33 Home Remedies for Dermatitis


Dermatitis, sometimes also called eczema, can create a vicious cycle. Your skin itches, so you scratch it. It becomes red and swollen, and then tiny, red, oozing bumps appear that eventually crust over. You keep scratching because the itching is unbearable, so the rash gets even more irritated and perhaps even infected.

All too often, you don't even know what's causing the itching. It could be an allergy to the soap you use in the shower each morning. It could be irritation from a chemical you're exposed to at work. It could even be atopic dermatitis, which is a mysterious, chronic skin condition that usually begins in childhood and most often strikes people with a personal or family history of allergic conditions.

Dermatitis is sometimes used as a catch-all term for any inflammation or swelling of the skin. The term eczema is used interchangeably with dermatitis by some experts, while others use "eczema" only to refer to the specific condition known medically as atopic dermatitis. Regardless of the kind of dermatitis you're suffering from, some general rules apply when you're seeking relief.

In this article, we will review the various types of dermatitis and how to tell them apart, then we'll give you specific home remedies to protect your skin from the most common types of dermatitis.

For more information about dermatitis and how to combat it, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Dermatitis

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Calamine lotion can help relieve itching, but apply it mildly.

Determining what's causing your dermatitis is important in treating it, but if you can't think of anything but the itching at the moment, here are some home remedies you can follow for fast relief:

Cool the itch and swelling. Cool compresses will help. Use a folded handkerchief or a piece of bed linen folded several layers thick. Dip the clean cloth into cool water or Burow's solution (available over-the-counter at your pharmacy), and place it on the rash for 10 to 15 minutes every hour. Wet compresses are also appropriate when weeping, oozing blisters are present; ironically, you'll actually dry up the rash by repeatedly wetting it (just as frequent wetting dries out healthy skin if moisturizer isn't applied).

Whole-milk compresses are effective, too, since the protein in dairy products helps relieve itching.

Apply calamine lotion. This old standby can help relieve the itch. Apply it thinly, so the pores aren't sealed, two to three times a day. The downside to calamine lotion is that it leaves your skin the color of bubble gum. At least one manufacturer, however, has come out with a version of this itch buster that will leave you less "in the pink." Check your local pharmacy.

Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. This all-purpose salve is a mainstay in any dermatologist's practice and is also available over the counter (OTC) in 0.5 and 1 percent strengths. It can ease the itch and inflammation of dermatitis (although it won't help, and it can even suppress, the body's ability to fight a bacterial or fungal infection, which may develop if excessive scratching has torn the skin). Topical hydrocortisone may be a better treatment choice for allergic dermatitis than for irritant dermatitis, however. (The distinction between these two types of dermatitis is explained shortly.)

Stay away from products that end in "caine." If a skin product's generic name ends with the letters "caine" (such as benzocaine), the medicine is derived from an anesthetic, and anesthetics often cause or aggravate allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Treating a bad sunburn with one of these products, for example, could produce an itchy allergic rash to go along with the painful burn.

Don't try topical antihistamines. These products can cause allergic reactions, in the form of severe rashes, when rubbed on the skin.

Take an oral antihistamine instead. Try an OTC antihistamine that you take by mouth, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, to help relieve itching. Such products generally cause drowsiness, but that side effect may actually be helpful at night when itching is most severe. If you take an antihistamine during the day and it makes you drowsy, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.

Don't scratch. Doing so could break the skin and cause a secondary infection. If you simply can't resist the urge, rub the itch with your fingertips instead of scratching with your nails. If a child is affected, trim his or her fingernails short and, if necessary, have the child wear mittens, at least at night, to prevent harmful scratching.

Take a soothing bath. Adding oatmeal or baking soda to bathwater will make it more soothing, although it won't cure your rash. Buy an OTC colloidal oatmeal bath treatment (the oatmeal is ground up so it dissolves better) or add a cup of baking soda to warm, not hot, bathwater.

There are three basic types of dermatitis. Next, we'll look at the specific problem of allergic contact dermatitis and some home remedies to treat it.

For more information about dermatitis and how to combat it, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Allergic Contact Dermatitis

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Paint the surfaces of nickel jewelry  that come in contact with your skin with clear nail polish.

