Allergic Contact Dermatitis of the Face Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options

Allergic contact dermatitis of the face is a common, irritating, itchy rash that occurs when the skin is exposed to an allergen. It is treated initially with ointments and topical drugs and is preventable by avoiding the responsible allergen.

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Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Symptoms
  3. Potential Causes
  4. Treatment, Prevention and Relief
  5. When to Seek Further Consultation
  6. References

What Is Allergic Contact Dermatitis of the Face?

Summary

Allergic contact dermatitis of the face is any inflammation of the skin caused by an allergic reaction to a material that is in contact with the skin on the face. Allergic contact dermatitis can affect the skin anywhere on the body, and it can result in itchy, red, painful rashes. Some of the most common allergens causing allergic contact dermatitis of the face are metals like nickel found in jewelry and fastenings on clothing and ingredients in cosmetics. Allergic contact dermatitis can be treated with moisturizing lotions and ointments, topical steroids, and other drugs that calm the immune system. It can be prevented by finding out precisely what you are allergic to and avoiding that substance.

Recommended care

Allergic Contact Dermatitis of the Face Symptoms

Main symptoms

Allergic contact dermatitis of the face comes in many varieties. It will generally present as irritated skin. Any of the following characteristics may apply to allergic contact dermatitis of the face:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Redness, or pinkness
  • Bumpiness
  • Hives or welts on the skin
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Darkening of skin after the resolution of the initial rash
  • Cuts in the skin, from scratching
  • Oozing, draining, or crusting of the skin [3]

One signature of allergic contact dermatitis of the face is the distribution and shape of the rash. The shape and location of the rash will often correspond with the places that the skin and allergen came into contact. Some examples of this are below:

  • Jewelry: An allergy to a metal in jewelry will occur where that jewelry touches the skin.
  • Cosmetics: Allergies to ingredients in cosmetics will occur in areas where those cosmetics were applied.
  • Detergents: Allergies to detergents can show up in locations where fabrics and articles of clothing come into contact with the skin.
  • Plants: Allergies to plants like poison ivy will often show up as rashes in long, thin line shapes, where plants brushed across the skin.

Though allergic contact dermatitis of the face is not a life-threatening condition, it can become quite severe, and the constant itching and discomfort can seriously impact quality of life. Allergic contact dermatitis of the face may also become infected leading to more severe symptoms.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis of the Face Causes

Allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts against a specific material, called an antigen. Allergic contact dermatitis is a specific allergy where immune cells in the skin react against an antigen that comes into contact with that skin. Allergic contact dermatitis is extremely common and many people have at least one material or substance that will cause a reaction in their skin.

Allergic contact dermatitis can occur immediately with contact or may develop over time.

Common allergens

More than 3,600 different substances have been known to cause allergic contact dermatitis. Certain people may be exposed to allergens as a part of their work. Some of the most common ones are listed below [2]:

  • Poison ivy: This is one of the most common allergens.
  • Nickel: This metal is used in cell phones, jewelry, belt buckles, zippers and more. Other metals may also cause allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Cosmetics: Any ingredient in a cosmetic, soap, or fragrance could cause allergic contact dermatitis of the face.
  • Latex: This is used in gloves in work and medical settings.

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Treatment Options, Relief, and Prevention for Allergic Contact Dermatitis of the Face

Treatment

There are many treatments for allergic contact dermatitis of the face. Your doctor will help you choose one based on the severity of your allergic contact dermatitis and how many previous treatments have worked, or failed. Some of the most common treatments are listed below:

  • Emollients: This is the name for moisturizing lotions, creams, and ointments. These protect and heal the skin, and may even relieve itch and irritation. Petrolatum jelly is one of the best to use.
  • Topical steroids: These are rub-on creams and ointments that calm the immune system, allowing for even faster healing. They come in a variety of strengths. Some (like cortisone 0.1%) are available over-the-counter, while others require a prescription.
  • Tacrolimus or pimecrolimus: These rub-on ointments and creams calm the immune system using a different mechanism than topical steroids (described above). These require a prescription.
  • Phototherapy: This treatment uses ultraviolet light to calm the immune system and prevent and heal allergic reactions.

Prevention

The best way to treat AND prevent allergic contact dermatitis of the face is to find out exactly what you are allergic to and to avoid that substance completely.

You can begin this process by carefully studying occurrences of your allergic contact dermatitis – keep track of where and when it occurs and make some guesses about what metals, cosmetics, plants, detergents or other common allergens could be the culprit.

A definitive test, called a patch test can be performed by a dermatologist or allergist, where a number of substances are placed directly on the skin, and allergic reactions are measured [1].

When to Seek Further Consultation for Allergic Contact Dermatitis of the Face

Allergic contact dermatitis on the face can be itchy, painful, and disfiguring so anyone who is concerned that they have this diagnosis should see a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.

In some cases, allergic contact dermatitis of the face can become an even greater burden, and you should see a dermatologist as soon as possible in cases where you believe that allergic contact dermatitis is hurting your quality of life or affecting your mood.

Additionally, allergic contact dermatitis of the face can become infected — if a rash begins spreading, becomes painful, causes a fever, or emits pus, seek care from a doctor immediately. Sometimes allergic contact dermatitis can turn into a full-body allergic skin reaction and this should also prompt immediate medical attention.

References

  1. Oakley A. Allergic contact dermatitis. Dermnet NZ. Updated 2016. Dermnet NZ Link

  2. Contact dermatitis. American Academy of Dermatology Association. AAD Link

  3. Is that eczema or an infection on my child’s skin? American Academy of Dermatology Association. AAD Link

  4. The Mayo Clinic Staff. Contact dermatitis. The Mayo Clinic. Oct. 4, 2018. The Mayo Clinic Link