There are 2 types of contact dermatitis.
Irritant dermatitis: This is the most common type. It can be by contact with acids, alkaline materials such as soaps and detergents, fabric softeners, solvents, or other chemicals. The reaction most often looks like a burn. It is not caused by an allergy, but rather the skin's reaction to a very irritating substance.
Other materials that may irritate your skin include:
- Hair dyes
- Long-term exposure to wet diapers
- Pesticides or weed killers
- Rubber gloves
Allergic contact dermatitis: This form of the condition occurs when your skin comes in contact with a substance that causes you to have an allergic reaction.
Common allergens include:
- Adhesives, including those used for false eyelashes or toupees
- Antibiotics, such as neomycin rubbed on the surface of the skin
- Balsam of Peru (used in many personal products and cosmetics, as well as in many foods and drinks)
- Fabrics and clothing
- Fragrances in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, and moisturizers
- Nail polish, hair dyes, and permanent wave solutions
- Nickel or other metals (found in jewelry, watch straps, metal zips, bra hooks, buttons, pocketknives, lipstick holders, and powder compacts)
- Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other plants
- Rubber or latex gloves or shoes
You will not have a reaction to a substance when you are first exposed to the substance. However, you will form a reaction after future exposures. You may become more sensitive and develop a reaction if you use it regularly. The reaction most often occurs 24 to 48 hours after the exposure.
Some products cause a reaction only when the skin is also exposed to sunlight (photosensitivity). These include:
- Shaving lotions
- Sulfa ointments
- Some perfumes
- Coal tar products
- Oil from the skin of a lime
A few airborne allergens, such as ragweed or insecticide spray, can also cause contact dermatitis.