Some people sneeze when confronted with ragweed pollen or dander from cats. And some people break out in a rash, known as allergic contact dermatitis, when their skin comes in direct contact with substances that are normally harmless to most people, such as certain ingredients in costume jewelry or makeup.

In allergic contact dermatitis, the body's immune system reacts to direct contact with an allergen (a substance the body incorrectly identifies as harmful) by producing an itchy rash on the skin where that contact occurred. So, for example, a person with an allergy to the nickel in a bracelet will develop a bracelet-shaped rash on the skin where that piece of jewelry was worn.

The most common allergen in allergic contact dermatitis is poison ivy, which can cause reactions in at least half of the people exposed to it. The next most common contact allergen is nickel, a metal commonly used in costume jewelry. Up to 10 percent of the population may suffer an allergic reaction to this metal.

Other possible causes of allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • Neomycin or benzocaine in topical anesthetics
  • Leather
  • Formaldehyde, which is used in shampoo, detergent, nail hardeners, waterless hand cleaners, and mouthwashes
  • Cinnamon flavoring in toothpaste and candies
  • PABA, the active ingredient in some sunscreens
  • Chemicals found in hair dyes
  • Preservatives in cosmetics

Identifying a rash as allergic contact dermatitis is not always easy, however. An airborne allergen, like ragweed or animal dander, usually elicits sneezing or a runny nose within 15 minutes of exposure. But it may take up to 72 hours after contact with the sensitizing substance before a reaction shows up on your skin. That can make identifying the culprit and choosing a home remedy pretty tough.Complicating the diagnosis further is the fact that you have to become sensitized to a substance before it can cause a rash. That means you have to come in contact with it at least once before the next contact will provoke an allergic response. And indeed, sometimes it requires repeated contacts with a substance before the body becomes sensitized to it. So, for example, you may wear that nickel-containing bracelet once or even dozens of times without any problems, but then one day, out of the blue, it causes an allergic rash.Isolating the cause of a rash and selecting a home remedy can be challenging, since it may be triggered by tiny amounts of the offending chemicals. What's more, it may take only a tiny amount of the offending substance to cause an allergic rash, and thanks to our concerns with hygiene and appearance, we expose ourselves to a variety of potentially offending substances every day. For instance, the average woman uses more than a dozen different products on her scalp and head each morning.Don't sweat it. If you are sensitive to nickel, wearing nickel-containing jewelry in a hot, humid environment may worsen the allergy, as perspiration leaches out some of the nickel. So before you start a workout or go out into the heat, take off any nickel-containing jewelry.

Use caution with ear-piercing. If you decide to get your ears pierced but you have an allergy to nickel, make sure those first earring studs have stainless steel posts. Also make sure the needle is stainless steel. Otherwise, the studs or needle may contain nickel, and you'll be risking an itchy, inflamed rash on those recently pierced earlobes.

Coat nickel jewelry. Paint the surfaces that come in contact with your skin with clear nail polish.

Choose only the best. Even 14 karat gold jewelry has some nickel in it, so if your skin reacts strongly to nickel, you may need to restrict your gold purchases to 24 karat (which is pure gold). Other safe options include platinum and stainless steel.

Become a label reader. If your skin breaks out in a rash when it meets PABA or another chemical common in consumer products, do your skin a favor by reading ingredients lists carefully and choosing only those without the offender. Some products are even conveniently labeled as "free" of certain substances known to cause allergic reactions (you will likely find sunscreens, for example, advertised and labeled as "PABA-free").

Don't depend on the "hypoallergenic" label. It's an ambiguous term with no legal meaning. The Food and Drug Administration has not established a standard to define "hypoallergenic." If you can't tell whether a product contains a substance you're allergic to, try querying the manufacturer or performing your own patch test by applying a little of the product on the skin of your inner forearm and waiting three or four days to see if a rash develops.

Protect your skin. Guard against exposure to poisonous plants by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when you're in areas where these plants are likely to be.

In the next section, we will look at the problem of irritant contact dermatitis and optimal home remedies for this condition.

For more information about dermatitis and how to combat it, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Irritant Contact Dermatitis

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Soap can cause both irritant and allergic reactions.

