Approximately 40% of people around the world consider themselves to have sensitive skin. But if you’ve never had any real skin issues before, experiencing rashy, itchy, scaly, or otherwise, irritated skin can be somewhat alarming. Still, in many cases, these instances can be chalked up to dermatitis — a somewhat catch-all term for a number of problems that may be treatable to various degrees. Whether you’ve noticed your hands feel dry and irritated or your body is itchy all over, a lack of moisture might not be completely to blame. Let’s learn more about the different types of dermatitis and what you should watch out for to ease your discomfort.

What is Dermatitis?

Simply put, dermatitis refers to skin inflammation. It’s one of the most common diagnoses that any skin doctor makes, as these rashes and abnormalities have a number of possible causes and accompanying symptoms. While contact dermatitis is one of the most common (which basically means that you’ve come into physical contact with an irritant), atopic dermatitis — also known as eczema — is a reality for many people. There’s also seborrheic dermatitis, which mainly affects the scalp and other oily areas of the body. The symptoms of dermatitis of any kind can include itch, dryness, scaling, crusting, redness, and swelling, among other signs. Depending on your situation, symptoms may range from mild to severe.

What Causes or Exacerbates Dermatitis?

Different types of dermatitis can have different causes and different factors that make irritation worse. With eczema, for example, there may be a number of factors at play. Eczema can be caused or worsened by dryness, bacteria, and genetics, while flare-ups can be traced back to stress, environmental factors, and irritants. Although watering a lawn takes around 60 to 90 minutes, people with eczema should limit the time they spend immersed in water while bathing and should steer clear of hot water, as this can worsen the symptoms of their skin condition. People with eczema (or even other conditions like psoriasis) may also need to limit their exposure to products like hand sanitizer or certain lotions and soaps with fragrances or other irritating ingredients.

As far as contact dermatitis is concerned, these skin irritations can be caused by any number of things. In many cases, contact dermatitis can be the sign of a mild allergic reaction to something you’ve touched. However, most cases of contact dermatitis occur when an irritating substance damages the skin cells. Common irritants can include anything from plants to shampoos, bleach, or rubbing alcohol. Some people also have textile sensitivities, meaning that the clothing they wear might be making their dermatitis worse. For many people, synthetic fibers can cause irritation because they’re less breathable. However, if you have a sensitivity to wool, it’s possible that natural fibers might also be problematic. Although alpaca fibers are strong, measuring 50 N/ktex, you may want to stick to cotton for the time being. Even dyes and other chemical additives in clothing can make contact dermatitis worse, so you might need to conduct some research and make some strategic decisions about what’s in your wardrobe for the sake of your skin.

Eczema typically won’t completely go away on its own, although it may seem to dissipate in between flare-ups. Contact dermatitis may be resolved naturally when the irritant is removed. It’s important for people experiencing either type of skin irritation to avoid exposure in the future. If you find that your dermatitis or skin rash isn’t going away and seems to be worsening, you should see a dermatologist. They can prescribe a topical steroid or other medications that can provide you with relief. And if your dermatitis is caused by an allergy, you may be able to get definitive answers through patch testing that can help you avoid these irritants in the future.

In our current era of excessive hand-washing and sanitizing, it’s only natural that your skin might be reacting poorly when exposed to irritants or when natural oils are removed. But if you know the signs of dermatitis and what to avoid, you may be able to get a handle on your skin once and for all.