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Contact dermatitis: what you need to know

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis: what you need to know

With the winter months approaching, contact dermatitis can take a turn for the worse, with the cold weather affecting dry skin even more. If you have dermatitis or think you might, this is what you need to know about the skin condition.

What is it?

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that is triggered by allergens, specific chemicals, or certain substances. The most obvious and primary way to identify eczema is dry, itchy skin. Unlike other forms of eczema, the affected skin will usually clear up if contact with a trigger is stopped.

Symptoms

Other than dryness or itchiness, other symptoms can include:

  • Blistering
  • Bumps
  • Discharge from the skin
  • Scaly skin
  • A ‘tight’ feeling in the skin

Differences

Before we delve into the causes of dermatitis, it’s critical to establish the differences between irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.

Both conditions cause the skin to itch, dry out, and turn red, but they are also completely different. Irritant contact dermatitis is usually more widespread and, unlike allergic contact dermatitis, doesn’t involve the immune system so isn’t an allergy. As its name suggests, irritant contact dermatitis occurs due to exposure to irritants. However, allergic contact dermatitis is more localised and can cause the skin to blister and swell.

There is also a third type called photocontact dermatitis. This is far less common than the other types and occurs when the active ingredients in a skin product are exposed to the sun which can lead to the skin being irritated.

Causes

Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis might include:

  • Jewellery
  • Latex
  • Perfumes or fragrances

Common causes of irritant contact dermatitis might include:

  • Strong chemical products like bleach
  • Detergents
  • Soap

If you think you suffer from contact dermatitis, the following points are essential to think about:

  • When did it first start?
  • Are you aware of specific triggers?
  • Have you used any new products?

Patch test

If you’ve been using new products that may be causing your skin to react negatively, try eliminating them from your routine and see if this makes a difference and clears your skin. Any new products you do use, be sure to check the ingredients list and do a patch test before using.

A patch test can be carried out at home. All you have to do is apply a small amount of product to a ‘patch’ of your body (such as the inside of your elbow) and after a few hours, look for any signs of irritation. If your skin reacts, you’ll notice some itching or swelling in the area you applied the product too. Patch testing can help you identify which chemicals are causing your skin to react.

We highly recommend that you have an allergy test to determine whether or not you have dermatitis, and what your triggers are. The skin can become easily dried out and irritable during cold weather, so finding out as soon as possible what is affecting your skin means that you can seek out treatment.

If your skin feels dry, itchy, and red, it might suggest you have allergies or a skin condition that you didn’t even think about. Why not request an allergy test today or speak to our experts, so that you can live irritant-free.

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