Some things in this world are so harsh that frequent or prolonged exposure to them can result in a rash known as irritant contact dermatitis. Numerous industrial chemicals cause problems for workers, but the typical household is not without its share of hazards to your skin. Soaps, detergents, oven cleaners, bathroom cleaners, and many other products can irritate the skin and remove its protective oils.

What's the difference between irritant and allergic contact dermatitis? Soap, for example, can cause either one. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs only in people who have an oversensitive immune system that reacts to the soap's ingredients as if they were somehow harmful. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin contacts a substance that is harmful and that actually causes damage to the skin, especially when that contact is prolonged or frequent; the immune system is not involved.

On the other hand, both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis produce itching, rashes, and inflammation only in the areas of skin that have actually come in contact with the offending substance, so the rash location often points to the cause. Therefore, making a list like the one described for allergic contact dermatitis can be useful in identifying the culprit in irritant contact dermatitis (although the irritating product is often more obvious in this type of contact dermatitis).

If you suspect that an irritant has caused your red, itchy, bumpy rash, there's one very important home remedy you should follow:

Avoid exposure to the irritant. Until you manage to do that, the rash will continue. If exposure to household products is the problem and it's your hands that are suffering, wear gloves made of vinyl, which doesn't cause allergic reactions, rather than rubber or latex, when using those products. Wearing cotton liners with the gloves will help keep perspiration from further irritating your skin, although this can be a bulky combination. In addition, take a look at the remedies discussed under Atopic Dermatitis, since they may also help you avoid the substances irritating your skin.

As mentioned above, atopic dermatitis will be discussed in the next section. We'll give you some home remedies on how to take on this chronic inflammation of the skin.

For more information about dermatitis and how to combat it, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Washing new clothes before you wear them helps remove formaldehyde  and other potentially irritating chemicals used to treat fabrics.

Atopic dermatitis takes its name from "atopy," an inherited condition in which a person is predisposed to developing multiple allergic disorders, including asthma, hay fever, and food allergies. If you or a family member has an allergic disorder, you are at increased risk of developing atopic dermatitis.

Although atopic dermatitis is associated with allergic disorders, it is not itself an allergic reaction to a specific substance, as allergic contact dermatitis is. Rather, atopic dermatitis is a chronic and intensely itchy inflammation of the outer layer of skin. Its cause is unknown, although it appears to be related to an overly sensitive or malfunctioning immune system, and it can be aggravated by a variety of factors, such as temperature changes, skin infections, irritation from clothes or chemicals, and emotional stress.

Atopic dermatitis most frequently develops in children younger than five years old, and the majority of cases resolve by adulthood. However, the condition can first appear in adulthood or continue into adulthood after developing in childhood.

The main symptom of atopic dermatitis is an intensely itchy skin rash, although the itchiness may actually precede the appearance of the rash. In infants, the rash may first appear in patches on the cheeks and chin, although it may also occur on the scalp, diaper area, and extremities and eventually cover large areas of the body. In older children and adults, the rash tends to appear in fewer and more limited areas, such as around the mouth and in skin folds, especially at the crook of the elbow and the back of the knee.

The rash may appear dry and flaky at first, but the incredible itching often prompts scratching that further inflames the skin, increases itching, and can lead to blistering and crusting or cracking and secondary infection; some areas of skin may eventually become thick and leathery as a result. The skin of someone who has had atopic dermatitis tends to lose moisture and dry out easily and is more vulnerable to irritant contact dermatitis.

Beyond easing the itching, coping with this condition requires protecting the skin from additional irritation. The following home remedies may help:

Wash new clothes before wearing. This helps remove formaldehyde and other potentially irritating chemicals used to treat fabrics.

Rinse twice. Even if you use a mild laundry detergent, it's a good idea to rinse your clothes twice to make sure all of the soap is removed.

Wear loose, natural-fabric clothing. You want your skin to be able to "breathe," so choose loose-fitting, open-weave, cotton or cotton-blend clothes.

Keep temperatures constant. Abrupt temperature changes (hot to cold or vice versa) can irritate the skin, so try to avoid them whenever possible. Try to maintain constant humidity levels in your home, too.

Keep your fingernails trimmed. It's hard to scratch effectively, and therefore hard to cause further damage to your sensitive skin, if your fingernails are short.

