Dermatitis, which is a general term that describes skin irritation, can be caused by a variety of things, including touching soap. The condition can evolve over time, and the symptoms can range from mild to debilitating. People with dermatitis commonly experience itching, irritation, and cracking. On the severe end of the spectrum, a dermatitis reaction may cause the skin to bleed or even lead to breathing problems.

If you notice that your skin gets irritated by soap, you need to visit allergy and immunology specialist Ulrike Ziegner, MD, at Riviera Allergy Medical Center In Redondo Beach, California. No matter what kind of dermatitis you may have, we can diagnose and treat your condition.

Types of contact dermatitis

If your skin reacts when you touch certain kinds of soap, one of two types of contact dermatitis may be to blame: allergic contact dermatitis, which is rare, and irritant contact dermatitis, which is common.

Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis causes a nonallergic skin reaction as a result of exposure to certain chemicals. Soap is a common product that causes dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Cosmetics and fragrances also commonly cause contact dermatitis.

A rash usually appears on areas of the skin that have had direct contact with an offending substance. It can develop within minutes or hours of exposure. Signs and symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Red rash

  • Itchy skin

  • Dry, cracked skin

  • Scaly skin

  • Swelling

  • Burning

  • Tenderness

Allergic contact dermatitis

With allergic contact dermatitis, your immune system overreacts, resulting in inflammation when you touch things it sees as a threat. Often, the symptom is an itchy rash that can appear within minutes, hours, or days of contact. Allergic contact dermatitis can also have more serious health complications, such as swelling of the face and lips as well as trouble breathing.

Allergic skin reactions can be difficult to distinguish from reactions that are not related to the immune system. This makes an expert evaluation and diagnosis imperative. 

Diagnosing contact dermatitis

Dr. Ziegner will conduct a clinical examination to look for clues to any underlying causes of your skin irritation. This will include a careful look at your medical history and a discussion of your symptoms. Depending on what Dr. Ziegner suspects the cause may be, she’ll perform testing.

One test is the patch test. With this test, small amounts of substances known to cause allergic reactions are applied to adhesive patches and placed on your skin. The patches then remain on your skin for roughly 48 hours. Dr. Ziegner then and also 1 day thereafter will check your skin for signs of reactions to determine what you’re allergic to.

Treating contact dermatitis

Caring for sensitive skin starts with avoiding soaps with harsh chemicals. If appropriate, Dr. Ziegner may recommend a medicated skin cream to soothe your irritated skin. Furthermore, you’ll need to avoid certain ingredients in your personal hygiene products. 

Depending on your condition, Dr. Ziegner may recommend oral medications, such as antihistamines and antibiotics, and topical or oral steroids. You’ll likely be able to use products labeled safe for sensitive skin. Dr. Ziegner can recommend safe soaps if you’re unsure.

It can be challenging trying to differentiate contact dermatitis from other types of rashes. That’s why you need a proper evaluation and diagnosis from a trained specialist. When you visit Dr. Ziegner, you can be confident that she’ll get to the root of your symptoms and recommend the right treatment plan for your sensitive skin.

If you’re struggling with unexplained rashes, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Riviera Allergy Medical Center today.  

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