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7 Unexpected Causes of Skin Allergy Rashes

By HERWriter
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skin allergy rashes: 7 unexpected causes Lev Dolgachov/PhotoSpin

Skin rashes can appear anytime. Sometimes we can figure out what has caused the allergic reaction. Other times it may take more a bit more research to determine why we have developed a skin reaction to a particular substance. The following are possible causes of skin allergy rashes.

1) Detergents and Dryer Sheets

Detergents and fabric dryer sheets contain chemicals that transfer to our clothes during the washing or drying cycle and can cause a skin rash.

In general, it is better to stick with fragrance-free, dye-free detergents and fabric softeners. Consider forgoing the dryer sheets altogether and use these dryer max balls to fluff up your clothes instead.

2) Cosmetics/skin products

Sensitivity to the active ingredient in a skin product, such as alpha hydroxyl acid or vitamin E, can be the cause of skin irritation.

Other potential culprits are additives such as colors, fragrances and preservatives. If the skin product is old, then the preservatives in them may have broken down, allowing bacteria to grow. This is especially true if you have touched the product repeatedly with your finger to apply it.

It is a good idea to write the date when you open the cosmetic or skin product and dispose of anything older than six months. Use clean applicators by washing or disposing of old ones. Immediately stop using any suspected product, such as eye cream, if a rash appears by your eyes.

3) Sunscreen

We try to be so good about wearing the stuff to protect us from the sun, so it is hard to believe that it can also be the cause of a skin rash. WebMD reports that, “the most common allergic reactions occur with sunscreens that contain PABA-based chemicals, so you may want to find a PABA-free alternative if you develop an allergy.”

4) Nickel

Nickel is a metal used in costume jewelry, zippers and watchbands. There are many products that we don’t even realize use nickel as the base metal. Items such as buttons, belt buckles, paper clips, coins and even doorknobs are other places where nickel can turn up.

It may take some sleuthing to find out where that nickel causing your reaction is hiding. You can take steps to protect yourself by disposing of it. Sometimes you can treat the item with clear nail polish to create a barrier between the metal and your skin.

5) Heat

Heat rashes don’t actually occur from exposure to heat. The bumps or blisters appear in response to excessive sweating. Your sweat ducts can become blocked and trap excess perspiration under your skin.

It is hard to avoid heat rashes if you are susceptible, particularly in hot, humid weather. Wear layers to avoid overheating and avoid using heavy creams that can block sweat ducts.

6) Clothing

It can be tricky to figure out whether clothes are irritating your skin and causing a rash. The type of fabric, such as wool, may be causing scratchiness. The zippers or appliqué may be made of nickel, or they may have been treated with other chemicals that are irritating.

You need to rule out detergent, fabric softeners, or excess heat as the culprits in causing the rash. Try to determine if the rash is just in certain areas of your skin and think about what clothing comes in contact with that area.

7) Foods

If you are allergic to a particular food, you typically avoid it. However, sometimes sensitivity can appear seemingly out of the blue.

Capsaicin is the chemical in hot peppers that make them hot. You might discover you have a burning sensation on your tongue after eating them but you can also get an intense burning sensation in your skin and eyes.

“Unless you have an allergic reaction to capsaicin, though, just washing thoroughly with soap and water should be sufficient treatment for your skin,” stated Discovery health.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about “Margarita Dermatitis” or phytophotodermatitis .

This skin reaction can occur after consuming certain fruits like limes and being exposed to the sun (UV radiation). It can also occur after exposure to celery, parsley, lemons, figs and Queen Anne’s lace.

So be cautious drinking fruit drinks while sitting by the pool, and stop drinking at any hint of itching, redness or a sense of swelling.

Even though you may have figured out what is causing your skin rash, if this is a new occurrence, it's a good idea to be checked by a doctor or dermatologist.

Allergic reactions can occur at any time, even after repeated exposures to a substance. So as we age, allergic skin reactions can still occur from items we regularly use.


The Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Common Skin Irritants. WebMD. Retrieved Oct. 20, 2013.

10 COMMON SKIN IRRITANTS. Discovery Fit and Health. Retrieved Oct. 20, 2013

Nickel Allergies: Body and Ear Piercing. EmpowHer. July 14, 2009. Retrieved Oct. 20, 2013.

Phytophotodermatitis--Also Known as “Margarita Dermatitis”. EmpowHer.com. April 19, 2010. Retrieved Oct. 20, 2013.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

Gosh I never knew that so many factors could be the cause behind the skin rashes!! Sunscreens, nickel based jewelry, eating certain type of foods so much many factors. Thanxx for sharing this informative article.

October 29, 2013 - 2:36pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.