Hand rashes are common. Our hands touch so many things that can cause a rash.


A hand rash can occur because of something you touched or something going on inside your body. Some rashes appear almost immediately. Others develop over time.

Many people get a hand rash from substances they come into contact with at work. Dyes, detergents, and even water can irritate the skin. Repeatedly wetting and drying your hands throughout the day can dry the skin. The skin can become so dry that it cracks and bleeds.

Some hand rashes are actually an allergic reaction. These skin reactions usually develop after years of touching the same things day in and day out. They also can develop if you are using new products on or near your hands. Cooks can develop an allergy to foods such as fish, garlic, or citrus fruits. People who frequently wear gloves can develop an allergy to latex gloves.

Even jewelry can cause an allergic reaction. This allergic reaction often takes years to develop. A person who frequently wears a piece of jewelry can become allergic to a metal in that jewelry. Some people develop “wedding ring dermatitis.” This causes a rash under and around a person’s wedding ring. Any ring, not just wedding bands, can cause this rash.

Latex glove reaction

Latex glove reaction


Thousands of things can cause a hand rash; yet, most hand rashes look a lot alike. The skin on the hands tends to be:

  • Dry, scaly, and chapped
  • Rough, red, and raw
  • Itchy
  • Sometimes filled with bumps or blisters

These signs and symptoms can appear on any part of your hands.


Because so many things can cause a hand rash, you should see a board-certified dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. Dermatologists are the doctors who are the experts in treating skin disease and have the most experience diagnosing and treating the skin. Effective treatment for a hand rash begins with accurately identifying the cause.

Your dermatologist will create a treatment plan to help your skin heal. Many plans include medicine and tips to help you avoid what is causing the rash.

It is important to know that during treatment your hands can look worse while they heal. It can take months for your hands to regain their normal appearance. This should not discourage you from continuing with your treatment plan.

A treatment plan for a hand rash may include:

Non-prescription creams and lotions: Your dermatologist may recommend:

  • Petroleum jelly or water-based or oil-based hand cream

Prescription medicine: Most of these treatments you will apply to the skin. Your dermatologist may prescribe a prescription-strength cortisone-containing medicine that you can apply to your skin to treat it.

A severe reaction to epoxy

A severe reaction to epoxy

Some patients receive a prescription for an immunomodulator, which is a medicine that works with the immune system. This may be a cream or an ointment. Your dermatologist will provide you with instructions on the proper use of this type of medication.

Other prescription medicines come in pill form and include:

  • Antihistamine: To treat severe
  • Corticosteroid: To treat intense redness and
  • Antibiotic: To treat sore, cracked skin and prevent (or treat) a skin

As the skin heals, it often itches. Try not to scratch your hands. Scratching can worsen the rash and cause an infection.


A hand rash can return. Taking some precautions can help prevent another rash. Board-certified dermatologists

recommend the following to their patients who get hand rashes:

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands. Harsh chemicals and other substances that tend to irritate your skin can cause a new rash. Your dermatologist can recommend the right gloves for you to wear at work and while doing housework and gardening. Your dermatologist also may give you tips to help you get the best protection from your gloves.

Wear warm gloves outdoors in cold weather. Cold temperatures can dry the skin on the hands. When wearing gloves, be sure to:

  • Replace gloves that develop a
  • If gloves get wet inside, dry them between
  • Never put wet gloves on your
  • Wash your hands without irritating them: Before washing your hands, be sure to remove your rings. These can trap soap and moisture next to your skin, causing irritation. In addition, soap and water can remove oils from your skin. To reduce this loss, use:
    • Lukewarm
    • A beauty bar or moisturizing
    • Antibacterial soap when necessary

Allergic reaction to fish

Allergic reaction to fish

• Follow these skin care tips:

  • Apply a hand cream or ointment after each hand
  • Every day, generously apply a cream or ointment to your hands right before getting into bed. Use a product that contains glycerin and/or

Treating a hand rash can be time-consuming. It can seem frustrating if the rash returns. However, treatment is important to prevent a hand rash from becoming painful or even disabling. A board-certified dermatologist can find out what is causing your hand rash and provide you with effective treatment.

A board-certified dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating the medical, surgical and cosmetic conditions of the skin, hair and nails. To learn more or to find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org or call toll free (888) 462-DERM (3376).

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.

Copyright © by the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides

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