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Contact Dermatitis Treatment and Everything Else You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Aug 22, 2022

Contact Dermatitis Treatment and Everything Else You Need To Know

Because of its regular exposure to bacteria and sweat, the skin can be prone to many diseases and conditions. Due to these conditions affecting millions of people worldwide, the World Health Organization considers skin conditions to be some of the most prevalent health issues. One of these common skin conditions is contact dermatitis (CD). To find out more about contact dermatitis treatment, symptoms and prevention, read this article.

What Is Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis (CD) or contact eczema is a type of skin eczema that presents as an itchy, red rash that may look scaly. This can occur for a variety of reasons like direct contact with a harmful substance or an allergic reaction.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

This type of contact dermatitis is non-allergic, meaning that it usually stems from friction (when something rubs against the skin too hard), environmental factors (humidity, climate, or temperature), or chemical irritants (adhesives or solvents).

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This type of contact dermatitis occurs when the skin has direct contact with an allergen. Unlike irritant contact dermatitis, symptoms for this type of CD can take days or weeks to appear. However, the skin may not even react the first time it encounters the allergen.

What Causes Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is caused by an irritant or allergen that has made direct contact with the skin. Some substances can also cause systemic dermatitis by ingestion.

  • Pesticides, fertilizers, or even the plants themselves
  • Solvents, which can be found in paint or adhesive, and airborne substances
  • Rubbing alcohol and products used for laundering like bleach or detergents
  • Shampoos that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which can irritate sensitive skin

There are also common allergens that can cause allergic contact dermatitis:

  • Substances that react to sunlight like sunscreen (photoallergic contact dermatitis)
  • Nickel in jewelry or coins, cosmetics, nail polish, and deodorant
  • Medication
  • Products containing Balsam of Peru and/or formaldehyde

Symptoms and Risk Factors


The symptoms of contact dermatitis can occur immediately or within hours after the skin makes direct contact with an allergen or irritant. As a result, manifestations of this condition usually appear on the exposed areas of the skin. 

Usually, the signs and symptoms to look out for are itchy, cracked, dry, or blistered skin accompanied by a red rash and/or blisters that may ooze clear fluid. However, darker skin tones may have rashes that are gray, purple, or dark brown.

While contact dermatitis can occur on any part of the body, it usually affects the hands or the face. This is due to the fact that these are the parts of the body that are almost always exposed.

Risk Factors of Contact Dermatitis

Some people are more at risk of developing contact dermatitis, especially if their workplace requires frequent contact with irritants or allergens:

  • Chefs and other people who work in the food industry
  • Health care professionals
  • People who work in metalworking, construction, or agriculture
  • Professional cleaners, mechanics, cosmetologists, and hairdressers

Contact Dermatitis Treatment and Prevention

Contact Dermatitis Treatment

Once contact dermatitis is diagnosed, a doctor or healthcare professional will try to determine what substances are causing CD. Contact dermatitis treatment includes:


Before contact dermatitis treatment becomes necessary, finding out what your skin is sensitive to and avoiding that substance is the best way to prevent contact dermatitis. However, if you’re unsure about what’s causing the reaction, here are a few ways to avoid contact dermatitis flare-ups:

Keep your skin clean. If you’ve been in contact with something that you suspect you’re allergic to, make sure to wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible.

Wear the appropriate protective gear. If your job requires you to handle irritants, be sure to wear gloves and other protective equipment like goggles or face masks.

Moisturize your skin. If your skin feels or dry or if you’ve just washed your hands, be sure to moisturize your skin. 

Key Takeaways

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with harmful allergens or irritants. As a result, an itchy, red rash forms. While this skin condition is generally mild, it can also cause discomfort and pain. Fortunately, contact dermatitis treatment is available in the form of ointments, moisturizers, and medication. 

Learn more about Skin Health here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Elfred Landas, MD

General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Aug 22, 2022

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