Skin rash and now flaking: what is this?
August 3, 2016 10:25 PM   Subscribe

A couple of weeks ago I had a skin reaction, and now I'm shedding. Help me sort this out. Not too gross.

A couple of weeks ago I found I had little itchy bumps on my hands, between the fingers in particular, an itchy scalp, itching around my neck and shoulders and behind my ears. Nothing on my face.

I am a redhead. I had been in the sun, but only in the normal sense of walking outside for ordinary activities, not sunbathing. Had not been out of town or even in a park, hadn't done any gardening or renovation work or other such activities likely to expose me to chemicals. I had been in a friend's outdoor pool about five days previous, but late in the day and didn't get sunburn, and had washed up afterwards; I've been in the pool numerous times before (and once since) without any problems.

I didn't feel sick otherwise or have any other upsets.

The only unusual thing I had eaten before this happened was some rhubarb cooked up by a friend. I didn't touch the raw rhubarb. Everything else I'd eaten was stuff I eat all the time.

A few days ago I noticed that the bumps on my hands had dried out and turned into little dry craters and bubbles. In front my scalp is flaking like crazy and I imagine I'm flaking in spots I can't see.

I've never had a reaction like this before. Is it typical of something I don't know about?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like pretty ordinary atopic dermatitis/eczema, if you really can't think of any possible trigger. But the tiny blisters thing is usually categorized as some kind of dermatitis, and as freaky as it looks, the crater thing is a pretty normal skin reaction after.
posted by Sequence at 10:45 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

That sounds like a bout of eczema. The red bumps/blistering then drying is exactly what eczema is. Firstly, have you been showering more the last few days? Exposing the skin to too much water can cause the protective layer to wear off, and you're skin essentially becomes un-waterproofed. This is made worse by hard water and sweating. Sun exposure can also cause mild eczema, and cause already forming eczema to become worse.

My best advice for how to deal with it right now, whatever the cause, is to get some lotion with urea(eucerin makes a cheap one) and to avoid washing dishes or taking daily showers. Basically, let those oils and protective chemicals reform on your skin.
posted by InkDrinker at 10:45 PM on August 3, 2016

Sounds like eczema, maybe dyshidrotic eczema in particular (I get it on my hands quite often). Using an unscented lotion regularly helps; here is a list of good moisturizers. I also apply a little bit of 1% hydrocortisone cream when the bumps are really itchy, but you don't want to do that for too many days in a row.
posted by neushoorn at 11:50 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I get this occasionally for no apparent reason (though I mostly seem to get it around my hairline, but it's different that dandruff). Washing with oatmeal soap or taking an oatmeal bath like you would when you have the chicken pox helps, as does applying a little extra moisturizer on your face where things are flaking really bad. You may even want to use small amounts or conditioner only when washing your hair instead of shampoo; rinsing your scalp with cool or cold water seems to help too.

Agree with the advice to avoid washing dishes. You also may want to avoid dusting and other household cleansers unless you wear gloves. Hope the final stage of the rash goes away soon. :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:49 AM on August 4, 2016

I get this on my hands often. When I cut out dairy completely for acne-related reasons, it went away entirely, as did patches of dry skin at the base of my nostrils. But I love dairy so I just deal with the itchy bumpies. Moisture bc of humidity and/or excessive hand-washing greatly exacerbates them.
posted by bookworm4125 at 5:28 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

It could be allergies. I developed an allergy to fragrance in my thirties after never before having any issues. I get exactly what you are describing between my fingers if I use fragranced lotion to frequently. Also different shampoos and conditioners will effect my scalp and neck. I also have a problem with many other fragranced products like deodorant and some lipsticks.

I went thru a lot of testing for it but nothing was ever isolated. I just used trial and error to figure out what was causing problems. Occasionally if I try something new I will have the same reactions and will just have to eliminate. Allergies can develop at any time even to products you never had a problem with before.
posted by MrsMGH at 9:04 AM on August 4, 2016

Check the ingredients on skin care products you use, and look for sulfates. I'm not going to say "all sulfates are bad," because in fact they aren't all terrible... for everyone. Sodium laureth and lauryl sulfates are fine on my skin, for example, but all it takes is a dollop of something with ammonium lauryl sulfate to give me horrible eczema that takes two months to heal.

I started paying attention after a good article in a consumer magazine here that counselled just that – watching which sulfates did what and avoiding the ones that are followed by problems. Sure enough, I got a sample of organic shower gel not long afterwards. It had ammonium lauryl sulfate. A single use had me break out in eczema all over. It was horrible. The only other time I had such bad eczema was when I had used a hand lotion with, you guessed it, ammonium lauryl sulfate. My hands were red until I finally stopped using it, as it was the only thing used on my hands that I hadn't yet eliminated (at the time I didn't realize it was the ALS, however – it was with the shower gel that a light went on and I checked that lotion's ingredients for ALS in a store, and sure enough there it was).

Note that laureth is different from lauryl and will thus behave differently.
posted by fraula at 9:28 AM on August 4, 2016

I get this but only when it is very hot, and only on my hands. Could it be the heat for you?
posted by mai at 2:50 PM on August 4, 2016

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