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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Soap?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An allergic reaction to soap will often result in a red itchy rash, or hives. The affected skin will also usually be dry, and the area may swell. When the fumes of a particular soap are inhaled, they can possibly cause mild respiratory and eye problems. To pinpoint the cause of a soap allergy, a person should take note of where the symptoms have occurred. If the symptoms of a soap allergy are present on areas of the body that come in contact with clothing, for example, the most likely cause would be laundry soap.

Skin irritation is typically the most common sign of an allergic reaction to soap. This irritation will typically be present on areas of the skin that came in contact with the soap. In some cases, however, a person may break out in hives all over his body.

A red, itchy rash is typically the most common sign of an allergy to soap. This rash will also usually be dry and flaky. In more serious cases, small blisters may also appear on the rash. Swelling can also occur, and this can cause the skin to feel tight. Rashes associated with soap allergies may also feel very warm to the touch.

Sometimes, an allergic reaction to soap may be so severe that it can cause symptoms when the fumes are inhaled. These symptoms may include a runny nose and sneezing. Headaches, dizziness, and watery eyes may also be symptoms of a soap allergy.

Laundry soap is one of the most common causes of an allergic reaction. Symptoms of this type of allergic reaction will usually occur on areas of the body covered by clothing. A red, itchy rash will often appear on or near the torso, groin, and legs, for example. Unless it is a severe allergy, symptoms will not usually occur on unclothed areas of the body, such as the face or hands.

Other types of soaps can also cause allergic reactions. Hand soap and dish soap, for instance, will often cause skin irritation just on the hands. If a person believes he is allergic to a particular type of soap, he should immediately stop using the soap.

An allergic reaction to soap can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications. Topical antihistamines or corticosteroids can be applied to the affected area to relieve the external symptoms. Oral antihistamines may also help relieve these symptoms. Any soap that causes an allergic reaction should also be avoided.

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Discussion Comments

By anon996972 — On Nov 01, 2016

My skin was burning and itching. red and swollen, sore and dry from scratching. And it spread. Then I found an article about liquid soap allergy, so I went out and bought castile soap yesterday. voila! Now I have a cache of new old soaps which I have to return to the store.

By anon941242 — On Mar 21, 2014

I keep breaking out in hives for the last two weeks. We changed laundry soap and I am still getting them.

By anon936416 — On Mar 01, 2014

I'm not entirely sure what type of soap I'm allergic to, but I have a feeling it's from dish soap and laundry soap. Whenever I'm done washing the dishes, or doing laundry, my hands become red and dry, and they begin to itch. Though whenever I scratch at it, it peels the skin. It doesn't hurt when it does, but it's just the irritation it causes.

By anon356392 — On Nov 24, 2013

I am allergic to harsh soaps and laundry detergent. My doctor recommended me to use non-soap cleansers (e.g. Cetaphil and Physiogel) and other mild bath bars like Dove bar (unscented) and Aveeno. I have to rinse my clothes in the laundry three to four times, to lessen the detergent residue on my clothes.

By anon347162 — On Sep 04, 2013

I am allergic to soap. When I bathe with soap, I feel itchy and if I scratch, it gets worse. I usually apply moisturizer on the affected area which gives me temporary relief. It lasts for a few weeks.

By sunnySkys — On Jan 03, 2013

@SZapper - It seems like allergic reactions to soaps are pretty common, and most people discover them the hard way. I have allergies too, so if I want to switch my soap, I do a little spot test on my skin to see if I have a reaction. That way I don't have to worry about having a full body reaction to a new soap.

By SZapper — On Jan 02, 2013

I'm allergic to one brand of soap, and I discovered it the hard way when I was younger. My mom bought a different soap one day (I think it was on sale) and I used it in the bath. When I got out of the tub, I had broken out into a full body rash.

When my mom took me to the doctor, the first thing the doctor asked was whether we had switched our bath soap or laundry detergent. When my mom said yes, the doctor recommended I take a course of antihistamines and switch back to the other soap.

By LoriCharlie — On Jan 02, 2013

@JaneAir - I have to use unscented soap and detergent too, but for a different reason. A few years ago I started getting a ton of urinary tract infections, until my doctor told me to switch to unscented soap. It worked, so I just assume I'm a little sensitive to dyes and fragrances too. Like you, I'm not exactly allergic but I have to avoid it all the same.

By JaneAir — On Jan 01, 2013

I'm not allergic to soap, but I am sensitive to a lot of the fragrances that are used in soaps and detergents. I have to buy unscented hand and body soap, as well as laundry detergents that are free of scents and dyes.

It's kind of annoying, but it's not that hard to find soap that doesn't have added scents. The only thing that makes me kind of sad is that I like the good smells. However, I'm not willing to risk skin irritation just so my laundry will smell good.

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