itching skinDo you have a hard time wearing perfumes, certain moisturizers, or cosmetic products? Many people find that harsh chemicals in cosmetics and personal care items easily irritate their skin. If you are one of these people, read on to find out more about how you can diagnose and treat your sensitive skin.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology defines contact dermatitis as inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with a substance. Symptoms of contact dermatitis can include

  • red rash or bumps on the skin
  • painful, itchy, or burning skin
  • blisters and draining fluid

There are generally 2 types of contact dermatitis:

  1. irritant contact dermatitis: most common form of dermatitis triggered by a solvent or chemical irritant touching the skin.
  2. allergic contact dermatitis: occurs when substances like perfumes, dyes, and other chemicals trigger an immune response.

There are many personal care items on the market today that contain ingredients that can cause an adverse reaction. Some of these ingredients can include:

  • fragrances in soaps, perfumes, detergents, lotions, etc.
  • preservatives that extend the shelf life of many products
  • chemicals that thicken, thin out, or color a product
  • formaldehyde, a popular ingredient in nail care items
  • sunscreens used in lip protectant, lotions, and other items

How to diagnose contact dermatitis

When you make a visit to your allergist for a proper diagnosis, it is best to have a few pieces of information jotted down in a notebook. Let your allergist know

  • what you were doing 24 to 48 hours before the irritation began
  • what products were you using
  • what is the quantity you used and how often
  • what areas of your body did the products touch
  • current or past symptoms

Either variety of contact dermatitis is easily diagnosed through a skin test. Your allergist will place a small amount of the suspected chemical on your skin and await a reaction. Once you have a proper diagnosis, you can make plans for treatment.

Treatment for contact dermatitis

Once your allergist has given you an official diagnosis of what is causing your contact dermatitis, it is best to avoid the allergen at all costs. Many personal care products come in an allergen-free version that are worth checking out. You may recognize these products as being labeled as scent-free, paraben-free, preservative-free, etc. There are also other new personal care brands that cater to people with allergies. You can do internet research to find out how others with skin allergies have taken to these products.

Should you come across an item that causes a reaction, try washing the areas where the allergen touched your skin with soap and water. If it turns out to be just a minor irritation, you may be able to treat it with antihistamines, calamine lotion, or cortisone cream. All of these items can be found over-the-counter in any drug store. Prescription medications may be needed for other more serious reactions.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology is a professional organization consisting of allergists, immunologists, and other medical specialists with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases.


About RAMC: Located in Redondo Beach, CA. Riviera Allergy Medical Center (RAMC) provides a medical facility for a wide range of allergy and asthma related conditions, from nasal allergies and hay fever to skin allergy conditions and scalp eczema. If you or your children are in search of seasonal allergy relief, skin allergy treatment, sinus problems or headaches, or have shown signs of an ibuprofen allergy, you are encouraged to contact the team at RAMC. The office also may be contacted by phone at 310-792-9050.  Visit the site at

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To schedule an appointment, please call our office at 310.792.9050 or use our online Request an Appointment form. For additional information on any condition, treatment or procedure, please visit our Health Education Library.

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1 Comment

    • M. Cox

      Going through this article about chemical allergens and your itchy skin was really worthwhile. I am currently having bumps on my skin and I suspect that I am allergic to the lotion I am currentl using since it occurs only on the parts where I apply it. I sure will seek medical attention from a dermatologist soon. Thanks for the advice.


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