Symptoms vary depending on the cause and whether the dermatitis is due to an allergic reaction or an irritant. The same person may also have different symptoms over time.
Allergic reactions may occur suddenly, or only after months of being exposed to a substance.
The hands are a common site for contact dermatitis. Hair products, cosmetics, and perfumes often lead to skin reactions on the face, head, and neck. Jewelry can also cause skin problems in the area under it.
Itching of the skin in exposed areas is a common symptom. In the case of an allergic dermatitis, itching can be severe. Dermatitis caused by an irritant may also cause burning or pain.
Allergic dermatitis often causes a red, streaky, or patchy rash where the substance touched the skin. The allergic reaction is often delayed, with the rash appearing 24 - 48 hours after exposure. The rash may:
- Have red bumps that may form moist, weeping blisters
- Feel warm and tender
- Ooze, drain, or crust
- Become scaly, raw, or thickened
Irritant dermatitis often shows as dry, red, and rough skin. Cuts (fissures) may form on the hands. Skin may become inflamed with long-term exposure.