41 % of American adults report having skin allergies.

*According to the National Library of Medicine.

Skin allergy highlights 

  • Skin allergies typically appear in the form of red, bumpy, scaly, itchy or swollen skin.
  • The most common skin allergies include Hives ( also known as urticaria), eczema (atopic dermatitis), irritant dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis. 
  • Seeing your board-certified allergist will help you to understand what type of rash you have and what is causing it. It requires obtaining a full history of the problem and an examination, and often times requires allergy testing.
African American woman scratching her arm due to hives (urticaria)

What is a skin allergy?

A skin allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts and causes inflammation of the skin.  Often, especially in Eczema and in Allergic Contact Dermatitis, the immune system reacts to a foreign substance, known as an allergen. This can lead to an inflammatory response on the skin, resulting in symptoms like rash, redness, itching, and hives.

Common allergens include pollen, pets, mold, drugs, chemicals, latex, and sometimes foods. Sometimes, especially in Hives, there might be an autoimmune cause.  These skin rashes can worsen with external factors, such as heat, cold, exercise, pressure, clothing and fabrics, soaps and detergents, and stress.

It is important to note that not all rashes are allergies, but individuals prone to allergies are more susceptible. Skin allergies can be diagnosed and treated by board-certified allergists, who can help identify the cause and provide personalized treatments. Any persistent or unusual skin changes should be checked by a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Types of skin allergies

Eczema or atopic dermatitis

Hives or urticaria


Contact Dermatitis

What causes skin allergies?

Skin allergies are caused by an overactive immune response on the skin.  Depending on the type of skin allergies, they are often associated with an array of substances known as allergens. These allergens can either be ingested, inhaled, or come directly in contact with the skin. 

Here’s a list of some known causes:

  • Personal care products: These may include makeup, lotions, soaps, and shampoos that contain certain chemicals or fragrances.
  • Environmental allergens and other factors: There are so many different environmental elements that can cause skin allergies.  We know that being allergic to pollen, pet, and mold predisposes you to eczema and hives.  There are other factors ranging from things you can control (skin care products and laundry detergent) to factors you can’t control (air pollutants and hot weather).
  • Metals: Examples include nickel, often used in jewelry and snaps on jeans.
  • Chemicals: Certain industrial or household chemicals can also lead to skin allergies.
  • Sunscreens and bug sprays: Certain compounds in these products might trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Topical medications: These include antibiotics or anti-itch creams applied directly on the skin.
  • Cleaning products: Household cleaning agents can contain chemicals that irritate the skin.
  • Plants: Certain plants like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac are known to cause skin allergies.
  • Foods: Some individuals may react to specific foods like dairy, wheat, gluten, shellfish, or peanuts.But its rarely the root cause of a skin allergy.
  • Latex: This material, found in items like plastic gloves, elastic in clothing, condoms, and balloons, can cause reactions in some people.

Other non-allergen causes include:

  • Infections: Viral and bacterial infections are known to cause or worsen skin allergies. 
  • Genetics. Eczema can run in some families. And if it does, there’s a 75% chance that you could inherit it, according to a 2015 Hindawi study.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Skin rashes can be associated with autoimmune diseases, like celiac disease, thyroid diseases, and lupus.

How to identify what’s causing your allergies?

To diagnose skin allergies, a board-certified allergist and provider will get a comprehensive history and will do a physical exam, looking closely at your skin. 

Your provider might order other testing such as skin allergy testing or patch testing and blood tests.  The provider will also rule out other conditions that present similarly. The allergists at AllerVie use a variety of methods to best serve you. Some of our common diagnostics are below.

Treatment for skin allergies

There are several treatment options available to manage the condition and alleviate symptoms. Remember, scratching can worsen and lead to infection. If your skin allergies are severe or not improving with these treatments, consult your doctor for further evaluation.



Regularly applying a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer helps keep skin hydrated. Applying moisturizer after a bath helps seal in moisture. 


Topical corticosteroids

Apply directly to the skin to help reduce inflammation and itching.



These medications can help reduce itching and swelling. The second generation of antihistamines are much better than first-generation antihistamines, which have more side effects.  These antihistamines are over-the-counter and are available at pharmacies or grocery stores. 


Immunomodulators, including biologics

These medications target specific inflammatory pathways that are causing inflammation of the skin. They do not suppress the immune system and have lower side effects than immunosuppressants.


Immunosuppressants, including oral or injectable corticosteroids

In severe cases and with acute exacerbations, medications that suppress the immune system may be necessary to manage eczema symptoms.


Proper bathing

Choose lukewarm water instead of hot water, as it can dry and irritate the skin. Keep baths or showers short and use mild cleansers. Afterward, gently pat dry and apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to lock in moisture. Talk with your allergist about finding a suitable moisturizer and soap.


Wet wraps, soaks, and compresses

They can offer relief for the early, itchy blistered stage of a rash. 


Avoid contact

To prevent the reaction from recurring, the key is to avoid contact with the offending material. Your allergist may conduct tests to specifically identify the responsible allergen causing the rash (for example, a patch test), so you know to avoid it in the future. 

Frequently asked questions about skin allergies

What is the fastest way to cure a skin allergy?

Can seasonal allergies cause itchy skin?

How long do skin allergies last?

Why am I getting skin allergies all of a sudden?