Contact dermatitis on hands

Contact dermatitis and how to treat it

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What is contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs when the skin becomes irritated or inflamed after contacting a specific substance that causes a reaction.

Generally, eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that makes the skin dry and causes itchiness, rashes, patches and blisters.

For contact dermatitis to clear up completely, it's important that you identify the substance or material that causes the flare up, so that you can avoid it in the future. Learn more about treatment for contact dermatitis in this article.


Contact dermatitis symptoms

When the skin comes into contact with a triggering substance, the reaction usually occurs within a few minutes, hours or days. Knowing the symptoms of contact dermatitis and being able to identify the signs is important so you can take action and treat them quickly.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Dry, cracked or white skin
  • Rash
  • Tender skin
  • Bumps and fluid-filled blisters
  • Swelling, tenderness or burning
  • Leathery patches which are darker than usual (this is common in brown or black skin)

These signs and symptoms can occur on any part of the body, but contact dermatitis on the face and hands are the most common areas.

Contact dermatitis on the face and hands are the most common areas where the symptoms can develop, but they can also occur on any part of the body.

Causes of contact dermatitis on the face

Contact dermatitis on the face can be caused by exposure to a substance triggering an allergic reaction or irritation. It’s important for you to be aware of some substances that can cause contact dermatitis like the below:

  • Hair dye: Swelling and blistering on the face or neck can occur as a reaction to permanent hair dye. The reaction usually comes from the ingredient paraphenylenediamine, which can irritate the skin or cause allergic reactions.
  • Plants: Contact with poison ivy, the Japanese wax tree and other plants can also cause swelling and blisters.
  • Skincare products: Itchy red skin can be caused by contact with methylisothiazolinone. This preservative used in the skincare and liquid cosmetic industries can trigger certain allergies.

Learn more about the causes of facial dermatitis and its different types.

Our AtoControl Face Care Cream can be used to soothe the symptoms arising from contact dermatitis on the face by offering relief to itchy skin and irritation, calming redness and soothing itchiness.

Examples of contact dermatitis on hands

Hands are the second most common body part where contact dermatitis usually develops because they come into contact with many inflammatory substances every day.

  • Water frequently touching hands is one of the most common reasons.
  • Water that is chalky or contains chlorine also increases the chance of contact dermatitis.
  • Solvents like acetone, acetic acid, ethanol, petrol, chloroform and more also contribute to the appearance of contact dermatitis on hands.
  • Powders and dust.
  • Detergents like bleach, soaps and washing-up liquids. Extensive use of these liquids when cleaning can make you vulnerable to contact dermatitis.

Some of the cases described above may be part of a job, like a cleaner.

If your job involves the frequent use of any of the substances mentioned above, take measures to protect them by wearing gloves.

For contact dermatitis on the hands, you can use the Eucerin AtoControl Acute Care Cream alongside medical treatment your doctor might recommend to you. The cream contains Menthoxypropanidol and Decanediol, which cool and soothe the skin as well bringing quick relief. Learn more about dermatitis on the hands, its symptoms and how to treat it.

Types of contact dermatitis

There are three types of contact dermatitis:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Photo contact dermatitis

Photo contact dermatitis is the least common one. This is caused when the ingredients of a product used on your skin are exposed to the sun and result in irritation. 

Both the other types of contact dermatitis usually appear on the hands and face, because products with inflammatory ingredients mostly come into contact with these two body areas.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the body has an allergic reaction after coming into contact with a certain substance. Being exposed to, or coming into contact with, certain substances leads the body to release inflammatory chemicals.

A common cause of allergic contact dermatitis is poison ivy; in this case, the skin develops an inflammatory reaction, leading to an itchy rash. It normally takes one or two days after exposure to the allergen.

What causes allergic contact dermatitis

Ring on the finger - contact dermatitis
Rings can cause allergic contact dermatitis

Contact with the below items can cause allergic contact dermatitis:

  • Jewellery (contact allergy to nickel)
  • Fragrances and perfumes
  • Latex gloves
  • Poison ivy and poison oak

Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis covers 80% of all contact dermatitis incidents. It happens when the skin comes into contact with toxic material. These damage the skin cells, making the skin itchy and irritated.

What causes irritant contact dermatitis?

Irritant contact dermatitis on hand

  • Solvents
  • Soaps
  • Bleach
  • Detergents
  • Jewellery
  • Make-up
  • Scissors
  • Belt buckles
  • Clothes with metal snaps and zippers
  • Extensive washing of hands with water and soap

It might take several days after the exposure for the irritation, itchiness, or red rash to develop.

Contact dermatitis treatment

Treatment for contact dermatitis is not easy and takes time. Even by following the best treatment for your skin, it can take several weeks for the rash to go away. In most cases, contact dermatitis goes away on its own once the skin is no longer in contact with the triggering substances.

Our AtoControl Acute Care Cream and AtoControl Face Care Cream can be used to soothe the symptoms of contact dermatitis offering relief to itchy skin, calming redness and soothing itchiness.

However, it’s important to be aware of some further treatment steps you can try at home which may soothe any symptoms.

  • Find what caused the irritation or rash and start reducing contact, or stop the exposure completely.
  • Avoid scratching your irritated skin - this makes it worse and you may cause an infection that might then require antibiotics.
  • Wash your itchy skin with a mild soap and cool water.
  • Apply moisturisers at least twice a day to help the restatement of the skin’s protective layer.
  • Use an anti-itch cream which can ease inflammation and itching.
See a GP if you have persistent or severe symptoms. The GP might refer you to a doctor specialising in treating skin conditions.

Contact dermatitis prevention

To prevent future outbreaks it’s important for you to identify the allergen by speaking to a certified dermatologist.

In the case of allergic contact dermatitis, to find out what the trigger is you need to undergo a procedure called patch testing. In this procedure, the doctor applies and tests different patches with allergens to your arm or back. After 48 hours they can evaluate which one triggers the irritation.

It is easier to find the cause of irritant contact dermatitis because the pain, itchiness or discomfort happens within minutes of contact.

Whenever a contact dermatitis rash is close to your eyes or mouth, or it covers a large area of your body you should seek medical advice or treatment. In any case of contact dermatitis, it’s important to find the cause of the irritant and prevent any future symptoms if possible.


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