Skip to main content
Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema triggered by contact with a particular substance.

Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause skin to become dry and irritated.

Contact dermatitis usually improves or clears up completely if the substance causing the problem is identified and avoided. Treatments are also available to help ease the symptoms.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis causes the skin to become itchy, blistered, dry and cracked.

Lighter skin can become red, and darker skin can become dark brown, purple or grey.

This reaction usually occurs within a few hours or days of exposure to an irritant or allergen.

Symptoms can affect any part of the body but most commonly the hands and face.

Read about symptoms of contact dermatitis

A sore rash of small red dots on white skin

When to see a pharmacist

Speak to a pharmacist if your contact dermatitis is troubling you.

They can recommend treatments such as emollients (moisturisers), which you rub on your skin to stop it becoming dry.

Find a pharmacy

When to see a GP

See a GP if you have persistent, recurrent or severe symptoms of contact dermatitis. They can try to identify the cause and suggest appropriate treatments.

A GP may refer you to  a doctor who specialises in treating skin conditions (dermatologist) for further tests if:

Read about diagnosing contact dermatitis

Causes of contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis can be caused by:

Contact dermatitis is most commonly caused by irritants such as soaps and detergents, solvents or regular contact with water.

Read about causes of contact dermatitis

Treating contact dermatitis

If you can successfully avoid the irritants or allergens that trigger your symptoms, your skin will eventually clear up.

However, as this is not always possible, you may also be advised to use:

If you have a severe episode of contact dermatitis and it covers a large area of your skin, a doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids, but this is rare.

Read about treating contact dermatitis

Preventing contact dermatitis

The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to avoid contact with the allergens or irritants that cause your symptoms.

If you cannot avoid contact, you can take steps to reduce the risk of the allergens or irritants causing symptoms, including:

Other types of eczema

Other types of eczema include: