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No matter whether you call it dermatitis or eczema, inflamed and itchy skin is a nasty thing to have to deal with. Ease your mind – and the itch – with Skin Institute’s expert dermatologists.


There’s more than one kind of dermatitis – and there’s more than one way of treating it. Your skin is unique, but after twenty years taking care of people’s skin health, Skin Institute has plenty of experience identifying conditions and finding the right treatment for you.

Skin envelops you; encloses you in a protective interactive tactile interface with the universe. Trust those who know its deepest secrets to let you face the world with confidence.

Dr Vania Sinovich
Dermatologist, Skin Cancer
Treatment Detail Sheet

If you have booked, or plan to, this information is useful to read prior to your dermatology consult.

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Whether your skin feels itchy, irritated or dry, it’s important to understand your dermatitis – no matter the type, Skin Institute is here to help you get them under control.


  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis occurs when your skin reacts to material that it has been in contact with. It won’t necessarily be a new material – sometimes, it can be something you’ve handled safely in the past that has a new and unfortunate effect on your skin.
  • Atopic Dermatitis is what is most commonly referred to as eczema. This itchy rash is relatively common in children, with as many as 1 in 7 young people affected. By and large it disappears with age – and while unpleasant and uncomfortable, it does not usually affect general health.
  • Hand Dermatitis is also known as ‘hand eczema’ and as the name suggests, it refers to inflamed skin explicitly on the hands. This is often brought about after exposure to certain chemicals (from particularly potent ones to water) strips the skin of its normal protective layers and oils.
  • Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is a common, scaling rash that sometimes itches. Most people will be familiar with Seborrhoeic Dermatitis of the scalp – better known as dandruff – but it can also occur on the eyebrows, the ears, the edges of the eyelid, the skin near the nose and folds of skin in the armpits and groin – even on the chest or back at times.
  • Perioral Dermatitis primarily affects women, and presents as itchy or tender red spots. For the most part, these spots appear around the mouth – not right against the lips, but on the chin, upper lip and cheeks. Your skin will be dry and flaky, and sometimes the skin around the nose and eyes is affected.

Dermatitis causes problems for people from all walks of life, over various parts of the body. You may seek treatment for a variety of reasons:

  • Eczema isn’t responding to pharmacy treatments
  • Your sleep, work or other daily activities are interrupted due to discomfort
  • You can’t prevent yourself from itching and the condition is getting worse

Dermatitis can have many causes, from reactions to previously harmless substances through to stress or genetics. So what causes your form of dermatitis?


  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction to a substance (even just a small amount) that is harmless to the general population – and it may well have been harmless to the individual in the past. Examples could include eczema on the wrist beneath a watch strap due to a nickel allergy, an itchy red face due to a preservative in moisturiser, or eczema on the lower leg after removal of ankle strapping, due to the adhesive.
  • Atopic Dermatitis is thought to be the result of a genetic skin defect, due to the fact that it tends to run in families. People with Atopic Dermatitis usually have sensitive and dry skin that can easily be aggravated by all manner of environmental factors – from dust and cats to emotional stress and (more rarely) foods.
  • Hand Dermatitis can occur for a number of reasons – there may be a personal or family history, or emotional stress is also a known contributor. Certain chemicals can strip the skin of its usual protective layers and oils, and on rarer occasions, hand dermatitis may be triggered by a full-blown allergy to substances that the hands come into contact with – from metals to perfumes to preservatives.
  • Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is thought to be caused by excessive amounts of a particular yeast (Pityrosporum ovale or Malassezia furfur). This yeast is a perfectly normal inhabitant of your skin, but in people with seborrheic dermatitis, there’s a reduced resistance for a number of reasons – stress, fatigue, change of season and reduced general health are all potential factors. It can appear at any age (but usually after puberty) and either gradually or suddenly.
  • Perioral Dermatitis may appear as the result of particular facial skincare issues. This could be not washing your face adequately, or applying face creams or cosmetics – or topical steroid creams – to the area of your face between cheeks and chin.

You know how much dermatitis can flair up under different conditions – but equally the right conditions and treatments can help keep it under control.


  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis will primarily be helped by identifying the allergen, so it can be avoided if possible.
    • Patch tests will help find out precisely what you are allergic to
    • With a very careful eye, study your environment to locate the allergen (NB: many chemicals have several names, so make sure you are as well informed as possible – cross-reactions to similar chemicals are also possible)
    • With advice from our dermatologists, utilise medical treatments to help alleviate the symptoms of dermatitis, such as emollient creams (moisturisers), topical steroids (cortisone creams), topical or oral antibiotics, or oral steroids (for severe cases)
  • Atopic Dermatitis usually improves with time, but may also benefit from the following treatments:
    • Emollient creams (moisturisers)
    • Bath oils based on mineral oil or lanolin
    • Corticosteroids
    • Antibiotics
    • Antihistamines
    • Evening Primrose Oil/ Star Flower Oil
    • Coal tar (or ichthammol)
    • Reducing contact with irritants and exposure to allergens
  • Hand Dermatitis has very similar treatment options to allergic contact dermatitis. It is also worthwhile to avoid wet work and contact with any identified irritants. Treatments may include:
    • Emollient creams (moisturisers)
    • Topical steroids
    • Oral or topical antibiotics
    • Oral steroids or ultra violet light therapy (for severe cases)
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis can be controlled in a variety of ways, with different groupings of treatment depending on the location of the rash.
    • Scalp – Medicated shampoos used twice weekly for at least a month, containing some combination of ketoconazole, selenium disulphide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, and salicylic acid; prescription scalp applications containing steroids, used intermittently; and tar creams applied several hours before shampooing.
    • Face, ears, chest and back – Ketoconazole cream once daily for 2 to 4 weeks and hydrocortisone cream up to twice daily for 1 or 2 weeks.
Dermatitis Video
Why Skin Institute?

Since being established in 1994, Skin Institute has been at the forefront of dermatological care in New Zealand. From the beginning, we have demonstrated expertise in the areas of clinical dermatology, veins, cosmetic medicine and surgery, and skin cancer. Today, we are a multi-disciplinary specialist centre, with clinics across the country – and teams of highly qualified medical and nursing staff at each one.

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