We live in an environment which is constantly sanitized and cleaned by hundreds of different chemicals every day. Unknowingly our skin is overly exposed to chemicals every day, some gentle and mild, safe for daily use but others harsh and damaging for the skin in long term. Constant exposure, and when our skin’s natural barrier is compromised, we may develop contact dermatitis.
What are the common household irritants to watch out?
Here are some findings and research done by several allergy association and organizations which lists the common household chemical that may trigger skin allergy.
Fragrant Shower Foam, Hand wash or Soap
Our toilets and even public toilets are generally well maintained. We find hand wash readily available at every toilet. While it is necessary to clean our hands after a visit to the toilet, excessive hand washing, using soap and water, strips the skin of its natural oils.” At first, it may look like dry, chapped skin. But if it’s prolonged and not treated, the skin can crack and bleed.
Plain soap and water is at the top of the list, says Donald V. Belsito, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. “It’s particularly problematic in today’s germophobic society because people feel they have to be clean and make no attempt to protect their skin.”
Other related irritants include dishwasher soap, bubble bath, and body washes. Many companies which produce these shower foams intentionally add perfume to attract customers because fragrance gives a nice and fresh feeling after a bath. Perfume is the most common allergen in personal care products. When a label says “hypoallergenic,” the product may contain other allergens, but generally not perfume.
Cleaning agents: Dishwashing Liquid, Floor Cleaner, Kitchen & Toilet Detergent
Since these household cleaners are not intended for the skin, the chemical that goes into producing them tends to be very harsh. These including all-purpose cleaners, dish detergents, laundry detergent, window cleaners, furniture polish, drain cleaners and toilet disinfectants.
Doctors in UK have warned about a chemical preservatives used in these products called MI, which is short for methylisothiazolinone. MI is a preservative which is also found in paint. It is added to products to prevent unwanted growth of bacteria and yeasts. People are being exposed to much higher doses than before, leading to a steep rise in allergies known as contact dermatitis where the skin becomes red and itchy and can sting and blister.
Dermnet New Zealand has classified housewife’s eczema as hand dermatitis caused by excessive exposure to water, soaps, detergents, bleaches and polishes.
Baby wet wipes are now becoming a necessity in a baby diaper bag or baby changing area at home. But did you know that commercial wet wipes contain fragrance and preservative chemicals which may irritate your little one’s tender skin?
In fact, the wet wipes found in Chinese restaurants in little nice packs contain even harsher chemical than the baby wipes version. They contain fragrance & preservatives chemical and to keep the cost low, most of the generic wet wipes does not contain high superior quality ingredient.
Contact Dermatitis Symptoms
Symptoms of contact dermatitis include:
- Red, irritated skin, which can be in patches
- Bumps or blisters, sometimes filled with clear fluid
- Hot or tender skin
- Dry, scaly areas of skin
Contact irritant dermatitis can appear differently according to the conditions of exposure.
- Accidental exposure to a strong irritant such as a strong acid or alkali substance may cause an immediate skin reaction resulting in pain, swelling and blistering.
- Contact with mild irritants such as water, soap or detergent may over a period of weeks cause dryness, itching and cracking of the skin. Eventually sores may appear which form crusts and scales.
How to Protect your Skin
It is almost impossible to avoid all contacts with these common chemicals used in our daily house cleaning and personal care. However, we can try our best to minimize the exposure and direct contact, and avoid using too much of very harsh chemical in our daily routine.
Wear gloves when using harsh detergent during cleaning
Protect your skin from direct contact during cleaning by wearing a latex, rubber or plastic disposable gloves. If your skin is easily irritated with latex or rubber, wear cotton gloves underneath to prevent the rubber or latex from touching your skin.
Choose products with natural or safe ingredients
More eco-friendly and natural cleaning household products are penetrating the market. Cold Storage and some NTUC carries several natural based ingredient household detergent brands like 7th Generation, Ecover, Method. You may also find a good range from any organic stores in the shopping mall.
For personal care products like body foam, shampoo and hand wash, choose natural or organic ingredients. Some of the recommended bath or cleanser are goat milk bar soap or baby-safe organic range like Buds Organics brand. Both are available here via our Skinshare SG shop.
DIY household cleaning ingredients
There are some natural ingredients which are easily available in our pantry/supermarket that can be used to clean:
- A paste of baking soda and water cleans ovens, stove tops without the chemicals. Just make a paste on the bottom of the oven or stove surface, leave for a few hours and wipe off for a shiny, chemical free oven.
- White vinegar is also useful to remove stubborn hard water residue or rust. The vinegar reacts with the rust to dissolve it off the metal. To use, soak the metal in white vinegar for a few hours and then scrub the rusty paste off.
- Descale your kettle using lemon juice. Squeeze half a lemon into the kettle, top up the kettle with water and boil it. Pour away the boiled water before it cools, then rinse out the kettle with several changes of cool water to remove any traces of lemon juice. This method can also be used to descale coffee makers.
Apply a hypoallergenic shielding lotion to protect your skin
As the saying goes: “Prevention is better than Cure”. You should apply a hypoallergenic shielding lotion to prevent direct contact with daily allergens. It is especially important if you are also constantly exposed to certain irritants on the job. Examples of these occupations include healthcare workers, construction workers, waiters, scuba divers, cleaners, gardeners, and chefs. A good shielding lotion like “Gloves in a Bottle” from USA also allows your skin to naturally heal and retain moisture if it is dry/cracking from excessive washing. It is more effective than any conventional moisturizer.
Dermatologists and skin specialists are observing more cases of contact dermatitis and hand allergy patients in Singapore. The above are useful information that can help us prevent skin discomfort and developing contact dermatitis/skin allergy. Many are unaware of the chemical exposure we are experiencing everyday – share this article with your family and friends so that less people will suffer skin irritation.
Video snippet :
Here is a video testimonial in Mandarin. It explains to housewives on how “Gloves in a Bottle lotion” can help to prevent hand allergy/eczema :