Get Your Allergies in Check Before You Make Your Holiday Wish List

Woman's back with allergy tests attached

Have you noticed the influx of ads on your Facebook page enticing you to buy socks with your dog’s face on it, custom-made blankets, edible Advent calendars, or even hair product subscriptions? It’s that time of year again… time to make your holiday wish list. All of these gift ideas are fantastic and should be well-received, but one thing people don’t consider is their allergies. Bah humbug, right? Well, as unappealing as it sounds to get an allergy patch test, it’s worse to wake up with a rash.

If you suddenly get a red, itchy rash on an area of your skin, there’s a fair chance it’s contact dermatitis. It’s not contagious, it’s just your skin having a reaction to something it has come in direct contact with. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, contact dermatitis occurs in 15% to 20% of people. It’s broken down into two categories: irritant contact dermatitis (ICD), which accounts for about 80% of the cases, and allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), which is less common.


In order to avoid this severe reaction, one of the most important ways to avoid it is to simply avoid the root cause. For example, if you suddenly have a rash on your scalp, according to one study1, it could be anything from the products you are using to the hair clips you wear. According to this study, the most common allergens were nickel (23.8%), cobalt (21.0%), balsam of Peru (18.2%), fragrance mix (14.4%), carba mix (11.6%), and propylene glycol (PG) (8.8%). What can you find those ingredients in? Take a look at your hair clasps, brushes, pins, shampoos, conditioners, fragrances, and hair gel.

In another study2, one that focused more broadly on identifying the most common allergens, they discovered that in a group of 353 patients, the majority of the allergens and irritants identified were plants, topical drugs, and antiseptics.

So, what can you do about contact dermatitis? How can you know what you should be avoiding, especially as you open your presents this year? Your dermatologist will likely recommend you take a patch test to determine what elements and ingredients are causing your skin to flare up


A patch test, unlike a skin injection or skin prick tests, does not scratch or puncture the skin. Instead, it tests delayed allergic reactions through patches places on your back to expose your skin to some 20 to 30 extracts that commonly cause contact dermatitis. These patches are left on for two days and removed at your doctor’s office where they will inspect your skin for reactions to the various components. These may include anything from medications and hair dyes to metals and fragrances.

You’ll want to be upfront with your dermatologist about any medications you are taking and your family history. Once you get your results—which they can tell you after taking the patches off—you’ll be able to make lifestyle changes to avoid unnecessary skin irritation. This may mean using skin and hair products without fragrances and dyes, rethinking what plants you have in the garden, or switching your topical medications. So, before you ask someone to “surprise” you with a new perfume, talk to your dermatologist.

Schedule an appointment with The Derm Group by calling 973.571.2121 to learn more about patch testing and contact dermatitis.

Common Allergens Identified Based on Patch Test Results in Patients with Suspected Contact Dermatitis of the Scalp

Nouf M. Aleid, Raymond Fertig, Austin Maddy, Antonella Tosti

Contact Dermatitis – Epidemiological Study