If you experience rashes or dry, irritated skin during seasonal changes, a skin allergy might be to blame. Prolonged exposure to allergens can lead to much more severe skin conditions. To avoid severe irritation, it is critical that you pay very close attention to how your body is reacting to possible allergens and what exactly is triggering the reactions.
Let’s first take a closer look at some common irritants along with what makes allergens particularly problematic for those with dry, sensitive skin.
Know Your Limits
There are a number of different types of irritants you should be aware of, many of which can depend on your location and diet. Some common skin irritants include things like pet dander, dust mites, pollen, fragrances, mold, cleaners, chlorine and even sweat.
These irritants can aggravate your skin in different ways and to varying degrees depending on how you are exposed to them and whether they trigger an allergic reaction.
You might encounter some of these irritants externally via direct contact with your skin, allowing you to rapidly identify the irritation. Conversely, you might encounter irritants internally, by inhaling or ingesting them, which may not only cause similar, more widespread reactions (including common annoyances like itchy eyes and a runny nose), but make it harder to identify the source of irritation.
That’s why it’s important to pay close attention to the things that come into contact with your skin, what you’ve eaten, and what you’ve been around.
Is It An Allergic Reaction?
Some irritants can trigger a more severe reaction. When your body encounters an allergen, whether externally or internally, your skin can react by producing histamine. Histamine is a chemical your body’s cells release in response to an injury or a reaction to an allergen. You’re probably familiar with “antihistamines,” which are medications that counter the activity of histamine receptors in your body. This counteraction is critical to providing relief.
If you're allergic to perfume and you spray it on your skin, you might notice your skin start to itch, and more importantly, to swell. That’s a key sign you are having an allergic reaction. That’s because the perfume is causing your skin to release histamines, and histamines increase blood flow to the affected area. If the exposure to the allergen is prolonged, then the body will produce more histamine, worsening your skin’s reaction and your discomfort.
When histamines increase blood flow to skin cells, the skin doesn't go through its regular exfoliation cycle, so it can’t shed those dead skin cells. As a result, flaky skin can build and dryness may occur. Worse, the skin can develop a bacterial infection.
Dermatologists have found that sensitive skin and dry, itchy skin are directly linked, so extra care should be taken by those with sensitive skin to avoid contact or intake of allergens that may worsen conditions.
Prolonged Exposure to Allergens
Dealing with dry, itchy skin can be discouraging, especially if it's being caused by an unknown allergen. Again, the first step is to pinpoint the allergen and prevent further exposure. The most common type of allergy test is a skin test, also known as a scratch test. During a scratch test, a doctor or nurse will put a tiny bit of an allergen (like food, dander or pollen) on your skin, then prick or make a small scratch on the outermost layer of the skin.
Prolonged exposure to histamine-producing allergens can lead to worse conditions, like eczema. Eczema is a general term covering a broad range of conditions that cause patches of skin to become red, itchy and inflamed, sometimes as a reaction to irritants or allergens.
There are many types of eczema, but two of the most common are atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema that is extremely itchy and usually the result of an allergic reaction, but in parts of the body that have not come into direct contact with an allergen. Contact dermatitis is a response when the skin comes in direct contact with an allergen and can be especially irritating.
Treating Dry, Itchy Skin
If you’re suffering from exposure to an unidentified allergen, and if you're prone to swelling on top of the itching, you should seek immediate relief by washing the affected area, applying a cold compress and a topical antihistamine.
There are also ways to treat your irritated skin. Creams and lotions can be a real lifesaver in helping to alleviate itch and discomfort as you work to identify the source of the allergic reaction. Curél® Itch Defense® Lotion (Shop Now), with Advanced Ceramide Complex, restores skin's ceramide levels to help retain moisture and prevent symptoms of dry, itchy skin from returning. Apply the lotion to the affected area and the formula will provide instant relief while rebalancing skin.
By identifying the allergens that cause skin sensitivity, you can take steps to avoid or reduce exposure to them. Learn more about common skin stressors by clicking here.