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Signs, Symptoms and Prevention of Allergic Reactions to Soap

written by: CoDayDreamer • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 11/10/2010

An allergy to soap can cause a dermatologic allergic reaction. Learn about the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction to soap and the different products available for those with soap allergies.

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    Overview

    An allergic reaction to soap can cause discomfort with a variety of dermatological symptoms. There are particular ingredients within soap which may cause the reaction. There are steps that can be taken to reduce or eliminate allergic reactions.

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    Signs and Symptoms

    The signs and symptoms of a soap allergy include itching. The itching will occur on the portion of the body that came in contact with the soap. On this same area of skin, there may be redness, hives, swelling, dryness or blisters. The symptoms can appear individually or in a combination. The intensity of symptoms can vary. The specific allergen can be difficult to determine because symptoms may appear even after the individual has used the soap product a number of times without a reaction. The reaction may not be immediately following the use of the soap product.

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    Prevention

    When an allergic reaction to soap occurs, there is an ingredient within the soap that the skin is reacting to. Soap is typically created to please the senses. Often there are fragrances, dyes and other additives in soap. It is these ingredients that an individual can be allergic to. Similar to food allergies, an individual can be allergic to the natural ingredients in the soap as well.

    Prevention of a reaction may occur when these fragrances, dyes and additives are avoided. There are products marketed towards those with sensitive skin or dermatological allergens.

    • Fragrance-free soap - These soaps do not contain added fragrances. This kind of soap can potentially be beneficial for those with allergies to fragrances. It is important that the individual read the box and label thoroughly before applying the product. If a product is labeled fragrance-free, it is still possible that additional chemicals have been added to make the soap free of natural or other chemical odors. An allergic reaction could occur to these additional chemicals.
    • Hypoallergenic soap - At this time, there is no regulation or definition of hypoallergenic products by the United States government. Although a soap product may be labeled hypoallergenic, there is no standard that would guarantee it is hypoallergenic.

    There are labels on soap products that infer that an allergic reaction will not occur. There are products less likely to create an allergic reaction, but there are no products that can guarantee that an allergic reaction will not occur.

    A physician or dermatologist can help determine what the allergen is. The medical professional will view the allergic reaction, if still present, and may do a patch test. During a patch test the medical professional will introduce a small amount of possible allergen to the skin with a needle. This is done in a controlled and safe environment. Once the specific allergen is determined it can be avoided.

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    References

    American Academy of Dermatology: Allergic Contact Rashes - http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/skin_allergic.html

    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Cosmetics Q&A: "Hypoallergenic" - http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/CosmeticsQA/ucm167202.htm

    WebMD: Allergies Triggered by Cosmetics: http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/cosmetics



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