If you’ve ever had a rash on your wrist from wearing a watch, bracelet or fitness tracker, you are not alone.
Fitbit even had to recall one of their products after 2% of wearers reported developing a rash.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What causes it?
“The skin reaction that some people develop on their wrists under watches, fitness trackers or bracelets is a form of eczema called contact dermatitis,” Consultant dermatologist Dr Sharon Wong explains.
The rash can arise as result of an allergic response to allergens present in the materials used to make your watch strap or bracelet.
These include metals, leather dyes and rubber accelerators and repeated exposure to the allergen can cause the rash on your wrist.
One particular material that can be a common cause of eczema flare ups is nickel consultant dermatologist Dr Anthony Bewley says.
“Nickel is found in many jewellery items and also within watch straps, therefore is one to look out for when purchasing jewellery items and watches,” he explains. Nickel can also be found in the straps of fitness trackers.
“Soap can also often get trapped between the wrist and watch or fitness tracker which can further irritate the skin, especially if the soap is trapped there for a longer period of time,” Dr Bewley continues.
“In some cases, perfume can act as an irritant for eczema sufferers and as the wrist is a common place for perfume to be sprayed, this can cause eczema flare-ups in the wrist area.”
“Contact dermatitis can also arise due to the irritant effect of friction, pressure and sweat on the skin under the strap,” Dr Wong adds.
What are the symptoms?
The skin will become dry, red, scaly and itchy where your watch, bracelet or fitness tracker sits.
Dr Wong advises sufferers to consult a dermatologist to test for allergies with a patch test.
What can you do about it?
The key to preventing the rash recurring is to remove the allergen altogether by avoiding wearing the item that’s irritating the skin.
For those who wear medical bracelets, this is not always a straightforward option.
Dr Wong suggests having your watch strap changed, or in the case of jewellery opt to use inert metals such as platinum and gold.
“Wearing straps looser to minimise pressure and friction will also help.” She explains.
To identify exactly what's triggering your flare-ups, Dr Bewley suggests keeping a skin diary: “Note the affects that a piece of wrist wear has and see how your skin improves over time,” he says.
As for treating the symptoms, Dr Wong says that the eczema can be easily treated with cortisone creams and moisturisers. Dr Bewley says this is most effective when applied after showering to help protect the skin as a barrier.
Weaker creams like hydrocortisone are available over the counter. If after trying this the symptoms do not settle, you may need to see a GP or dermatologist to get a stronger cortisone available on prescription.
“Some people with dry skin or eczema may find their skin is easily irritated by harsh and strong ingredients in soaps. Therefore, avoid forming soap agents and instead try a soap substitute such as Cetraben Daily Cleansing Cream which can be less drying on the skin.
“It is also beneficial to shower in lukewarm water as opposed to hot and it's important to remember not to scrub your skin too hard as this can irritate it further,” Dr Bewley says.
Have you ever experienced skin irritation from your watch strap or jewellery? Let us know in the Comments section below.