Woman siting on a couch itching her arm wondering what type of dermatitis she has.


Types of dermatitis and how to treat them

  • Cool, dry weather and seasonal allergies can trigger skin irritation.
  • Eczema affects 10-20% of infants and 3% of adults.
  • Some forms of dermatitis don’t have a cure, but there are treatment options to ease your symptoms.

Fall typically marks a seasonal sweet spot for sweater weather, peak leaf gazing and pumpkin-spiced everything. For those with dermatitis, it’s also a time for skin flare-ups because of cool, dry air and pollen.

It’s important to feel comfortable in your own skin, but living with dermatitis can affect your self-esteem. Fortunately, there are manageable ways to treat common symptoms affecting your skin and quality of life.

This article covers what dermatitis is and how to treat it, giving you the confidence to be the best version of yourself.

Are you experiencing dermatitis symptoms? Schedule a virtual visit with your health care provider today.

What is dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes your skin to itch, dry, flake and crack. Common forms of dermatitis include contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis.

What is contact dermatitis?

Have you ever experienced skin irritation after using a new soap, cosmetic or cleaning product? If so, you know what it’s like to have contact dermatitis, which comes in two forms — allergic and irritant.

Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by allergic reactions when certain substances contact your skin. Common allergens include pollen, fragrances, food, poison oak or poison ivy, latex and personal care products. The most common cause of contact allergy is from over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment or Neosporin ® (bacitracin) when it’s used for too long.

Allergic contact dermatitis symptoms:

  • dry, itchy, flaky or cracked skin
  • a rash
  • hives
  • facial swelling
  • in severe cases, blistering.

Irritant contact dermatitis isn't a true allergy. The reaction is triggered by a harsh substance damaging your skin.

Common irritants include cleaning products, soaps and detergents, paints and varnishes, nail polish remover, acids and hand sanitizer.

Irritant dermatitis symptoms:

  • redness
  • blistering
  • peeling
  • swelling
  • burning or stinging sensation.

How to treat contact dermatitis:

  • Identify and avoid irritants or allergens triggering your skin reactions. Wear protective gloves when using chemicals.
  • Remove any irritants or allergens from your skin as soon as possible using warm water and soap.
  • Avoid scratching affected areas. Scratching can lead to open wounds and cause a skin infection, such as cellulitis.
  • Try over-the-counter Cortef ® (hydrocortisone) cream or ointment.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition mainly affecting the scalp, but it can also appear on other areas of the body.

Experts haven’t identified the direct cause of seborrheic dermatitis and there is no cure. Stress, cold weather, oily skin, hormonal changes and a type of fungus called Malassezia are common roots of the condition.

Seborrheic dermatitis symptoms:

  • dry scalp
  • red skin
  • dandruff or skin flaking
  • scaly patches
  • crusted sores
  • itching or burning sensation.

How to treat seborrheic dermatitis:

There is no cure for Seborrheic dermatitis, but there are treatment options offering symptom relief. Ease your symptoms by adopting a new routine and sticking to it.

  • Avoid scratching affected areas to prevent hair loss and skin infections.
  • Wash your scalp regularly. Your health care provider may prescribe a topical solution or antifungal shampoo to treat affected areas.
  • Consider over-the-counter dandruff shampoos containing selenium sulfide, such as Head and Shoulders ® and Selsun Blue ®.

What is atopic dermatitis (eczema)?

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that often begins in childhood, and may also emerge during adulthood with moisture loss in the skin. Medical professionals don’t know what specifically causes eczema and there is no cure.

However, research suggests people with a family history of eczema, asthma or allergies are more likely to experience symptoms.

Atopic dermatitis symptoms:

  • dry skin
  • severe, long-lasting itching
  • cracked, scaly skin
  • lack of sleep due to discomfort
  • swollen skin from scratching.

How to treat atopic dermatitis:

  • One of the most effective treatments is prevention. Avoid your flare-up causing triggers as much as possible.
  • Stick to a routine sleep schedule.
  • Stay hydrated and use skin moisturizer like Vaseline® (petroleum jelly) or a lotion multiple times a day.
  • Prevent infections by not scratching irritated skin.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Bathe in warm, not hot water.

Other types of dermatitis

There are two types of dermatitis common in newborns and toddlers—cradle cap and diaper rash.

Cradle cap, also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, is a skin condition common among babies. Symptoms typically appear when they are three weeks to three months of age. The direct cause isn’t known.

Cradle cap symptoms:

  • mild redness
  • dry, scaly scalp
  • oily skin.

How to treat cradle cap

The condition typically resolves on its own without treatment by the time your baby is six to 12 months old.

  • Regularly wash your baby’s hair with mild baby shampoo to remove extra oils.
  • Gently apply baby oil or petroleum jelly to affected areas.
  • In severe cases, your health care provider may recommend a prescription shampoo.

Diaper rash causes skin inflammation in the diaper area. Diaper rash is typically caused by irritation from moisture trapped in the diaper. 

Does your child have eczema? Learn how to treat their symptoms with at-home remedies and medication.

Diaper rash symptoms:

  • discomfort or crying
  • irritated skin
  • red, oily patches.

How to treat diaper rash

  • Prevent rashes by changing their diaper often. Let their skin dry before diaper changes.
  • Avoid using alcohol-based wipes.
  • Apply zinc oxide-based diaper creams applied at every diaper change.


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