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Bumps on your skin can have a variety of causes, from allergic reactions to acne. However, you can tell the differences between an allergic reaction and other bumps on your face by some defining characteristics.

An allergic reaction — mainly allergic contact dermatitis — may cause small bumps or rashes that are red, itchy, and usually localized to the area contacted by the allergen.

Learning the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction is important to help determine the possible cause of tiny bumps on your face so that you can also seek the right treatment.

In some cases, you may need to see a dermatologist to help clear up more severe rashes.

Allergic contact dermatitis has a characteristic red rash that feels very itchy. You may suspect this type of allergic reaction if you’ve recently used a new facial soap, lotion, or cosmetic and you experience a rash soon after.

This type of allergic reaction may also occur as a result of contact with plant substances and jewelry.

However, if your face hasn’t come into contact with any unusual substances, the bumpy rash you’re experiencing may not be an allergic reaction at all.

It’s worth asking your dermatologist what could be causing the rash, though, as you can develop an allergy to a product you’ve used for a long time without problems.

Other possible causes of bumps on your face include:

  • Acne. You may see comedones and sometimes inflammatory lesions, such as cysts and pustules, or they may appear as red bumps on the skin.
  • Eczema. Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema causes red rashes that are extremely itchy.
  • Folliculitis. This is a term for infected hair follicles, which is often seen in people who shave.
  • Hives. These are welts that may be caused by a medications or a recent illness. In many cases, the exact cause can’t be determined.
  • Medication allergies. Some people have allergic reactions to a medication they take. In most cases, it’s an exanthematous drug reaction and may be harmless. In other cases, it can be very serious, such as a condition called drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) or Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
  • Milia. These are small cysts that develop as a result of keratin proteins getting trapped underneath the skin, and are harmless.
  • Rosacea. This is a long-term, inflammatory skin condition that causes flushing skin and red bumps.

Allergic contact dermatitis on the face can cause a large, red rash. It may also contain small red bumps along with dry, crusty skin.

If you develop this type of allergic reaction, it’ll occur along the parts of your face that have come into contact with an irritating substance.

Allergic contact dermatitis appears as a red rash that can be itchy and uncomfortable. There may also be tiny bumps within the rash. It may resemble a burn on the skin, and severe cases can cause blisters.

As the skin heals, the rash may become dry and crusty. This is a result of dead skin cells shedding from the epidermis.

Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis may be similar in babies and young children. You may see a red rash that’s extremely dry, cracked, and swollen. Your baby might be fussy due to pain, burning, and itchiness.

Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by your skin coming into contact with a substance to which you have a sensitivity or allergy.

Oftentimes, you may not know you have a sensitivity to the offending substance ahead of time — the resulting rash is a sign that it ought to be avoided again in the future.

Irritant vs. allergic

Contact dermatitis may be further classified as either irritant or allergic.

Irritant contact dermatitis develops from exposure to irritants such as bleach, rubbing alcohol, water, and detergents. Other irritants include pesticides, fertilizers, and dust from fabrics.

Reactions from severe irritants occur almost immediately after skin contact, while prolonged mild exposure, such as repeated hand washing, may not display a significant irritant contact dermatitis for days.

On the other hand, allergic contact dermatitis is caused by an immune response your body produces when your skin comes into contact with a certain substance.

Dyes, fragrances, and plant substances are possible sources of allergic contact dermatitis. Other possible causes for this reaction on your face include nickel, formaldehyde, and Balsam of Peru.

Unlike irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis can take 1 to 3 days to develop. This can also make it more challenging to identify allergens that are causing your rashes.

Babies and young children may also be prone to allergic contact dermatitis on the face. Some common causes are fragrances, sunscreens, and certain chemicals in baby wipes.

Treatment for contact dermatitis is largely preventive.

If you develop a rash on your face after using certain skin care products, cosmetics, or other substances, you should stop using them immediately. The same applies to baby wipes and other children’s care products for young children.

If you do start to develop a skin rash from an allergic reaction, gently wash your skin with gentle soap and cool to lukewarm water. Treatment focuses on identifying the substance and avoiding it.

Some rashes may result in oozing and crusting. You can help protect your skin by applying wet dressings to the area. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or a mixture of petroleum jelly and mineral oil (Aquaphor) may also help soothe the skin and protect your face from cracking.

However, using any ointment on the face has the potential to cause acne, so apply these products with caution if you’re prone to acne. You may want to consider using a hypoallergenic product like Vanicream, which doesn’t have some of the substances that can cause allergic contact dermatitis.

Shop for Vaseline, Aquaphor, and Vanicream online.

Topical corticosteroids may reduce redness and inflammation. Such ointments and creams may also help with itchiness. However, corticosteroids should only be used on the face for a short-term basis only, usually less than 2 weeks, and shouldn’t be used around the eyes.

The best form of treatment for a child’s allergic contact dermatitis is first identifying what’s causing the reaction. Sometimes it can be difficult to do this. In those cases, it’s important to take a minimalist approach to skin care.

To do so, avoid using body washes and laundry detergents with fragrances, and switch to baby wipes for sensitive skin, such as Water Wipes. Be sure to moisturize often with a hypoallergenic cream. If the rash persists, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Shop for Water Wipes online.

New cases of contact dermatitis — be it allergic or irritant — may be aided by the advice of a dermatologist. They can also rule out other possible causes of a skin rash on your face.

As a rule of thumb, you should see a dermatologist if you suspect irritant or allergic contact dermatitis on your face and it fails to resolve within 3 weeks.

If allergic contact dermatitis is to blame, you might undergoing allergy testing, especially if you have recurring cases of dermatitis without an obvious cause. This is done via patch testing.

You should also see a doctor if your skin starts showing signs of infection. This can cause increased inflammation as well as pus from the rashes. An infection may also cause a fever.

If you don’t already have a dermatologist, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.

Any new rash on the face can be a cause for concern. While allergic and irritant contact dermatitis can be uncomfortable, they’re not considered serious or life threatening.

The key is to prevent recurring cases of contact dermatitis rashes on your face. Stop using any products that could have contributed to the rash, and see your doctor if your symptoms don’t clear up after a few weeks.