Esthetician's Guide to Contact Dermatitis

This condition appears in the ASCP SkinPro app

What is Contact dermatitis?

An inflammation of the skin caused by exposure to a contacted substance. There are two major types of contact dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

What Should I Know About Contact Dermatitis?

  • Irritant reactions happen quickly after exposure.
  • The inflammatory response only occurs in the area where the offending substance was applied. 
  • Most reactions are caused by an impaired barrier function.
  • Symptoms may include urticaria, edema, erythema, and in some cases peeling and crusting.

Most reactions that happen in the esthetic practice are irritant reactions. Most of these are caused by impaired barrier function from over-exfoliation. Combining exfoliation techniques such as the use of both a chemical peel and microdermabrasion certainly has the potential of causing inflammation.

Irritant reactions can happen quickly after exposure. A client immediately reporting stinging when a product is applied (when stinging is not expected) is a good example. Another example would be a client who over-applied home care alpha hydroxy acid or retinol, resulting in red inflammation wherever the client overapplied the product.

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the body’s immune system causes inflammation such as urticaria, edema, erythema, and in some cases peeling and crusting.

The client with allergic contact dermatitis has a true allergy to whatever was applied to the skin. It may take up to 48 hours for the reaction to be seen. Frequent allergens associated with skin treatment include fragrances, specific preservatives, formaldehyde, hydroquinone, and paraphenylenediamine (hair dye).

Contact Dermatitis Treatment Considerations

  • Use with dry and dehydrated skin.
  • Improves the appearance of surface texture, fine lines and wrinkles, and lack of firmness.
  • Helps retain moisture for longer periods of time.

Contact Dermatitis Contraindications

  • Should a reaction happen in the treatment room, remove whatever is on the face with cool cotton compresses and rinse the skin thoroughly with cool water.
  • Do not attempt to treat the reacting skin with other products.
  • Any severe case of contact dermatitis should be referred to a dermatologist.

ASCP members can access SkinPro to continue reading about contact dermatitis

Not yet an ASCP member? Join ASCP and get ASCP SkinProASCP Career ToolkitsASCP Skin Deep magazine, and the best esthetician liability insurance in the profession!

SkinPro App

ASCP SkinPro

Introducing our newest resource for estheticians, ASCP SkinPro—a web app that can easily be saved to your mobile device!

Included with ASCP membership, ASCP SkinPro is designed to aid in skin analysis by putting the essential knowledge of contraindications for common skin-related conditions and ingredients at your fingertips. Members can log in for access or go directly to the app.

Picture this: You’re in the treatment room and a client tells you they have atopic dermatitis and several allergies. You’re pretty confident you know how to proceed with treatment, but you want to be absolutely sure. Simply open the app, search for the condition, and you’ve got expert information at your fingertips. You can also use ASCP SkinPro to look up ingredients quickly and easily, identifying important contraindications and best practices so you can adjust your treatment plan on the spot.

Consult with ASCP SkinPro with confidence and elevate your treatment plans. The ASCP team sourced information from a variety of clinical journals and worked with Dr. Mark Lees, author of Skin Care: Beyond the Basics and a longtime contributor to ASCP Skin Deep magazine, to bring it all together.


  • During consultation: Your client mentions a condition or ingredient allergy during the intake process and want to contraindications.
  • During skin analysis: You observe a skin condition and want to make a quick decision about the best treatment.
  • While retailing: You’re about to recommend a product for your client, but you want to confirm the contraindications and ensure the product will perform as needed. 


ASCP SkinPro uses progressive web app technology so you can save it to your phone, mobile device, or computer like an app, but it won't take up too much space. The app can recognize the device that you're using, and the instructions provided will match that device. For example, if you want to save ASCP SkinPro to your phone, log in with your phone and follow the instructions provided. Click here for instructions.

Already an ASCP member? Take a few minutes to try ASCP SkinPro here and discover your new go-to consultant!

Not yet an ASCP member? Join ASCP and get ASCP SkinPro, ASCP Career Toolkits, ASCP Skin Deep magazine, and the best professional liability insurance in the profession!

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