Contact dermatitis is a general term covering many skin disorders that cause a red, itchy rash and inflammation of the upper or outer layer of the skin. It occurs when an external, often irritating substance comes in direct contact with the skin.

A woman with allergic contact dermatitis scratching her arm What is Contact Dermatitis?

Allergic contact dermatitis is a form of contact dermatitis. It is the immune system's reaction to an allergen (external substance) that comes in contact with the skin. Allergic contact dermatitis usually develops several hours after the allergen touches the skin. It may cause a red itchy rash and possibly blisters, swelling, oozing, scaling or scabbing.

People of all ages may be sensitive or allergic to many types of external substances. More than 3,000 types of allergens are known to cause allergic contact dermatitis and may include:

  • Chemicals, dyes, and materials used to manufacture clothing, shoes, undergarments and apparel
  • Concrete
  • Cosmetic products, including hair chemicals, nail polish and nail polish remover, deodorants, moisturizers, aftershaves, perfumes and sunscreens
  • Fragrances
  • Metal compounds in jewelry, especially nickel and other metals such as mercury, gold, cobalt and chromate
  • Plants, especially poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac
  • Rubber products
  • Topical over-the-counter ointments

How Do You Treat Contact Dermatitis

Penn Dermatology uses a targeted patch testing technique to thoroughly identify external substances causing allergic contact dermatitis.

Unlike pre-packaged skin patch tests, Penn's customized and unique testing method to treat allergic contact dermatitis provides a significantly higher chance of identifying the offending allergen and treating these skin problems.


In This Section

Patch Testing

Penn Dermatology uses a targeted patch testing technique to thoroughly identify external substances causing allergic contact dermatitis.

Photo Patch Testing

Photo patch testing is done by placing small amounts of chemicals on the back and exposing them to UV light.

Treatment Team

Penn's world-renowned Dermatologists provide direct patient care for Allergic Contact Dermatitis, are widely published in the area of contact dermatitis, and serve on key national leadership roles within the field. Browse our list of physicians.

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