Contact dermatitis: Tips for getting rid of the rash

                Man with cell phone Many things can cause a rash, including your wedding ring, glasses, clothing, and cell phone.

Sometimes you can get rid of a rash yourself. These dermatologists’ tips can help you find the cause.

Once you know what’s causing your rash, avoiding it often clears the rash.

To help you find the cause, follow these steps: 
  1. Ask yourself the questions on this page (below) that are relevant. 
  2. If you answered yes to a question, stop using/wearing what you think caused the rash. 
  3. If the rash begins to clear, you may have found the culprit. If the rash worsens or remains for 2 weeks, make an appointment to see a dermatologist. You’ll need help to get rid of the rash.

Rash beneath jewelry, shoes, or clothing

If a rash develops where jewelry, shoes, gloves or other clothing, a zipper, a buckle, or a fastener touches your skin:

  • Stop wearing the item for a few days. 
If the rash begins to clear when you stop wearing the item, you may have an allergy to a metal, dye, or fabric finisher.

Some people develop an allergy to jewelry that they’ve worn for years. The cause is often nickel, a metal found in many pieces of jewelry. A wedding ring can cause this problem. In fact, this rash is so common that it has a name, wedding-ring dermatitis

If this happens, ask your dermatologist for tips to prevent getting a rash from your wedding ring.

Rash on face

It can be a challenge to find the cause of this rash, but you can start by answering the following questions:

  • Have you recently tried a new makeup, eye cream, or fragrance?
    Some people are allergic to ingredients in these products.
  • Do you use an eyelash curler or tweezers? 
    These items often contain nickel, which is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Brief direct contact with an eyelash curler or tweezers can cause an allergic skin reaction.
  • Do you rub your eyes?
    If you find yourself rubbing your eyes, try to stop. Indirect contact with an allergen can cause a rash on your face. Even nickel used in a doorknob or keys can end up on your face when you rub your eyes. 
  • Do you wear nail polish or artificial nails?
    These products can cause a rash when you touch your face. Even when you don’t develop a rash on your hands, the skin on your face can react. 
  • Has a fragrance touched your skin?
    Directly applying a fragrance can cause a rash. You can also get a rash from indirect contact. Touching a a towel or pillow that has a fragrance on it could cause a rash.

Rash on side of face, neck, hairline, or chest

You can often find the cause of a rash in one of these areas by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you hold your cell phone against your face?
    A rash that appears on one side of the face may indicate that you have an allergy to nickel or chromium. Some cell phones contain one of these metals. You also could have an allergy to something in the case you use for your cell phone. 
  • Have you recently switched shampoo or conditioner?
    If you are allergic to an ingredient in a shampoo or conditioner, a rash can appear where the product runs down your body when you rinse. 
  • Have you recently used a hair dye or perm solution?
    These can cause a rash. 

Rash after hiking or being in a wooded area

If you were in a wooded area, you may have touched poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac without knowing it. Poison ivy is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis. 

The following tips can help:

Poison ivy: Tips for treating and preventing

Rash from musical instrument

Metals in musical instruments, such as nickel, cobalt, palladium, silver, and gold, can cause a rash. So too can cane reeds and exotic woods. Stains, glues, and varnishes also cause contact dermatitis.

Dermatologists recommend the following to people who get a rash from playing a musical instrument:
  1. Stop playing the instrument while your skin heals. 
  2. See a dermatologist. You may need medication to treat the rash. Patch testing also can be very helpful. This medical test helps to find allergens. It is important to know if you have an allergy to something in the instrument that you play.  
  3. Once the cause is found, your dermatologist can help you make some changes so that you can play again.

When to see a dermatologist

You’ll want to make an appointment If you have a rash that:

  • Is severe (raw skin, blisters, oozing, or intense itch).
  • Does not clear in a few weeks.
  • Comes and goes.
  • Is caused by something in your workplace.

Sometimes we can find one cause but miss others. For example, many people develop an allergy to nickel. This metal is so common that it may be in your wedding ring and dozens of products that you regularly use.

A dermatologist can help you find out if you have any allergies. If you have an allergy, your dermatologist can create a plan to help you avoid things that cause your rash.

Many dermatologists use databases that can tell them what products you should avoid if you have an allergy and what products you can use. This alone could save you lots of time and money.

Learn more:

References:

American Academy of Dermatology:

  • “Contact dermatitis.” Medical Student Core Curriculum. Last update July 2011.
  • “Musicians at risk for common skin condition.” News release issued March 16, 2012. 
  • “Saving face: Dermatologists helping patients identify source of facial allergic contact dermatitis.” News release issued August 1, 2013.

Ehrlich A. “Fragrance Allergy.” Presented as a focus session at: The American Academy of Dermatology’s ACADEMY ’06 Summer Meeting. July 2006; San Diego.

Saary J, Qureshi R. “A systematic review of contact dermatitis treatment and prevention.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;53:845-55.