What Causes Rashes? Treatments, Diagnoses, and Relief!

What-Causes-RashesGross! Disgusting! Uncomfortable!

These are just three of the words you may use to describe your regularly occurring rashes. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from rashes on a regular basis, you’re probably familiar with the hundreds of over the counter treatments available for purchase which may help to sooth the itch, but often the real reason behind your rashes may be unclear.

Imagine how nice it would be to figure out the actual SOURCE of your rashes rather than treating them after the fact? How handy would that be?

Rashes are yucky to look at, eczema makes you feel less than confident about your appearance, and can make you feel like they are crawling out of their skin.

Most rashes are from one source: dermatitis. Dermatitis is a condition that occurs when your skin comes in contact with things that you are allergic to, or things that irritate your skin. Dermatitis causes your skin to become inflamed, which usually leads to a rash. Most rashes are itchy, they cause your skin to be dry, and they make your skin look red and irritated. While rashes are rarely contagious to people you come in contact with, it will certainly make people want to stay far, far away from you, or at least to not come in direct contact with your skin. What could be worse than being miserable and your friends and family steering clear of you?

The good news is, rashes typically go away over the course of a few weeks. For a rash sufferer though, these few weeks are absolutely miserable, and most would give anything to not suffer from rashes in the first place. Here we will go over some of the sources of itchy rashes, as well as how to get rid of rashes for good.

Common Skin Irritants
Some of the most common irritants that people who suffer from rashes should avoid come from items that include fragrance in them. Most commonly these are soaps, shampoos, makeup, and perfumes. They can also be hidden in your laundry detergents and the actual materials of your clothing. Irritants from these types of products are often fairly easy to avoid once you are aware of them. You can use detergents to wash your clothes that don’t have any of these chemicals or fragrances, and buy only clothes made of materials that are safe for your skin. Once you diagnose what you specifically are irritated by, you can avoid these things. There are soaps, shampoos and deodorants made pure, which do not include these irritants, making them safe for your skin since so many people are allergic to the same things.

Another source of irritants entirely stem from chemicals, metal, medicines, and plants. Again, once you are aware of what bothers you, you can usually stay away from it to avoid harsh rashes. The common rash causing plant, poison ivy, is one of the most apparent irritants- as most people are allergic to this plant and have a strong and almost immediate skin reaction when coming in contact with it. Some irritants are less obvious, which can cause you to really need to go on a search to see what the cause of your dermatitis is.

Types of Dermatitis
If you are interested in diagnosing your dermatitis to avoid future rashes, you need to be aware that there are two primary types of dermatitis. The first is called contact dermatitis, which happens when you actually touch an irritant with your skin. This could be a harsh chemical that alters your skins chemistry to cause a reaction.

The second kind of dermatitis is allergic dermatitis, which happens when you are in contact with something you are allergic to, causing an allergic reaction.

Are you aware that you have dermatitis, but can’t, for the life of you, figure out what may be causing it? Don’t worry, you are not alone! While it seems simple to diagnose, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes your reaction isn’t at the moment you come in contact with something, or it could be as subtle as your spouse switching the laundry detergent on you, without you knowing it!

If it isn’t easily diagnosable, you could get what is called a patch test, which is performed by your doctor. Your doctor will test you for a wide variety of allergens that are most commonly the cause of dermatitis. The doctor will put patches on your body that contain these different allergens, to see what your body reacts to. If you’ve worn the patches for two days and they are removed and there is an allergic reaction under one of the patches, your doctor will be able to simply tell you what allergen to avoid.

When to Seek Medical Treatment
If your rash is not enough to bother you in your everyday life, it may not be worth seeking medical attention. Especially if it is something you can diagnose and avoid on your own. If you know that wearing perfumes generally makes you break out in a rash, there is nothing to do but avoid them (sorry ladies!) But if your rashes are increasing in severity, or you can’t avoid whatever is causing them, it is time to talk to a professional.

Additionally, if your rashes are bad enough that they are interfering with your life, you also may have a more serious problem. Do you wake up regularly at night to itch or scratch your rashes? If your rash interrupts your sleep, it is significant enough to seek treatment. If the rashes are so bad that they are interfering with your appearance and you prefer to stay home than be seen, it is an issue you will want to talk over with your doctor.

If the rash comes with significant pain (other than just the annoyance of itchiness) you also should talk it over with your doctor. You may have an unknown medical condition that is actually causing your rash as a side effect.

Be careful if you have been suffering from a rash for more than 4 weeks. Often, people come down with a condition call neurodermatitis as a result of an ongoing rash. This is a terrible by product of rashes that makes your skin become thick because you are constantly itching your skin. There are more damaging problems from extended rashes, too. These can include permanent scarring as a result of all the scratching, as well as skin infections because bacteria can get into the little cuts on your skin from excessive scratching. Besides being uncomfortable, this can be dangerous or even deadly, so be sure to get to your doctor if the rash has been around for a few weeks and isn’t going away.

