Common Household Skin Irritants to Avoid

By Steve Graham,

The skin is the largest human organ, and it does a pretty good job of protecting us from infections, damage, dehydration and overheating. However, we forget often that it is also a fairly sensitive set of living cells, and we expose it to chemicals and other irritants.

Skin can exhibit allergic reactions to a wide range of standard household products, from clothing to jewelry. Such allergies may also develop over time after repeated exposure to the substance. Here are a few common household skin irritants:

Cleaning Can Be Irritating

Cleaning products, particularly cleaning solvents, cause contact dermatitis reactions. This means the skin reacts to the material, but the reaction is not technically caused by allergies. However, resistance to household irritants can wear down over time if you expose skin to a lot of these products.

Soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, drain cleaners and nail polish removers can all contain harsh chemicals that irritate the skin and cause red, dry, cracked skin, mild swelling and blisters.

The now-ubiquitous hand sanitizer is another culprit. Germophobes who squirt on sanitizer at every turn may be drying out and irritating their skin with ethyl alcohol and other ingredients.

Dermatologists also urge caution with eye cosmetics, hair-removal products, antiperspirants and facial creams. Never try to hide reactions to eyeliner or other products with more cosmetics. They may cause further problems.

Home Improvement Can Be Irritating

Home improvement projects can also expose you to skin irritants, including turpentine, paint thinners, fiberglass, cement residue and mold.

Most knowledgeable weekend warriors wear gloves and avoid direct skin contact with paint thinner and other chemicals. Likewise, one bare-armed trip through the attic will convince most people to always wear long sleeves, gloves and goggles when working with fiberglass insulation, with all those itchy, irritating fibers.

However, many people don’t realize the dangers of cement residue. The Centers for Disease Control attributes at least 25 percent of all work-related skin problems to Portland cement. Working with cement, concrete and related products such as grout, stucco and mortar can cause redness, dry skin, itching, burning, rashes and blisters. Fresh mortar and other products can even cause chemical burns.

Moreover, irritating cement particles can linger on your car or home upholstery and even other people’s clothes if they are washed with clothes worn while working with cement.

The CDC offers these tips for working with cement:

• Wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves, and tape over any potential gaps.

• Change your clothes before driving or sitting on upholstered seats, and wash work clothes separately.

• Wash with a pH-neutral soap (which combats the strong base materials in cement).

• Thoroughly wash hands with soap before and after using gloves.

• Remove wet cement quickly from clothing and skin.

A wide variety of everyday products, cleaning solvents and remodeling materials can cause skin irritation. Keep in mind that gardens host a range of other irritants, including plants, fertilizers and pesticides.

If the irritation is mild, avoid using the product again. If the skin is red and swollen or blistered, you might need to see a doctor. If you have regular skin irritation you can’t diagnose, see a dermatologist for an allergy test.

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Image: vailiki/stock.xchng


carlee trent
carlee t6 years ago


Jennifer C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Noted. Thanks!

Arifiana Wijayanti

thanks for sharing :)

Erlinda Bocar Kantor
Erlinda B6 years ago

Thank you for the very informative article. Now if only we could convince the big companies to label all their products properly and completely then we'd be halfway towards avoiding all these harmful chemicals.

DobieMax WoBib
DobieMax WoBib6 years ago


Howard C.
Howard C6 years ago

I enjoyed reading this, thank you.

Danielle Herie
Danielle Herie6 years ago


Chelsea M.
Chelsea M6 years ago

It's amazing how many people are allergic to perfume and makeup.
I think that it is silly to wear that stuff because it doesn't tend to look good or smell good. I prefer the natural look!

Vera Y.
Vera Yuno6 years ago

thanks for the info!

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B6 years ago

As Alan Sherman sang:
" Skin is what you feel at home in and without it, furthermore,
Both your liver and abdomen
Would keep falling on the floor,
Nothing can match it when you scratch it"