If your skin is frequently irritated by detergent, you likely suffer from contact dermatitis, either the irritant or allergic type. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with an irritating or allergy-causing substance. The allergic reaction typically causes a rash that appears 24 to 48 hours after exposure. Depending on the skin's sensitivity and type of irritant, skin inflammation ranges from mild irritation to redness to open sores, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Treatment for Detergent Allergy
See an allergist to determine what substances or chemicals constitute allergens for you. Your doctor may ask you to keep a journal of your allergic reactions to pinpoint or eliminate possible culprits. If the source of your allergies cannot be easily identified, your physician may recommend skin-patch testing.
Use corticosteroid skin creams or ointments to reduce inflammation. Wet dressings and anti-itch lotions may relieve itchiness and irritation, notes the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
Switch to dye- and perfume-free detergents and fabric softeners. The chemicals used to color and scent these products are frequently the cause of allergic reactions. Use the most natural products available to limit your skin’s exposure to irritating chemicals. Consider rinsing your clothes for an extra cycle to further remove possible irritants.
Try cold soaks and compresses, which can relieve the rash in its early stages, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. The academy warns that some ingredients in topical medications, such as neomycin in antibiotic creams, may worsen skin irritation.
Talk to your doctor if the condition does not improve within two to three weeks, or if your rash or other skin condition worsens despite removal of suspected allergens. Your allergist may prescribe oral steroids as a short-term treatment option in severe cases. Oral steroids must be taken for a short period of time because they have numerous unpleasant side effects and long-term health risks.