8 Common Skin Allergens
By Jennifer Larson
Avoid contact with substances that irritate your skin.
If you’ve ever developed a red, itchy rash or a series of blisters after coming into contact with a particular substance, you know how unpleasant allergic reactions can be. Unfortunately, skin irritants are everywhere. However, if you know what you’re looking for, you can avoid specific allergens and prevent reactions.
If you’ve ever worn a bracelet or a watch only to discover weird blotches or red scaly patches on your skin afterward, then you may have an allergy to nickel. Nickel is a common component in stainless steel that’s often used to make certain kinds of jewelry. Since it also shows up in 14-karat gold, you might try going with 18-karat gold jewelry instead.
2. Poison Ivy
Poison ivy is notorious for causing terrible, itchy rashes and blisters when the oil from the plant comes into contact with skin. The symptoms, which can also include redness and swelling, can last for several weeks. Leaflets three? Let them be. That also goes for poison oak and poison sumac, which similarly contain that irritating substance known as urushiol.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, latex allergies typically develop after repeated exposure to latex. And the allergy can become more severe over time, even progressing to the point where exposure to the powder from the glove can trigger allergic reactions, and even anaphylaxis.
4. Fragrance in Cosmetics and Skin Care Products
Cosmetics are supposed to make you look even better—but not if they cause a rash. Why does that happen? You may be allergic to the fragrance that’s added to many beauty products. Common culprits include balsam of Peru and cinnamic aldehyde. Unfortunately, you can’t just go with unscented products, either, since manufacturers often add chemicals to mask other smells. Look for “fragrance-free” on the labels.
Formaldehyde often shows up in adhesives and solvents, as well as in many cosmetics and beauty products, including nail polish and polish remover. Manufacturers also use formaldehyde as a “finish” on many types of clothing to keep them looking nice and neat and wrinkle-free, so be sure to wash all new clothes before you wear them.
If symptoms are developing on your feet, the culprit may be your shoes—or more specifically, some of the chemicals that were used to make your shoes. Chromate is a chemical used in the tanning of leather. So if you wear leather shoes that were made with chromate and your feet start to sweat, the chromate may leach out, which then irritates your skin.
Rubber and the chemicals used to accelerate the process of making rubber can also cause allergic reactions in many people. It’s easy enough to avoid flip-flops and other shoes that are obviously made of rubber. However, it can be tricky to know with other shoes, since rubber is often used to glue the top part of a shoe to the sole.
It seems so wrong that something that gets you squeaky clean could also make you incredibly uncomfortable, but there you go. Sometimes fragrances and other chemicals that are added to soap and shampoo can cause itching, burning, and rashes. Look for products labeled “hypoallergenic” and “fragrance-free” in this instance, too.