Your skin forms the outermost protective barrier of your body to the surrounding world. Sometimes, when you come into contact with irritating substances, you’ll notice a skin reaction — often in the form of a rash.
This reaction actually has a name! Contact dermatitis… and it’s related to other skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and neurodermatitis.
What Is Contact Dermatitis?
Contact dermatitis appears on the skin when you come into direct contact with a substance that irritates or causes an allergic reaction in the skin. This irritation then causes a red, itchy patch to appear in the location of contact.
Contact dermatitis is considered one of the seven types of eczema.
Types of Contact Dermatitis
Whether the substance causes an irritation or allergic reaction in the skin, the resulting rash is still referred to as contact dermatitis, but it is important to distinguish between the types:
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
When an allergic reaction takes place after coming into contact with a substance, you’re dealing with allergic contact dermatitis.
Poison ivy is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Irritant contact dermatitis involves exposure to an irritant that doesn’t create an allergic reaction in the immune system.
Detergents, shampoos, deodorants, soaps, household cleaners, nickel-containing jewelry, and cosmetics that often contain irritants can cause irritant contact dermatitis.
People who work with chemicals daily, like mechanics, hairdressers, chemists, healthcare workers, custodians, etc., are at a higher risk of irritant contact dermatitis.
What Is Photocontact Dermatitis?
Photocontact dermatitis is another version of the skin condition, and it’s also divided into two subtypes: phototoxic and photoallergic.
Photocontact dermatitis also appears as a rash on the skin; however, this form of contact dermatitis occurs when specific chemicals or substances are applied on the skin and are then exposed to the sun.
Common products that cause this interaction with the sun include sunscreens containing oxybenzone, certain fragrances, insecticides, and coal tar products.
Phototoxic reactions occur because of direct damage to the skin tissue as a result of the chemicals’ exposure to UV rays. Photoallergic reactions create an immune response. Both result in a rash that appears similar to a bad sunburn.
Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis
Common signs and symptoms of contact dermatitis include:
- Red rash
- Blisters (could be oozing)
How Long Does Contact Dermatitis Last?
The red, itchy rash typically appears within minutes to hours of exposure (although sometimes takes days to form) and can last two to four weeks.
If exposure continues to the allergen or irritant, however, you run the risk of dealing with a rash continually until exposure ends.
How to Treat Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis isn’t contagious or typically life-threatening, so you just need to worry about managing symptoms while you heal — and avoiding irritants and allergens in the future to avoid recurrence.
1. Avoid the Cause
The most important part of treating contact dermatitis is identifying and eliminating exposure to the cause of your skin rash.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down the trigger of your skin condition, try journaling your daily activities and the status of your skin.
The location of your rash should also help you narrow down the irritant or allergen. Contact dermatitis typically only appears on the small part of skin that’s been directly exposed.
Consider whether you’ve been in contact with:
- Poison ivy
- Nickel (sometimes found in jewelry)
- Household cleaners
- Latex rubber
- Hair dyes
These are common culprits you may want to start evaluating first.
And remember, if you work as a mechanic, hairdresser, chemist, healthcare worker, or custodian, you may be exposed to chemicals in the workplace that are contributing to these itchy flare-ups.
2. Avoid Scratching
Let’s face it: When your skin itches, you want to scratch! However, it’s important to refrain from scratching your inflamed rash. You can actually irritate the skin more and cause small cracks and openings.
To help minimize scratching, keep your nails trimmed short. Cover the affected area if needed by wearing long sleeves, long pants, socks, etc.
3. Apply a Cool Compress
Run a washcloth under cold water until moistened. Remove any excess water, and apply the homemade compress to your contact dermatitis rash to help minimize itching. You can repeat this process several times per day as needed.
Another possibly effective way to reduce itching is with a cool bath. For added therapeutic benefits, add colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to the bath.
4. Try Gladskin Eczema Cream
Gladskin Eczema Cream reduces eczema itch and redness in four out of five users. In fact, this innovative cream works quickly and effectively. Most people see results in just a few days. Using our patented protein Micreobalance®, the Eczema Cream helps restore balance to the skin so it can better heal.
It’s steroid-free, free of preservatives, clinically tested, cleanly formulated, and moisturizing.
5. Contact Your Dermatologist
When in doubt, contact your dermatologist or primary healthcare provider. If your rash worsens or doesn’t go away with at-home treatment, this is a sure sign to seek professional help.
By evaluating the condition of your skin, your dermatologist can recommend a personalized treatment plan to help you heal and keep your skin itch-free.
Some dermatologists may recommend corticosteroids and topical antibiotics to help your skin heal from the irritation.
It’s important to remember the possible effects of steroids, including topical steroid withdrawal, and that both creams have the ability to throw your skin microbiome off balance.
If you’re having trouble avoiding scratching the small area of affected skin, your dermatologist may also recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce the itch when severe.
The best way to prevent a contact dermatitis flare-up is to be aware of common allergens and which irritating substances your skin reacts to.
If you tend to have a hypersensitivity to contact allergens used in cosmetics, be sure to perform a patch test before adding any new products to your skin care routine.
Patch testing reduces the risk of having a more widespread reaction to an irritant or allergen. To perform a patch test, use a small amount of product on a small area of skin. Many people will opt to test on the wrist. Others, behind the ear. Wait 24 hours and monitor for any signs of reaction to the product, including redness, swelling, itching, etc.
If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately wash off the product. Don’t wait the whole 24 hours! If you don’t see any symptoms after a full day has passed, you’ll likely be okay to use the product.
Contact dermatitis can be caused by a number of factors — from a nickel allergy to nail polish. The results of coming into contact with these irritants and allergens are itchy, uncomfortable, and frustrating. Luckily, if you can identify the trigger of your contact dermatitis, you’ll be able to better manage the itch — and potentially even keep it away in the future.
In the meantime, when dealing with contact dermatitis symptoms, avoid scratching, try taking a cool bath or applying a cold compress, and check out our Gladskin Eczema Cream that’s already helped thousands of people around the world dealing with different types of eczema and their itch. In severe cases of contact dermatitis, always consult with your dermatologist or healthcare provider to establish the quickest, most effective treatment plan possible.