“Ring rash” or “wedding ring rash” is a condition that’s often associated with a wedding ring or other ring that’s worn all the time. It occurs when a rash is present under the band of your ring and is highly noticeable when your ring is removed.

The rash is typically not the result of a new ring being introduced to the skin, but happens after years of wearing the jewelry. It can come and go or remain chronic.

Depending on the underlying cause of your ring rash, symptoms can vary. In general, you’ll notice one or more of the following on the skin beneath your ring:

  • red or itchy patches
  • scaly patches
  • swelling or burning
  • dry or cracked skin

Sometimes ring rash is caused by contact dermatitis. This occurs when your skin comes into contact with an irritant that causes a reaction. Jewelry containing nickel or gold can cause allergic contact dermatitis if a person has an allergy to these metals.

It’s important to keep in mind that, even if your ring is gold, traces of nickel in the metal can trigger an allergic reaction. When your skin comes into contact with the metal of the ring, your body releases chemicals that cause the area to itch and become irritated.

Occlusion dermatitis is often the result of a buildup of soap, moisture, or debris underneath a ring. After you wear a ring for an extended period of time, soaps and lotions, as well as dead skin, can build up on the settings, in the crevasses of your ring or band, and on the surface of the metal. This can attract bacteria and cause irritation on your skin, causing the rash.

Ring rash can be treated in a variety of ways. Sometimes, using one or more of these treatments can help clear up the rash, depending on what’s causing the irritation. Most of the time, you can do at-home treatments yourself for ring rash.

Apply clear nail polish

If you’re allergic to something in the ring, like nickel traces, one easy fix is to paint the inside of your ring band with clear nail polish. This prevents the nickel from leaching into your skin or affecting the surface of your finger.

Try professional cleaning

Have your rings cleaned professionally. Take your rings to a local jeweler. They’re often able to clean your rings while preserving the settings and making sure the stones are protected. This will help remove the buildup of dead skin, soap, and dirt that might be the cause of your rash or skin irritation.

Moisturize

Allergic contact dermatitis can be related to eczema, another skin condition. Try to keep your hands and fingers moisturized, especially if you’re washing your hands a lot. Take off your rings to wash, dry, and moisturize so that no water or soap is trapped under the ring, further irritating your skin. Keeping your skin moisturized can help prevent flare-ups of dermatitis.

Use gentle soaps

Use soaps, cleansers, and moisturizers marked for gentle skin. Deodorizing soaps and antibacterial soaps can be harsh and drying on the skin, further irritating the skin and making any existing dermatitis worse.

Call your doctor if:

  • none of these treatments help the rash
  • you develop blisters
  • the rash is getting worse

You might need stronger treatments, such as prescription topical steroids, oral medication for inflammation, allergy medication, or if an infection is present, antibiotics or antibiotic cream to help treat the infection.

Ring rash is a very common and treatable condition. Once you find out the underlying cause of the rash and start treatment, it should clear up within a week or so. If your ring rash is due to an allergy, it could take two to four weeks for it to clear up entirely.

It’s important to maintain good habits with your ring going forward. Being vigilant about keeping the area clean and dry, and making sure your ring is clean, may help you avoid or minimize another episode of ring rash.

If your rash persists even after treatment, or gets worse, contact your doctor immediately.