The effect of a protective cream was tested in a new tandem repeated irritation test with tandem application of 0.5% sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and undiluted toluene. The irritants were applied twice daily for 30 min to the ventral forearms of 20 volunteers. Irritant cutaneous reactions were quantified by a visual score, transepidermal water loss, chromametry and skin capacitance. Concurrent application of SLS/toluene induced stronger reactions than those caused by twice daily application of each irritant on its own. A protective effect of the protective cream was obtained against all treatment combinations and was significant for SLS/SLS (p < or = 0.01) and SLS/ toluene (p < or = 0.05). Our results indicate that the tandem repetitive irritation test has great potential in the evaluation of skin care products to prevent irritant contact dermatitis.