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Skin Allergy: Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

📅 September 3, 2021

1. What is a skin allergy?

          1.1. Types of skin allergy

                    1.1.1. Hives 

                    1.1.2. Eczema 

                    1.1.3. Maskne

                    1.1.4. Contact dermatitis

                    1.1.5. Angioedema 

                    1.1.6. Rosacea 

2. What does skin allergy look like?

3. Causes of skin allergy

          3.1. Bug bites

          3.2. Dry skin

          3.3. Clothing 

          3.4. Food

          3.5. Face masks

          3.6. Fragrances 

4. Can the sun worsen my skin allergy?

5. Treatments for skin allergy

          5.1. List of ointments

                    5.1.1. Topical steroids

                    5.1.2. Topical antihistamines 

                    5.1.3. Topical anaesthetic 

6. Conclusion

Photo by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Skin allergies affected 9.2 million children in 2018. Inflammation of the skin, eczema, hives, persistent hives and contact allergies are all examples of skin allergies.

There are many ways in which you can contract a skin allergy. Some skin rashes appear immediately, while others take time to appear. Some tend to appear on the face while others flare up on the arms, legs, or body.

In this article, we will review skin allergy, what causes it and how you can cure it.

What is a skin allergy?

Our skin acts as the barrier that protects the muscle layers of the body against harmful substances and bacteria. It’s packed with immune cells that can defend the body and skin against viruses, germs, and other hidden dangers.

When skin cells detect any kind of suspicious material, a response occurs, causing the region to become inflamed. A rash or dermatitis is the medical term for this condition. Skin allergies may occur as a result of this.

Types of skin allergy

Here’s a list of common skin allergies:


Hives are a kind of skin irritation caused by the immune system’s production of histamine. This causes tiny blood vessels to leak, resulting in skin oedema. Angioedema is the swelling of the deep layers of the skin.

This allergy is broadly divided into two types: acute and chronic.

Acute hives can arise after consuming a specific meal or coming into touch with a specific trigger. Non-allergic factors, such as heat or exertion, as well as medicines, foods, bug bites, or illnesses, can all provoke it.

Because specific triggers are seldom the cause of chronic hives, allergy testing is typically ineffective. Chronic hives can continue for months or even years. Hives are not infectious, despite the fact that they are typically unpleasant, unsightly and painful.


Eczema is the most prevalent skin disorder, particularly among children. It affects 20% of children, but only around 3% of adults. Eczema is caused by the skin barrier’s “leakiness”, which leads it to dry up, get irritated and inflamed by a variety of environmental conditions

Additionally, some young children with eczema have a dietary sensitivity, which can aggravate the condition. This sensitivity is caused by the inheritance of a defective gene in the skin called filaggrin in roughly half of the individuals with severe atopic dermatitis.


Recently coined from the Covid-19 pandemic, maskne is caused by the frequent wearing of face masks for long durations. Sweat, skin oils, moisture and germs can become trapped on the skin when wearing a mask, causing acne to develop. Face masks can also irritate the skin by physically rubbing against it, damaging the skin’s protective barrier.

Acne Mechanica is a form of acne that occurs when the skin is irritated by pressure, friction, rubbing, squeezing, or stretching. It differs from other types of acne in that it only appears in places where the mask is pressed against the skin. Those with sensitive skin are usually more prone to maskne.

Contact dermatitis

When your skin comes into close contact with an allergen, contact dermatitis develops. If you have a nickel allergy and wear jewellery that contains even a trace amount of nickel, your skin may become red, bumpy, scaly, itchy, or swollen at the place of contact.. 


Angioedema is a condition in which the skin’s deep layers expand. It is frequently observed in conjunction with hives. Angioedema commonly affects soft tissues including the eyelids, lips, and genitals.

When angioedema occurs for a brief period of time, such as minutes to hours, it is referred to as “acute.”

An allergic reaction to medicines or foods is the most prevalent cause of acute angioedema. Chronic recurrent angioedema happens when the disease occurs repeatedly throughout time. It is common for there to be no apparent reason.


Rosacea is a prevalent skin disease that affects adults’ faces. Redness of the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin are all signs of rosacea. Small blood vessels, skin lumps, and pimples may appear on the surface of the red skin, although this is unrelated to acne outbreaks.

This skin allergy usually affects the face, but it can also show up on the neck, chest, ears, scalp, and even the eyes. The origin is unclear, and there is no cure. However, medications can help to alleviate symptoms.

What does skin allergy look like?

If you think you have a skin allergy, these are some signs you can keep a lookout for:

  • Skin appears red, rough, scaly, itching, or swollen. 
  • Hives that show up as red, itchy, raised patches of skin that can develop anywhere on the body and range in size. 
  • Wheals that appear as clusters of red or skin-coloured welts that can occur anywhere on the body are usually signs of hives.
  • Eczema is a scaly, itchy rash that most commonly affects the face, elbows, and knees. 
  • Signs of contact dermatitis include a red rash, dry, cracked, scaly skin and sometimes there will be bumps and blisters.