Treatments for Dermatitis
First, and most obviously, you need to try to figure out what it is that is bothering your skin, and stay far away from it! This can be drastic if you are allergic to something that is in your home. A good example we already mentioned is laundry detergent. If you are allergic to the dyes or fragrances in your detergent, every piece of clothing you put on, and even the sheets and blankets on your bed, will be contaminated. You will have to rid your home of these types of irritants and ban them from your household. While it may not impact other members of your household, it is worth the effort to allow even one member of your home end their suffering.

You can also try over the counter products which are designed to relieve the itchiness of a rash. There are oral products, as well as lotions that relieve the itch.

Although it seems obvious, you need to stop scratching the rash immediately. While it will seem like torture, it will help the rash go away more quickly on its own, especially combined with some of these other treatments. Scratching also causes the problems we previously discussed like infections, so it is imperative that you stop immediately.

You can also find relieve in taking a baking soda or oatmeal bath. You can purchase products in the skincare section of your local grocery store or pharmacy that will help with this. You can take baths in cool water, as cool as you can take. You can also use compresses to relieve the itching, preferably a washcloth or towel (cotton) with cold water on it.

If your rash area is small, covering the area with band aids can help. This keeps you from being able to scratch the problem skin, but will also allow the area to heal on its own.

Don’t wear any fabrics that will irritate your skin, instead, wear loose fitting, soft fabrics like cotton that are breathable and sit comfortably on your skin. Also, when washing your clothes, always use an unscented dye free laundry detergent.

When bathing, use mild soap, and don’t use products that have fragrances or dyes in them. Avoid cleaning your home while recovering from a rash. I know, more difficult said that done (although ladies, I give you full permission to tell your husbands you need to hire a cleaning lady ‘temporarily’ as a result of your treatment…) No, seriously, if you must clean, know that just about all cleaning products unfortunately include harsh chemicals like bleach. You should wear gloves and avoid skin contact with the cleansers. Most cleaning products are harsh on the skin whether you are allergic to them or not, so steer clear of cleaning products all together if at all possible.

Understanding How Irritants Impact You

It is important to understand the potential allergens in your home. If you are aware that you have a problem with irritants, stay away from these categories which amount for almost all reported rashes:

  1. Skin Care Products– stay focused on using all natural products with no dyes or fragrance. The most common products are lotions, makeup, shampoos, soaps, and perfumes. Also stay away from hair dye as it contains its own chemicals that many people take issue with. Often, temporary dye will not bother people who are irritated by the permanent dyes.
  2. Nickel– While often overlooked, nickel is a serious allergy that impacts many people, and it is in many items you may not be considering. These include belt buckles, buttons, zippers, and all kinds of jewelry.
  3. Rubber– if you become irritated when wearing rubber gloves for cleaning, rubber may be an irritant for you. You can instead wear cloth or synthetic gloves. Also be careful of undergarments and clothing that feature rubber, as well as contraceptive products that contain rubber.
  4. Plants– while the most common are poison ivy and its relatives, poison oak and sumac, there are dozens of plants that may react with your skin differently, so be careful to analyze any plants you come in contact regularly.
  5. Cleaning products– just about all cleaning products contain harsh chemicals, so be sure to wear gloves when cleaning and clean in a well-ventilated area.

In conclusion, irritants and rashes ARE avoidable if you properly educate yourself on these categories and treatment. If you are tired of your disgusting and debilitating rashes that make you feel like a homebody instead of a rock star, if you have made attempts to diagnose your rashes on your own and are coming up empty, or if your rashes are ongoing and interrupting your life, please seek medical treatment as soon as possible to relieve your suffering.

Have you tried any of these treatments? What were your results? How do you feel about it? Share your thoughts with us!



  1. I had to find out the hard way about the toxic chemicals that are in hair dye and hair/beauty products. I had a bad reaction to to 2 different type of hair dyes. I went to get patch tested at my drs and I’m allergic to 15 chemicals that are pretty much found in cosmetics and hair care. Crazy!!! The chemicals that are in these products are so bad for people ie propylene glycol. This paeticular chemical is found in shampoos, hair dye, creams etc. it’s in a lot of so called organic products too. I have mnever paid attention to ingredients in the cosmetic world, but now I do. Parabans and phenyxenol are another 2 that are pretty much in everything too.!!!

  2. I never had any types of rashes or unusual skin conditions until a year ago or so. After many doctor visits, I was diagnosed from everything from dermatitis to acne. I was given oral antibiotics, gels, prednisone, and strong hydrocortisone creams. All “helped” for a few weeks, then conditions got worse after all that stuff wore off, ( I think all the medications made me more “toxic”so to speak. I did some reading about vegan eating. Prior to all of this, I considered myself to live a very healthy lifestyle. I work out by training for triathlons, eat very well, lean meat, avoid wheat products, lots of veges, fruit. Etc. I decided ” what the heck”, and slowly rid my diet of any processed food , packaged food, cured meats and anything with presertivives or any foods from animals. I am now full vegan and avoid harsh cleaning products in house or on body. I stick to coconut oil on skin and other natural non commercial organic products. Since the change I have had no skin rashes at all, everything has gone away. I really enjoy having glowing soft skin again. I think there are a lot of things that can cause irritation in our bodies, over time it shows on the outside of the body by way of skin problems. No pill or cream will cure the underlying issue. That’s my two cents.

