What's Causing Your Skin Rash? The Culprit Might Not Be As Obvious As You Think

Is there seriously anything worse than waking up to irritated skin and having no idea why? To scout out some less-than-obvious reasons you have a skin rash (or irritated skin) and what to do about it, I hit up a professional dermatologist. With his tips, you can know exactly what to be on the lookout for and prevent future issues.

This article is especially near and dear to my heart because I have got all kinds of sensitive skin. I have no shame admitting that I am totally that person that has to read ingredient lists on pretty much everything that's going to come in contact with my body, from beauty products to clothes to even freaking condoms (my "recent searches" history can attest to all of this!).

I learned just how conscientious I needed to be after my roommate (so kindly) tossed some of my dirty laundry in with her load. Once I got my freshly-cleaned shirts back and wore them, I started breaking out in hives. After an initial WTF moment and rather panicked call to my dermatologist, I uncovered the culprit: scented laundry detergent. Since then, I know to always, always, always reach for fragrance-free products.

For more tips on hidden causes behind your mystery rashes and irritated skin struggles, Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC provided me a serious set of insights.

1. Overusing Products

Cetaphil Dermacontrol Moisturizer SPF 30, $13, Amazon

"[Applying] more [product] does not necessarily make [skin] better, especially with acne treatments," says Dr. Fenton. "Watch out for products that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinol and glycolic acid. Although these can be helpful when used in the proper doses, they can irritate and overly dry the skin if used too frequently or too much is applied."

To help reduce irritation, he suggests putting on a thin layer of moisturizer (like the one above) on first to create a slight protective layer.

2. Applying Acne Treatments To Moist Skin

Dr. Fenton explains, "Many topical acne treatments can be irritating, but one thing can make them even more irritating and drying: applying them to moist skin." Why? "Applying topical medications on moist skin speeds up absorption and can intensify the effects."

To avoid irritation, Dr. Fenton suggests, "After you wash your face, let it dry for a few minutes prior to applying your acne treatments such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl, peroxide, retinol, or prescription retinoids (like Retin-A)."

3. Certain Jewelry Metals

Dr. Fenton tells me, "Jewelry can cause skin problems including excessive friction leading to irritation, and also allergic reactions to some of the metals." To know what metals you'll react to, you can set up an allergy test with your dermatologist.

4. Particular Clothing Materials

Another unlikely set of skin irritants, "synthetic fibers [like] polyester and especially tight fitting [materials] such as spandex can cause irritation in combination with friction," says Dr. Fenton. "Wool, which is a natural fiber, can also cause an irritant reaction or even an allergic reaction in some people."

Make sure to read your potential new shirt's label before purchasing if you're concerned, and look for more "breathable" yoga pants.

5. Shaving Incorrectly

"Many people experience irritation from shaving that is worsened by their technique," Dr. Fenton shares. To prevent any harsh razor burn, he advises, "After applying your shave cream or gel, let it sit for a few minutes prior to shaving [to] moisturize and soften the hairs ... [Additionally,] shaving at the end of [your] shower [will] further soften the hairs and make shaving much smoother."

6. Using Hand Sanitizers

"Excessive hand washing dries out the skin and can lead to dry/irritated hands, but some people get even worse reactions to hand sanitizers," he tells me. But that doesn't mean you should swear off hand sanitizer altogether! "It is always good practice to keep your hands clean," he adds, "so try to moisturize immediately after cleaning in order to protect the skin."

6. Overly-Aggressive Exfoliating

"Regular exfoliating can help keep your skin clear and give you a fresh, bright tone, [but] try to keep mechanical exfoliation (i.e., with a brush such as the Clarisonic) to just twice a week," warns Dr. Fenton.

"If your skin is feeling dry or irritated, also limit how many products you use that contain acids such as glycolic, salicylic, and alpha/beta hydroxy acids."

7. Lip Gloss Or Lipstick

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Dr. Fenton says, "Certain types of lip products can cause skin irritation and drying, especially matte and long-wear lipsticks." Instead of that long-wear lippie, consider swapping it out for one that won't irritate and just get in the habit of taking it with you for quickie touch-up moments. Problem solved!

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