to heal.
Antibiotic Ointments – Some of the worst offenders for contact dermatitis are antibiotic ointments with neomycin, bacitracin and polymixin B. The first two are common allergens and are particularly harmful when used on injured skin.
Other common triggers for contact dermatitis include bandages, nickel, plants and rubber.
Diagnosis of a dermatitis can be tricky, as products tend to have many ingredients that may be responsible.
If your skin is red and swollen and you know what’s causing the problem, avoid the substance, or switch to a friendlier alternative.
If you don’t know what’s causing the problem, see a dermatologist. Don’t let a dermatitis fester longer than a few weeks. Be careful with injured skin, as it’s particularly sensitive to harmful substances, and contrary to an old wives tale you may have heard, never use a household cleaner on your skin.
Skin care products are generally safe, but as with food, look at their ingredient list before you make a purchase. Keep a journal of ingredients that trigger problems with your skin and stay in touch with your dermatologist. Skin problems are embarrassing and can be painful but can usually be overcome with diligence and a watchful eye.