If you’ve ever experienced severely red and irritated skin after wearing a particularly itchy wool sweater or sitting in sweaty gym clothes for too long, chances are you’ve experienced Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Uncomfortable? Yes. End of the world? Not at all. Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist at Rapaport Dermatology of Beverly Hills, is here to explain everything you need to know about it.
What Is Irritant Contact Dermatitis?
“This refers to rashes that develop due to direct physical or chemical injury to the epidermis, which leads to irritation and inflammation (redness, swelling, itch and pain) of the skin. Examples of causative physical or chemical irritants: sweat, friction and rubbing from tight clothing, rough clothing (wool, angora, metallic threads), cold dry weather, constant hand washing, irritating chemicals in detergents and personal care products (such as parabens, fragrances, preservatives, alcohols, benzoyl peroxide, acids: salicylic, glycolic, retinoic) and adhesives (band aids, tape),” says Shainhouse.
“This is different from an allergic reaction. Initially, people complain of burning or stinging of the skin after exposure, and if the irritant is strong and/or not washed off right away, a rash may develop within hours. If the exposure and inflammation become chronic, the skin begins to thicken up and feel itchy. There is usually a discrete cut-off between involved (exposed) and non-involved skin. This rash doesn’t spread to other areas. It is most commonly seen on the hands,” explains Shainhouse.
How To Treat Irritant Contact Dermatitis?
“Treatment includes avoiding the offending product and soothing the skin with topical steroid creams, which calm the inflammation. Use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers and thicker cream moisturizers to protect the skin barrier and prevent further irritation,” says Shainhouse.