Skin allergy is an abnormal reaction of the skin to a substance. Skin allergies are caused by contact with an allergen. Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to them. The symptoms of a skin allergy vary depending on the type of allergy and the person’s sensitivity to it. Common symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, hives (urticaria), blisters (vesicles), and dryness (xerosis).

Common Causes of Skin Allergies

What can trigger a skin allergy can be different from one person to another. There are numerous things that can cause skin allergies:

  • Nickel

    Nickel is a metal that is commonly found in jewelry, belt buckles, zippers, and bra hooks.

  • Poison ivy, oak, or sumac

    Urushiol, a type of plant oil, is found in these plants and is the culprit behind the allergic reaction.

  • Clothing

    The dyes, chemicals, or certain materials of clothing can trigger an allergic reaction.

  • Fragrances

    When they come in contact with the skin, fragrances found in perfumes, lotions, and other products can also cause skin allergies.

  • Ingredients in household products

    Your skin can react to common chemicals and preservatives around your home contained in cleaning products and detergents.

  • Antibiotic creams

    Bacitracin and neomycin, found in many over-the-counter antibiotic creams can trigger allergic reactions.

  • Preservatives

    Formaldehyde releasers and parabens are chemicals used to make some products last longer. They’re found in hygiene or bath products, sunblocks, lotions and moisturizers, makeup, hair dye, and fake tattoos.

  • Latex

    This natural rubber is a component of balloons, condoms, and medical gloves.

Is Your Skin Allergy Affecting Your Quality of Life?

Consult our MOH-accredited dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.

Symptoms Of A Skin Allergy

The different types of skin allergy cause different symptoms:

  • Eczema results in a red, dry, itchy rash that is notably prominent on the face, hands, elbows, and knees. Eczema can occasionally weep clear liquid as well.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis rash is frequently painful. Both raised bumps and blisters may be seen on the rash. Your skin may react immediately or up to 48 hours after being exposed to the allergen.
  • Hives (urticaria) are raised, flat, itchy lumps that may also be painful.
  • Angioedema is usually the appearance of hives accompanied with swelling of the eyelids, lips, tongue, and throat. It can cause difficulty breathing when there is throat swelling.

Diagnosing Skin Allergies

To identify if your rash is a result of a skin allergy or not and what type of skin allergy it is, your doctor may perform the following diagnostic tools:

  • Medical History Taking

    Your doctor will ask questions about your skin, possible triggers, the symptoms you are experiencing, the timing of the symptoms, and any other allergic conditions that you may have.

  • Physical Examination

    Apart from the medical interview, the doctor will closely examine your skin and other parts of your body like your eyes, nose, throat, and chest to look for signs of an allergy.

  • Blood Testing

    Blood tests may also be requested to rule out an ongoing infection that is causing your skin reaction. A blood count can also show the levels of eosinophils in your blood which are usually increased during active allergy.

  • Allergy Testing

    There are different types of tests to check what specific allergen is causing your allergy: skin prick test, intradermal skin test, specific IgE blood testing, challenge test, and patch test.

Dr Noor Hanif Said

Medical Director & Consultant Dermatologist

Over 20 years of experience
in medical, Surgical & aesthetic Dermatology

  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS, Singapore)
  • Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP, United Kingdom)
  • Fellow Of The Academy of Medicine, Singapore (FAMS, Dermatology)

Prior to starting his private practice at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, Dr Hanif was a dermatologist at the National Skin Centre and a Visiting Consultant with the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Dermatology Service.

Apart from his expertise in the management of general dermatological problems such as eczema, psoriasis, hair loss and acne, he has special interests in pigmentary disorders and aesthetic dermatology.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What can I do to relieve the itch?
    • Avoid scratching and rubbing your skin.
    • Take over-the-counter antihistamines.
    • Wear loose clothing.
    • Put cool compresses or wet cloths on the affected areas.
    • Apply calamine lotion to the rashes.
    • Moisturize frequently
    • Soak in an oatmeal bath.
    Should I avoid sun exposure until the rashes disappear?

    Exposing your already irritated skin to the sun and possible sunburn could cause more discomfort. Apply sunblock, cover up, and minimize your time under the sun if you really can’t avoid going out.

    Additionally, irritants and allergens found in cosmetics, shaving lotion, and perfume can trigger an allergic skin rash when exposed to the sun. This is called photoallergic contact dermatitis.