Dermatitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the skin. There can be various causes and types of dermatitis. The main symptoms of this condition include redness, swelling and itching of the skin. Dermatitis occurs commonly and rarely poses a serious risk. However it can cause considerable discomfort. Medications are effective in bringing the condition under control. There are also some self-care measures that help in treating dermatitis.

Symptoms of Dermatitis

The most common types of dermatitis include the following:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis which results in red raised bumps and an itchy rash on the skin. There may also be blisters. It is caused by contact with substances such as cosmetics, metals and jewelry.
  • Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that leads to severe itchiness on the skin. It may be a constant condition that persists over long periods of time or it may occur in bouts.
  • Neurodermatitis is characterized by itchy areas in certain parts of the body.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis affects the scalp and face and results in dandruff. It can also occur on the upper back and chest.
  • Statis dermatitis develops when there is an accumulation of fluid beneath the skin around the ankles and shins. It can cause the skin to become itchy, thick and discolored.
  • Perioral dermatitis affects the area around the mouth, nose, eyes and cheeks. It leads to tiny pus-filled bumps. The skin may also start to peel.

The common signs and symptoms of various types of dermatitis include:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blisters

It is advisable to consult a doctor in case your symptoms are causing significant discomfort and are affecting your daily routine. Also seek medical care in case self-care methods are not able to provide relief or if you experience pain and infection on the skin.

Causes of Dermatitis

Dermatitis may be caused by a variety of factors such as genetics, allergies, stress, exposure to irritants and underlying health conditions.

  • Allergic contact dermatitis may occur due to contact with certain allergens contained in cosmetics, perfumes, poison ivy, rubber and neomycin which is found in antibiotic applications. Irritant contact dermatitis may occur due to contact with irritants present in detergents, soaps and skin products. An allergen can lead to rapid onset of dermatitis. An irritant usually triggers dermatitis after continued exposure over a long period of time.
  • Atopic dermatitis is also known as eczema. It is known to run in families and usually occurs in people with allergic rhinitis and asthma. It may begin in early childhood and then subsides in adulthood. Some of the causes of atopic dermatitis include dry skin, improper functioning of the immune system and a hereditary vulnerability to allergies. Atopic dermatitis may worsen due to stress.
  • Neurodermatitis occurs when there is irritation in a certain area of the skin. This may cause you to repeatedly scratch the area. This type of dermatitis commonly occurs on the wrists, ankles and outer forearms and may be caused by dry skin, eczema or psoriasis.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis tends to occur in people with oily hair or skin. The causes of seborrheic dermatitis include stress and certain neurological conditions. It may result in the appearance of a rash and oily scales on the scalp. It tends to occur in people with oily hair or skin. Genetics may play a role in the development of this condition.
  • Statis dermatitis develops when there is a buildup of fluid in the tissues under the skin. This occurs because of a reduction in the blood flow from the veins in the legs to the heart. The cause of statis dermatitis may include varicose veins, infections and other conditions that affect blood flow in the legs.
  • Perioral dermatitis may be caused due to contact with fluoride contained in dental products, moisturizers and topical corticosteroids.

Dermatitis may lead to certain complications. Impetigo is a condition in which the dermatitis sores become infected. The tissues beneath the skin may also get infected due to bacteria and result in cellulitis. This leads to the appearance of red streaks on the skin. The affected area may also become swollen, tender and warm.

