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Combating Common Skin Irritants

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Allergic Contact Dermatitis continued...

Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • Reddened skin
  • Darkened, leathery, cracked skin
  • Dry, scaly patches of skin
  • Burning or intense itching
  • Blisters that ooze
  • Hives
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Swelling in the eyes, face or genital area

In addition, some people get a form called photoallergic contact dermatitis. This type happens only after the skin touches certain substances and then comes in contact with sunlight. These substances may include:

  • Lime juice
  • Sunscreens
  • Aftershave lotions
  • Antibiotics and some perfumes

Finding the Source of Skin Irritation

If you suspect that a certain product or substance is causing your dermatitis, avoid it and watch whether your rash improves.

But it’s not always easy to pinpoint a specific cause. For example, your eyelids may be chronically dry, red and flaky, but what’s to blame: your eyeshadow, eyeliner, makeup remover, or overnight eye cream?

Sometimes, people have no clue at all -- they get a rash, but they can’t recall the substances that have touched their skin. Or their facial skin becomes inflamed, leading them to suspect a face product. In fact, they might have unwittingly transferred a substance from their hands to their face. The substance doesn’t affect the hands, but the more sensitive facial skin will react.

If you can’t figure out the source of irritation, see a dermatologist. He or she will quiz you about your job, household chores, hobbies, drug and cosmetics use, and other factors in order to gain clues about the root of the problem. 

Your doctor may also do testing. No test can be performed for irritant contact dermatitis. But your doctor may do patch testing to see if you’re sensitive to various types of allergens that are known to cause dermatitis. Small patches of these substances are placed on your skin for one to two days so that your doctor can check if a rash develops.   

Preventing and Treating Contact Dermatitis

To relieve itching, contact dermatitis is commonly treated with:

  • Oral or topical steroids
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Skin emollients
  • Oatmeal baths

Once you’re no longer exposed to the irritant or allergen, redness usually vanishes after a week. But itching, scaling, and temporary skin thickening may go on for days or weeks.

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