Tips for treating contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease caused by contact with substances of a very diverse nature (detergents and alkaline materials such as soaps, fabric softeners, solvents and other chemicals), which causes the skin to become red.

This condition can be irritating or allergic. Eduardo Fonseca, head of the Dermatology service at the University Hospital Complex of La Coruña , explains that, in addition, there are mechanisms such as phototoxicity and photoallergy that, apart from the contact of the substance with the skin, there needs to be exposure to light .

Substances that can cause dermatitis

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center , cements, hair dyes, prolonged exposure to wet diapers , pesticides, or some shampoos can also trigger irritating dermatitis. Other common allergens are:

  • Adhesives, such as those used for false eyelashes or toupees.
  • Antibiotics like neomycin rubbed on the skin surface.
  • Balsam of Peru (used in many personal and cosmetic products, as well as in many foods and drinks).
  • Fabrics and clothing.
  • Fragrances in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and moisturizing creams.
  • Nail polish, hair dyes and solutions for permanent curling.
  • Nickel and other metals(found in jewelry, watch straps, metal zippers, brassiere hooks, buttons, pocket knives, lipstick cases, and compact powders).
  • Ivy, oak, sumac and other poisonous plants.
  • Rubber or latex gloves or shoes.

Fonseca warns that this type of allergic dermatitis usually appears or develops although they have never been suffered. “It usually takes a long period of exposure (contact with the substance) for a contact allergy to develop. Sometimes it appears after many years of contacting the substance, “he clarifies.


The symptoms that may be warning us that a substance is irritating to our skin are the appearance of eczematous lesions, which can be accompanied by blisters or necrosis and itching. In addition, the expert highlights that, although most of the time the lesions appear where the substance contacts the skin, there can be generalized reactions.

The University of Maryland warns that the same person who suffers from this dermatitis may have different symptoms over time, although itchy skin in exposed areas is a common symptom and the rash can flare up 24 to 48 hours after contact. with the substance.

Feeling hot or tender, oozing, draining, or scabbing can also be some symptoms of contact dermatitis.


First of all, to prevent it, the fundamental thing is to suspend contact with the substance. “The process is solved in days or weeks, but reappears if contact occurs again. For the lesions already established to be resolved, medication such as topical corticosteroids or systemic or oral antihistamines may be required, “Fonseca points out.

The University of Maryland advises flushing the skin with plenty of water to remove any traces of the substance left on the skin. Applying emollients or moisturizers also help keep skin moist and self-healing.

The expert concludes that the severity will depend on the intensity and extent of the injuries. If they don’t go away, the substance causing the condition may not have been identified. For a good diagnosis, the UMM recommends that the patient undergo allergy skin patch tests (called patch tests) to determine which allergen is causing the reaction.


If your job requires being exposed to a substance that could be causing this condition, it is advisable to follow these tips:

  • Wear protective gloves that do not contain latex.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts.
  • Ventilate the rooms well.
  • Use protective creams or cleansing lotions for the skin.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene.
  • Correctly store chemicals.
  • Use disposable paper towels


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