Contact dermatitis 



Atopic eczema is the most common type of eczema, affecting around one in 12 adults and one in five children in the UK. In this video, Dr Dawn Harper talks about living with the condition.

Media last reviewed: 10/01/2013

Next review due: 10/01/2015

Eczema types

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema. Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions that cause dry, itchy, scaly skin. There are several other types of eczema, including:


Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that occurs when you come into contact with a particular substance.

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that can cause red, itchy and scaly skin, and sometimes burning and stinging. It leads to your skin becoming blistered, dry and cracked.

It can affect any part of the body but most commonly affects the hands.

Read more about the symptoms of contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis can be caused by: 

  • an irritant (a substance that damages the skin physically), or
  • an allergen (a substance that causes the immune system to respond in a way that affects the skin)

Contact dermatitis caused by irritants is more common, causing up to 8 out of 10 cases.

Read more about the causes of contact dermatitis.

Treating contact dermatitis

If you can successfully avoid the irritants or allergens that cause your contact dermatitis then your condition will clear up.

However, this isn't always possible so treatment involves using emollients to soothe the skin. An emollient is a moisturiser that reduces the loss of water from the skin. Corticosteroid medicines can be used to treat severe symptoms.

With treatment, most people with contact dermatitis can expect their symptoms to improve and in up to two out of five people contact dermatitis will clear up completely. However, some people may experience complications of contact dermatitis such as an infection or severe symptoms which affect their quality of life.

Read more about how contact dermatitis is treated and preventing contact dermatitis

Who is affected?

Contact dermatitis is more common in women, with approximately 1 in 5 women experiencing it on their hands at some point during their lives. This may be because women are exposed to more of the irritants that can cause contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis can develop at any age and can affect anybody.

Page last reviewed: 16/10/2012

Next review due: 16/10/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Ross Bennett said on 18 March 2012

I recently had a severe rash all over my face and forehead and I was alarmed and confused when my doctor told me i had dermatitis at the age of 31. There is no history of this in my family and i was puzzled as to why i should get it at my time in life. I then realized it was due to the plastic boxing gloves i was using in my boxing training (these can be pressed against my face for long periods of time) and so i switched to leather gloves. I'm not a serious boxer but the training keeps me superfit. The rash however was not going away despite my best efforts with creams. Even hydrocortisone (steroid) cream made my dermatitis worse although this can be very good for dermatitis. I then gambled on a cream with natural ingredients and it was much better than all the others and got rid of my rash completely. Obviously switching to leather gloves helped but this cream was great. I have forgotten what the cream was called but i do remember it it is a cream with shea butter, lavender oil and east cape oil. Oh the cream logo has a leaf on it. I'm sorry for not remembering the name of the cream.

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