  3. Chemicals and plants can have very bad affects on your skin. I think people should realize the skin is like a sponge and anything that comes in contact with it, will end up inside of them eventually.

  4. Its amazing how little contact with a chemical or a plant can affect the skin. These are good tips!

  5. I didn’t know that belt buckles, buttons, zippers, .. have nickel .. Nice post, thank you ..

    Usually people ignore rashes as long as they ain’t itchy / painful ..

  6. Natural products are the best for skin as they don’t have harsh chemical and hence choosing natural and organic elements for skin are the best options. Some products are categorized as “green” and “eco”. Its really counts what’s inside the bottle.

  7. I never really had any problems with rashes until last year and it’s still bugging me till this day. I thought it’d be a temporary problem, but it’s obviously not because it keeps coming back. My friend lives like an animal and eats everything she wants and yet she never gets any type of rashes. I eat healthy, exercise 5 days a week, and I keep my home very clean, yet I’m the one suffering from rashes. This sucks so big time…

  8. Christopher says:

    Maybe I’m trying to take the easy way out of this, but I think I’ll give the itch relieving over the counter medication a try first. The thing is, narrowing down to exactly which of the product I’m using is causing the itch is going to a long and tedious process and I much rather avoid that if I can. I’ll only consider stopping to use shampoos, soaps, and such, if only the medication doesn’t help.

  9. I really liked the treatment section of this Dermatitis article. Not a lot of sites really go in depth as this one did. I really liked it. Great job IB, keep up the quality work!

  10. Very interesting article, I have very sensitive skin and I can’t use most OTC (Over The Counter) items because they break me out in a gnarly rash. So I was left with no option but going the organic all natural route and I’ve been happy ever since. I rarely breakout and I couldn’t be more happier. OTC stuff is so harsh and pumped with so many chemicals.

  11. What a very informative article! I always get itchy red patches after taking a bath and then it goes away after an hour at most. I am sure it is caused by the soap or shampoo I use but I’ve never bothered to have my condition checked since the itching is only temporary. It’s kinda embarassing though when swimming with friends and they see the patches.

  12. The above post is a great source of information on rashes and dermatitis and I am actually shocked to discover that it can be caused even by soaps, shampoos and detergents though, I had an idea about fragrances of perfumes. My father was suffering from eczema in his foot and it was getting really hard for doctors to find out the reason behind it. Though, it disappeared on its own after some years and it never occurred again. Dermatitis or eczema can really behave like a mysterious element in a few of the cases, and can be the reason of sleepless nights for many.

  13. Yikes! This is interesting and at the same time scary! The worst thing that gives me rashes are perfumes and washing detergent that has perfumes in them. Not all will give me a rash and it’s sort of a trial and error thing. Once I find something that works and doesn’t affect me I stick with it

  14. I had no idea that shampoos and soap could causes rashes, I have a rash that’s on my right lower shoulder and it’s been progressively getting worse, I thinking about doing a soap cleanse and throwing out all my soap products and maybe trying an organic route. Since soap does have a lot of harsh chemicals and irritants in the products.

  15. Rashes can only be the beginning of something even worse and they should be checked out as soon as they are noticed just to make sure it is not from something that can be lethal.

  16. This is pretty scary actually. I’ve watched a documentary about normal people’s system shutting down completely without any warning due to the exposure to chemicals to the everyday products that we use. These people have to live in rural areas where are no pollution and they also have to stay away from anything made of plastic or chemicals. Basically their lives get turned upside down. I don’t know, but I think for some people rashes are just the start of much worse things to come.

  17. Ruth Martin says:

    While I have suffered from some small, persistent rash/itchy areas on my body, I think it is caused by eczema, not dermatitus, unless those are typically referred to as the same thing. I do know that there was one very strong/medicated type of shampoo that used to keep the itchy spot on my scalp under control. Now I can no longer find that shampoo in the store. Nothing else I’ve tried has helped. I have a persistent itchy patch at the base of my scalp, right at the hairline, and it usually has scaly, yucky stuff that comes off when I scratch it. (I know I shouldn’t scratch, but it almost drives me crazy!)

  18. I had no idea shampoos, soaps, makeups, and perfurmes could cause rashes. I really hope it’s only one of those things, because I can’t picture myself living without all of them. I’m going to stop using all the cleaning products I’m using one by one and figure out exactly which one’s causing the ugly rash. I’ll hopefully find the root cause and find a replacement product that will help relieve it. Please let it be only one thing…

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