Allergic contact dermatitis is an itchy, red, scaly rash that resembles eczema often on the eyelids, face or the body. However, it differs from eczema. Contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction to something coming in direct contact with your skin. The most common allergens are fragrances and preservatives found in personal care products such as shampoos, cleansers, washes and wipes. Sometimes it results from using a new product. Sometimes it results from using the same product over many months or years. In some settings, the cause can be “occupational” and the exposure occurs at work.
We treat contact dermatitis not only by prescribing medications to clear the rash, but also by utilizing a test called patch testing to identify the cause. Patches are applied to the patient's back and removed 48 hours later. After the allergens are identified, patients receive handouts on the allergens, as well as a personalized email from the American Contact Dermatitis Society that gives a “safe list” of what products are safe to use.