Causes of skin allergy

Following are a few common causes of skin allergy:

Bug bites

Bug bites frequently cause a person’s skin to swell, resulting in itching. Mosquito and spider bites generally leave a tiny bite mark on the skin that is surrounded by red patchiness. Within 7–14 days, the bite marks should disappear.

Bed bugs and mite bites can create a more severe rash and itch all over the body. If a person detects a bed bug infestation, they should remove all furniture and thoroughly clean the room with an insecticide.

Dry skin

One of the most prevalent reasons for itchy skin is dry skin. Dry skin is a potential reason if a person does not notice any bright red pimples or a rapid change in their skin.

Excessively hot or cold temperatures with little humidity are examples of environmental variables that might cause dry skin. Excessive washing might also result in dry skin. It may affect people of any age group, but as people become older, their skin thins and gets drier.


An allergy might cause a rash on your body after wearing a shirt, or on your feet after wearing specific shoes or socks.

You may also experience a response after trying on new clothing. The dyes or other chemicals used to treat the fabric or even the fibres of the clothes themselves might be the trigger.


The eight most frequent allergenic foods account for around 90% of all food allergies, and they are referred to as the “big eight allergens.” These are the foods:

  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Nuts (hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts, etc)
  • Seafood 
  • Wheat 
  • Soybeans 

Face masks

Face masks that are excessively tight or composed of scratchy or unpleasant fabric can irritate the skin and cause discomfort. Some masks might dry up your skin by absorbing the natural moisture on your face.

When you breathe out through a face mask, your own airflow is redirected back onto your face. Your breath is trapped within your mask as a result of this. It might make your skin dry, red, and irritated.

Face mask usage for an extended period of time can lead to maskne and rosacea. Hence, it’s better to wear cloth face masks rather than disposable ones as they’re made from cotton.

Cotton-based face masks perform better than disposable masks because they are softer and create less friction and irritation to the skin. The breathability helps to keep moisture out of the mask, lowering the danger of maskne.


Perfume, cologne, and deodorant all have them at their core. Face and body washes include them. They’re also found in cleaning solutions and can be used to conceal odours.

Because particular chemicals aren’t usually included on labels, it’s difficult to establish a scent sensitivity. Even “unscented” and “hypoallergenic” goods may include a trace of fragrance.

Can the sun worsen my skin allergy?

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

If your skin is already inflamed or sensitive, UV radiation and the possibility of sunburn might aggravate your condition. Cover up and spend as little time as possible in the sunlight to keep your condition under control.

Furthermore, the sun can trigger certain forms of skin rashes. When your skin reacts to an irritant or allergy after being exposed to the sun, photoallergic contact dermatitis develops. This response can be triggered by cosmetics, sunscreen, shaving lotion, and scent.

Treatments for skin allergy

Moisturizers and topical ointments that decrease inflammation are the most effective treatments for eczema.

If a skin bacterial infection is suspected as the cause of your eczema flare-up, antibiotics may be recommended. Crusting, oozing, and discomfort are all symptoms.

Oral steroids should be avoided since, despite their effectiveness, when the medication is stopped, eczema generally returns. If administered over an extended length of time, oral steroids might have significant adverse effects.

If you can pinpoint the source of your hives, you can treat them by avoiding the trigger. Oral antihistamines, which reduce the itching and recurrence of the rash, are typically effective in treating hives or angioedema. But this is temporary as antihistamines only provide temporary relief.

When a regular dose of the antihistamine does not manage the rash, your doctor may recommend raising the amount to get better control of your symptoms. 

List of ointments

Following are the most common category of ointments prescribed by dermatologists (depending on the condition): 

Topical steroids

Anti-itch creams with topical steroids are the most commonly used option. They come in a range of strengths and formulations and may be obtained over the counter.

Topical antihistamines 

Antihistamines are a kind of allergy medicine that is widely used. Antihistamines are used orally to alleviate allergy symptoms in the majority of instances.

Topical anaesthetic 

Topical anaesthetics are commonly used to numb painful regions. They operate by blocking sodium channels in the skin’s nerve fibres, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.


There are a variety of remedies that can help provide relief if your skin is allergic to a plant, animal, food, or other environmental factors. Consult your doctor before using any medicine, natural or otherwise, as you would with any other therapy.


Yii Change Bong

Medical Officer, Proxmask

Dr Yii Change Bong is an occupational health doctor with demonstrated experience working with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

Having worked as a Medical Officer in Hospital Umum Sarawak and Sarawak General Hospital, Kuching for more than 5 years, he holds a strong presence in the fields of occupational health services, medical surveillance, and also in providing medical education.

In 2020 Dr Bong was the COVID-19 taskforce PPE liaison as the person in charge of personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers in the hospital during the early stages of the pandemic.


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