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Does your skin itch, ooze and turn red when you come into contact with certain surfaces or solutions? Are your legs scaly or your arms blistered? If they are, you may be suffering from one of the many forms of dermatitis - a skin condition which can cause dry, itchy rashes to appear anywhere on the body. We caught up with cosmetic dermatologist Dr Samantha Bunting to find out more…

GTG: What is dermatitis?

SB: Dermatitis literally means skin inflammation - we use it interchangeably with the term eczema to signify skin which is red, dry and itchy. If very acute it may even blister and weep.

GTG: What are the different types of dermatitis and what causes them?

SB: There are multiple types of dermatitis, with atopic dermatitis the most common. This is the kind we usually see in infants which causes red, itchy and ill-defined patches in the elbow creases and behind the knees. This often gets better as the child gets older but it may reappear again later in adult life. It’s associated with the other atopic conditions of hay fever and asthma.

Then we have irritant dermatitis, the kind that arises when you come into contact with certain substances too often, such as soap. Anybody who has ever washed their hands too much may have experienced this.

We also recognise seborrhoeic eczema, which causes red patches in response to a yeast that lives on the skin. With this type of dermatitis, red, scaly patches usually appear on hair-bearing sites like the eyebrows and scalp, the creases of the nose and sometimes on the body.

Allergy triggers contact dermatitis - this pattern relates to contact with the offending allergen and can occur to a whole array of triggers, including common culprits like nickel, PPD in black hair dye and fragrance.

GTG: How is dermatitis treated?

SB: Treatment of dermatitis requires a correct diagnosis in the first instance - perhaps the most important thing when dealing with dermatological conditions. Avoidance of things like foaming, fragranced skin products, excessive bathing in hot water and the appropriate use of moisturiser are key to managing dermatitis.

You should also try to wear loose, soft clothing and avoid irritating farbics like wool. If the skin has been scratched a lot, secondary infection may be present which will need to be treated. After seeing your doctor or a specialist, treatment appropriate for your condition should be started as soon as possible.

GTG: Are there any products you would recommend?

SB: As dermatitis is such a vast topic and types vary so much, it is always best to seek advice on the type of dermatitis you are suffering from before getting treatment. However, in terms of basic principles I would always recommend using a soap-free cleanser and moisturiser on the skin. I like Cetaphil RestoraDerm Body Wash, £15.99, and Cetaphil RestoraDerm Body Moisturizer, £19.99. I also like Aveeno Bath and Shower Oil, £8.19 and Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion, £7.65.

If the face is affected, then a fragrance-free range like the Avène Tolerance Extreme line is definitely worth a try.

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