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Soap Irritation: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

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Has your skin ever been itchy right after getting out of the shower? 

Have you ever felt a subtle burn right after using your regular favorite facewash? 

Many reasons can cause soap irritation, but the most common ones are skin dryness and an allergic reaction to a certain component of the products you’re using. 

Many a time, the chemicals in soaps cause an unusual reaction in people with sensitive skin. In other words, your skin may react to some kind of foreign material if you use a strong soap. 

If this happens, we recommend that you change your soap immediately. Also, make sure you rinse your skin thoroughly after applying soap. If there is any residue left, it might get stuck on your skin and result in irritation.

Table of contents:

  • What causes soap irritation?
  • What are the common soap irritation symptoms?
  • How can you prevent soap irritation?
  • How can soap irritation be treated?

What causes soap irritation?

Soap irritation is an allergic reaction to one or more components of your soap. It is essential to figure out what is the cause of your soap irritation, as some components can even cause irritation, allergic contact dermatitis, and irritating contact dermatitis. 

Some of the common causes of soap irritation are:

1. Soap preservatives

Some soaps may have preservatives like formaldehyde, which irritates the skin, eyes, and lungs. 

Some soap preservatives can also cause eczema; one can recognize this by inflamed and irritated skin. 

If you have small children, or a baby, it is especially important to pay attention to the soap you use, as they are prone to eczema. 

eczema

Namely, eczema is more frequent in babies and small children, particularly if they have allergies or asthma. 

How to fix it?

Try looking for items that are free of chemicals, preservatives, and artificial scents.

2. Antibacterial liquid soaps

While beneficial in theory, these can cause irritation of your skin. For children with sensitive skin, the commonly used component triclosan may represent a health risk as it can act as an endocrine disruptor. 

What needs to be mentioned here is that antibacterial soaps are by no means more effective when combating bacteria, or germs, then your regular soap. 

Thus, use regular, preferably natural, soap and water.

3. Detergents

Like most soaps, detergents contain a surfactant or surface-acting ingredient. Surfactants function by dislodging dirt and oil particles so that one can rinse them. 

For those with sensitive skin, harsh surfactants on their clothes might be harmful. That’s why, if you have sensitive skin, it would be wise to use those detergents suitable for babies and children.

What are the common soap irritation symptoms?

A chemical allergic reaction might take up to a week to emerge on your skin after exposure to the irritant.

However, most reactions appear within 48 hours, and these include:

  • rashes or lumps on the skin
  • itching (which can be severe)
  • Redness
  • leaking or blisters
  • flaking or scaling.  

Though most of the symptoms are temporary, that sometimes soap irritation can make the skin vulnerable and prone to further irritation, as well as delay recovery of chronic irritant contact dermatitis.

How can you prevent soap irritation?

Here are some solutions for you to prevent soap irritation:

  • Bathe in lukewarm or slightly hot water for shorter periods.

  • Avoid long and hot water baths. You can, however, bathe in a bathtub on occasion, but not for too long.

  • Use soft soaps and shampoos for your skin. The safest option is to use baby soaps and shampoos.

  • Rinse out your soaps and shampoos thoroughly.

  • Properly dry your skin after bathing. Before putting on clothes, dry your body with a towel and then air dry for a few minutes.

  • After drying the skin, apply a moisturizer to keep it hydrated. Remember to check the moisture components and choose one with the least additives for your sensitive skin.

  • Laundry soaps and detergents might include toxic substances that can cause rashes on your young, smooth, and shining skin by residing in your clothing. 

  • To avoid skin irritation, avoid using fabric softeners with chemical components. Also, make sure you rinse your garments properly. If you don't rinse them well, the residue from your clothes might slowly start transferring to your skin, making you uncomfortable. People with sensitive skin are greatly affected by allergic reactions to fabric softeners. So, if you have sensitive skin, avoid using fabric softeners!

  • Perform a patch test before applying any skincare product to your body. Wait 48-72 hours after applying a tiny dose of the product to your elbow. If you see any redness, swelling, itching, or other soap irritation symptoms, stop using the product. Individual reactions to cosmetics vary.

How can soap irritation be treated?

For most rashes, we can find a cure at home with simple medicines and a lifestyle change. You can use the following methods to alleviate your soap irritation symptoms:

  • Apply steroid lotion to the affected area. Itching and inflammation can be relieved using an over-the-counter steroid cream containing at least 1% hydrocortisone.

  • Use an anti-itch cream to get rid of the itch. Calamine lotion soothes and protects the skin from scratching.

  • Take an antihistamine to help you sleep. Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, help alleviate allergy symptoms.

  • Take a bath in oatmeal. A cold oatmeal bath can help calm irritated skin and relieve irritation while being fun.

  • Apply a moist compress to the affected area. Inflamed skin soothes, and soreness reduces by soaking a cloth in cool water.

Your skincare and shower routine has an essential role to play in treating and preventing soap irritation. Choosing a gentle face wash and body wash is key for clean and fresh skin. Make sure you apply products that have no harsh ingredients that cause skin irritation.

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Radhika Bhatia

I'm a content writer, copywriter, and blogger with a background in marketing, planning, and eCommerce. I specialize in beauty writing, including skincare, cosmetics, wellness, aesthetics, and health. Classically trained and idea-savvy, I love living in the present.

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