Healthy Skin

How to Beat Irritant Dermatitis
During COVID-19

What is Irritant Dermatitis?

Irritant dermatitis is a type of dermatitis that occurs when the skin is injured by one of the following: chemicals (acids, alkalis, detergents, and solvents), cold/dry environments, friction (hand-washing), or over-exposure to water. It can appear as any of the following:

  • Rash and bumpy skin in the exposed area
  • Burning, stinging, or itching in the affected area
  • Dry patches, resembling a burn

Types of Dermatitis

There are six other kinds of dermatitis that cause skin irritation, discoloration, and infection:

Stasis Dermatitis

  • Discoloration and wounded skin occurs around the ankles due to poor circulation.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

  • Rashes and swelling occurs when skin comes into contact with an allergen (typically makeup, hair dye, and poison ivy).

Atopic Dermatitis

  • Bumpy red skin occurs in elbows and knees and is typically caused from a genetic skin condition.


  • Red, scaly skin occurs from frequent scratching of a certain area.

Perioral Dermatitis

  • Small bumps appear around the mouth caused by inhalers, nasal creams, and other topical products used on the face.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

  • Dandruff on scalp or yellow scaly skin on ears and face occurring from infection.

Can irritant contact dermatitis spread?

At first, irritant dermatitis will not spread; but depending on how long the flare-up lasts and its level of severity, it may spread. However, it is less likely to do so compared to allergic contact dermatitis.

What causes irritant contact dermatitis?

Irritant dermatitis occurs when your skin layers cannot heal itself after being exposed to any of the agents that cause the irritation. The harmful agents remove the natural moisture from your skin layers and seep further into your skin causing redness, dryness and irritation.

irritant contact dermatitis

What are the most common irritants for irritant contact dermatitis?

Common irritants are typically everyday items, and when overused or used in combination with each other can cause flare-ups. Examples are detergents, cleaners, adhesives, water, friction, gels, and pastes.

COVID-19, Hand-Washing, and Irritant Dermatitis

In order to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, you must take preventative measures including wearing gloves and washing your hands. While washing your hands helps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it can lead to irritant contact dermatitis. It can be triggered from one or both of the following reasons:

  • Repeated and over-use of soap, detergent, and sanitizers will eventually disrupt the oil and skin proteins on your hands causing irritation.
  • Exposure to water and humid environments causes your skin’s outermost layer to swell and become more sensitive to chemical and physical agents. If you are wearing gloves to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, this can also add extra humidity making your skin more susceptible.

Recent studies on individuals who have adopted obsessive hand-washing behavior due to COVID-19 have shown an increase in irritant dermatitis.

How do you treat irritant dermatitis?

If you are struggling with flare-ups from frequent hand-washing or any of the other common triggers, you can prevent and manage symptoms. Firstly, complying with hand washing recommendations is necessary during these unprecedented times. You should always continue to wash your hands even if you struggle from irritant dermatitis

Applying topical creams (emollient creams) or topical steroids will work to soften, heal, and protect your skin. Thicker creams like petroleum jelly also provide high protection against dry patches. Be sure to use fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products to avoid the risk of further irritation. Lastly, depending on the severity of the dermatitis, antibiotics like erythromycin can also be taken orally to treat infected areas. If you are experiencing irritant contact dermatitis symptoms reach out to your dermatologist to come up with a treatment plan that will work for you.


  • Irritant contact dermatitis - DermNet NZ
  • Frequent Hand Washing for COVID-19 Prevention Can Cause Hand Dermatitis: Management Tips - Cureus
  • Slide show: Types of dermatitis - MAYO CLINIC

This blog is based on research and/or other scientific articles and is written by our experienced Chief Strategy Officer and Pharmacist, Ronak Desai. This blog is fact checked by our educated Pharmacist in Charge, Darshan Patel, who additionally runs our Apotheco Manhattan location.

Here at Apotheco Pharmacy Group, our goal is to provide the most up to date and accurate information on health and dermatology related topics. We do this to ensure our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All blogs undergo an extensive review process before posted.

This blog contains trusted sources. All sources are listed at the bottom of this article with hyperlinks that take you directly to the source.

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