Many of our visitors have emailed us about explaining the difference between irritant and allergic dermatitis. Following is some helpful information for you.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes in contact with substances that it is sensitive or allergic to. The reaction usually appears within 24-48 hours after exposure to the allergen.
Symptoms that are common include redness, itching and swelling. Sometimes blistering and weeping of the skin also develop. What you are allergic to is determined by your genes. At this time there is no way to tell ahead of time if you are allergic to something.
You can become allergic to a product that you have been using for many years. It does not necessarily have to be a new product. At any time your skin can become allergic to one of the specific substances in a product, even though you have used it for a long time. Once you have the allergy, it will keep coming back, so you must stop using the product.
You may have heard about skin care products that are hypoallergenic. This means that the substances used in the products are tested and are found to be less likely to cause an allergic reaction. It does not mean you cannot develop an allergy to these products, just that it is less likely then if the product is not hypoallergenic.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Irritant dermatitis occurs when too much of a substance is used on the skin or when the skin is very sensitive to a certain substance. How susceptible your skin is to irritation is genetic, in other words, some people are born with sensitive skin. Symptoms that are commonly seen include redness, scaling, and the skin looking irritated and sore. If an irritant reaction occurs, you do not have to stop using the product, but you need to cut back the use of the product to every other day or every third day.
As time passes, the skin will often build up a tolerance to the irritation and you will be able to increase the frequency of application of the product that caused the irritation. In general, gels and solutions are more irritating then lotions and creams.