Symptoms

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the skin as a result of exposure to a particular substance, either an irritant or an allergen. It commonly affects the face and the hand but may develop in any area of the body. In contact dermatitis, areas of skin directly exposed to a particular substance become red, inflamed (swollen), blistered, dry, thickened and cracked. The appearance of symptoms varies depending on the root cause. Symptoms caused by an irritant will usually appear within 48 hours. However, strong irritants may cause your skin to react immediately, and milder irritants (such as soap and detergents) may need frequent and repeated exposure before they cause problems. On the other hand, symptoms caused by an allergen, such as make-up or metal jewelry, often take several days to develop.

Causes

Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin becomes exposed to a substance that can cause irritation or can trigger an allergic reaction. Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type which happens when a substance damages the skin’s outer protective layer. The most common irritants that can lead to this type of dermatitis include solvents, rubbing alcohol, bleach, personal care products (e.g. soaps, deodorants and cosmetics), airborne substances (e.g. sawdust or wool dust) and burdock, a plant used in alternative medicine therapies. In contrast, allergic contact dermatitis occurs when certain substances trigger an immune reaction not only to your skin but also to your whole body. Common allergens that can lead to this reaction include jewelry made of nickel, medication, products that contain Balsam of Peru, formaldehyde, personal care products (e.g. deodorants, body washes, hair dyes, cosmetics, nail polish) and herbal preparations for the skin containing eucalyptus, camphor or rosemary, skin tattooing and black henna, plants such as poison ivy and mango, which contain a highly allergenic substance called urushiol, airborne substances (aromatherapy and spray insecticides), products that cause a reaction when you’re in the sun (photoallergic contact dermatitis).

Treatment

Contact dermatitis is oftentimes treated at home. Some of the known effective remedies for dermatitis include coconut oil that can reduce redness, scaling and dryness within a few days and oatmeal bath that can help treat skin irritation, itching and rashes. Lastly, aloe vera can also help in restoring the pH balance of your skin and in relieving the itching sensation and skin irritation. It also has moisturizing and antimicrobial properties.