Remedies for Dermatitis

It is important to determine the cause of dermatitis and seek early treatment for it. There are also some natural dermatitis cures that could help to alleviate symptoms like itching, swelling and redness. Some of the most common methods of dermatitis natural treatment include:

  • Cool Compresses: These help to soothe inflamed and itchy skin. You can soak a clean cloth in cool water and place over the affected areas for about ten minutes. These compresses also help to dry up oozing blisters. Milk compresses may also be used to treat dermatitis. The protein found in milk and dairy foods help to reduce itching.
  • Calamine lotion: Apply a thin layer of the lotion on the affected areas twice daily.
  • To relieve itching and irritation, use hydrocortisone cream. This is available over-the-counter and helps to alleviate inflammation. However it is not effective in treating bacterial infection.
  • Oral antihistamines which are also available over-the-counter help to reduce itching. But they may have side effects such as drowsiness and dryness of the mouth.
  • Avoid scratching the area as it can tear the skin and trigger a secondary infection.
  • Add a cup of ground oatmeal to your bathwater and soak in it for some time. This is extremely soothing for dermatitis affected skin. You can even use a cup of baking soda. Avoid using hot water.
  • Apple cider vinegar is known to help in treating dermatitis. Apply some vinegar directly to the affected areas and allow it to soak in for some time. You can add a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to one cup of water and use as a skin cleanser.
  • Herbs such as comfrey root and slippery elm bark are helpful in treating dermatitis.
  • Apply petroleum jelly or gentle body lotion to treat dry and scaly skin.
  • If you have seborrheic dermatitis, avoid using harsh shampoos. Use baby shampoos instead as they are gentle and do not worsen the condition.
  • Keep your legs elevated if you have statis dermatitis. You can also wear support stockings.

Diet for Dermatitis

The diet for seborrheic dermatitis should consist of foods that help to prevent inflammation. Some examples of beneficial nutrients include the following:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: They are known to help in alleviating itchiness and flaking of the skin. They are beneficial for those who suffer from eczema. You can obtain omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as olive oil, corn and flaxseed.
  • Vitamin B Complex: Inadequacy of vitamin B can hamper the processing of fats and protein in the body. This may contribute to dermatitis. The B vitamins are beneficial for the health of the skin and are also good for the nervous system. Dermatitis is often triggered by stress and including vitamin B in the diet may help to prevent the condition. Foods rich in vitamin B include sesame seeds, whole grains and pulses.
  • Lactobacillus Acidophilus: This is a beneficial bacterium which aids in proper functioning of the digestive tract. Poor digestion may lead to accumulation of toxins and this can trigger attacks of atopic dermatitis. Therefore the atopic dermatitis diet should include foods which contain lactobacillus acidophilus.
  • Folic Acid: Individuals with dermatitis may have deficiencies of folic acid. This nutrient can be obtained from green leafy vegetables. It is also available in the form of supplements.

Studies have shown that a gluten free diet may lead to an improvement in the skin lesions caused by dermatitis. Gluten is often found in bread and wheat or rye products. Another food which may contribute to dermatitis is arachidonic acid, a type of fatty acid contained in meat and dairy foods. Animal fat may also cause the blood to thicken and this can exert pressure on the veins.

Suggestions for Dermatitis

Dry skin can lead to repeated bouts of dermatitis. Use the following tips to prevent the skin from drying:

  • Avoid bathing too frequently as it can dry out the skin. Individuals vulnerable to dermatitis are often advised to avoid showering or bathing daily. Limit your baths to just 15 minutes and avoid using hot water.
  • Use gentle soaps which cleanse the skin without causing dryness. Herbal soaps are beneficial for this purpose. Perfumed and anti-bacterial soaps may strip the natural oils from the skin. Soap should be used only on the face, underarms, genitals, hands and feet.
  • To dry your skin after bathing, you can rub the palms of your hands against the skin gently. You can also pat the skin dry with a soft towel.
  • The best way to prevent dryness is to use a moisturizer. Apply a gentle moisturizer on your skin while it is still damp as this helps to lock in the moisture. Ensure that you moisturize the back, arms and legs. If you suffer from severe dryness, you can use special lubricating creams.


  1. Peräaho M, Collin P, Kaukinen K, Kekkonen L, Miettinen S, Mäki M. Oats can diversify a gluten-free diet in celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Jul;104(7):1148-50. PubMed PMID: 15215774.

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