Hydrate your skin with a bath or shower. Use warm, not hot, water, and soak or shower for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Avoid using a washcloth because it's abrasive.

Use soap only where necessary. Choose a gentle soap, such as Dove, Oiltum, Alpha Keri, Neutrogena, Purpose, or Basis; a nonsoap cleanser, such as Aveeno or Emulave; or a liquid cleaner, such as Moisturel, Neutrogena, or Dove. Rinse thoroughly, gently pat away excess moisture, and then apply moisturizer to your damp skin to seal in the water. Plain petroleum jelly is the best after-bath sealant.

Use moisturizer throughout the day. It's extremely important for people with atopic dermatitis to keep their skin from becoming too dry. Some good moisturizers include Aquaphor ointment, Eucerin cream, Moisturel cream or lotion, D.M.L. cream or lotion, Lubriderm cream or lotion, Neutrogena emulsion, Eutra, Vaseline dermatology lotion, or LactiCare lotion.

Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. A sunburn is only going to irritate the skin further.

Wash after swimming. The chlorine and other chemicals in most swimming pools can irritate sensitive skin. So shortly after you've finished your swim, take a shower or bath and use a mild soap all over. Don't forget to reapply your moisturizer, as well.

Check out your diet. Some physicians believe food allergies may play a role in atopic dermatitis, especially in childhood, while others say it hasn't been proven. If you suspect a particular food aggravates your rash, omit it from your diet for a few weeks. If the rash clears up but then returns when you reintroduce the food in your diet, consider permanently avoiding the food. Do not eliminate a large number of foods or an entire food group, however, without consulting your doctor first. If your child has atopic dermatitis and you suspect a food-allergy link, work with the child's pediatrician to investigate this possibility.

Sometimes adding certain foods to your diet can help ease dermatitis. In the next section, we will discuss how home remedies like nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, and other alternative treatments can help relieve itching and other symptoms.

For more information about dermatitis and how to combat it, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Natural Home Remedy Treatments for Dermatitis

Visiting your doctor is an important step to treating whatever type of dermatitis you are experiencing. But dermatitis sufferers looking for more answers beyond traditional medicine can consider the following alternative home remedies.

Add some nutritional therapy. Dermatitis sufferers may benefit from adding essential fatty acids, which promote healthy skin. In one study, a group of Italian researchers treated two- and four-year-olds suffering from atopic dermatitis with daily doses of primrose oil (rich in essential fatty acids). After four weeks, the children's symptoms dramatically improved. After 20 weeks, they experienced the same results with no adverse side effects. And, supplementation with vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc can also be useful in some cases of atopic dermatitis.

Try hebal medicines. Herbal medicine practitioners think some parts of the body -- such as the liver and the nervous system -- may need strengthening  and tuning to head off a case of dermatitis. Several herbs can assist in cleansing the body and getting rid of toxins.

Burdock, for example, is a liver tonic; when the liver is working well to filter toxins from the blood, the skin is generally healthier. Similarly, red clover is a very effective blood purifier. Other herbs like licorice root, calendula (marigold) flower heads, and especially ginkgo all have potent anti-inflammatory effects when used topically.

Practice meditation. Regular meditation is useful for stress reduction and deep breathing, which both are important to a well-rounded dermatitis treatment program.

Consider traditional Chinese medicine. The menu of treatments can include herbal medicine, acupuncture, or dietary recommendations. A traditional Chinese physician tailors the therapy to the needs of each dermatitis sufferer. For example, two people with the same condition won't necessarily take the same herbs or follow the same exercise routine.

A dermatitis treatment might call for a daily herbal tea, made by boiling and then simmering dried herbs for an hour and a half. Because traditional Chinese medicine's remedies are individualized, it is necessary to contact a qualified practitioner or obtain an accurate diagnosis and a specific prescription for your condition.

No matter what type of dermatitis is making your skin itch, there are many home remedies for you to soothe your skin. The key is trying not to scratch and finding the right medication or at-home remedy to ease your symptoms. Hopefully these home remedies have given you some helpful suggestions on overcoming this skin condition before the itching becomes unbearable.

For more information about dermatitis and how to combat it, try the following links:

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.