What is dermatitis neglecta?

What is dermatitis neglecta?

Dermatitis neglecta is a skin condition caused by not properly washing the skin. It may be mistaken with allergic reactions and other skin disorders, but it responds to good hygiene much better than most skin issues.

There are a few different risk factors for untreated dermatitis, as well as several easy options for treatment and prevention.

What is dermatitis neglecta?

Dermatitis neglecta is an inflammatory skin condition caused when personal hygiene is ignored by someone.

Bathing on a daily basis is important for keeping the skin clean and the body safe. It helps remove germs, fluids, and dead skin cells by washing and scrubbing the skin.

Dermatitis neglecta can be caused by not washing for a period of time. Dermatitis neglecta is less common than other skin diseases that cause similar symptoms, so these illnesses are frequently confused.

A thorough examination of the signs and risk factors of an individual will help to identify and treat certain cases of neglect dermatitis.


  • Image credit: Syed Nurul Rasool Qadir, Amer Ejaz & Naeem Raza., (2008, September 17)

Symptoms of dermatitis neglecta

When dead skin cells are shed from the body and new ones develop, a person’s skin is continuously being replaced. This is a procedure that repeats itself roughly once a month.

Through exfoliation and basic hygiene, such as washing with soap and water, the dead skin cells are quickly eliminated from the body.

These dead skin cells can build up in patches of skin that are sometimes black, scaly, and rough if a person does not wash one or more areas of the body.

The more a person doesn’t shower, the symptoms can get worse. When patches are left untreated, secondary infections and other skin disorders may occur.

A set of different components are patches of unhealthy, scaly skin, including:

  • sweat and moisture
  • oil secreted by the skin called sebum
  • dirt
  • pollution, such as smoke or fumes
  • bacteria and other germs
  • dead skin cells


Injured lady at hospital
Those with restricted mobility may be unable to wash or clean certain areas of the body, which may lead to dermatitis neglecta.

Dermatitis neglecta is caused by a lack of personal hygiene, often impossible to enter or unpleasant to wash in one part of the body.

It may take a few months for symptoms to progress. The patches that develop can be waxy, dark, and slightly raised, called plaques. Red, inflamed, and irritated skin can occur as well.

Alongside the normal scales, a rash may develop on the skin, and the region will become very sensitive.

Dermatitis neglecta, while it can look similar to other types of dermatitis, is not like other skin disorders. The biggest distinction is that dermatitis neglecta is mostly handled effectively with sufficient hygiene.

Risk factors

There are several risk factors associated with inadequate skin care that may relate to overlooked dermatitis.

People who fall into the sections below may be more likely to develop neglect dermatitis than others.

Trauma and surgery

Symptoms may be indirectly influenced by a recent trauma or surgery. An individual with damaged arms, for example, can have trouble reaching those parts of their back. This can put the unreachable areas at risk of neglect dermatitis.


Symptoms may also be affected by age and age-related disorders. As they mature, often individuals lose mobility in the body. This also leads to not cleaning those places or a total lack of self-care.

As they age, the number of traumas, medications, and surgeries a person has may also increase, which can be another explanation why signs of dermatitis neglecta appear.

Physical disabilities and mental health conditions

Regardless of someone’s age, long-lasting disabilities and some mental health disorders can raise the risk of symptoms of dermatitis neglecta.

Anyone with a physical or mental health disorder that makes it impossible to enter or shower daily in some parts of the body is at increased risk of signs of dermatitis neglecta.

Sensitive skin

Some cases of neglect dermatitis are induced when a person has sensitive skin. If they get irritated when washing these sensitive areas, they may skip them, which makes dermatitis neglecta more likely.


It can be difficult to diagnose dermatitis neglecta, since it could be mistaken with other skin disorders. To get a diagnosis, a doctor could refer a person to a dermatologist who specializes in skin conditions.

Sometimes, a dermatologist will ask questions about the medical history and personal hygiene habits of an individual. Such queries may help rule out other skin disorders and cause the diagnosis of the dermatologist to be certain.

The dermatologist can take a sample of the skin and have a laboratory examination performed if they are uncertain.


Washing of hand with soap
The most effective treatment for mild cases of dermatitis neglecta is regular, gentle washing of the affected area.

Dermatitis neglecta treatment can vary, but it is usually simple and straightforward.

A soft soap and washcloth should be used to treat specific cases of dermatitis neglecta with no problems with daily washing of the infected areas.

As dead skin cells and other waste particles are scraped off the body, a person who begins to wash the area may find immediate effects.

Several forms of dermatitis neglecta can be treated with daily washing for a few weeks or months. Alcohol wipes or other antibacterial wipes can be used to treat any plaques that occur from the condition.

To break down rough patches of skin and scales, cases of serious dermatitis neglecta can require some topical medication. Usually, these remedies are salicylic acid or glycolic acid, which can be obtained over the counter at low concentrations.

Doctors can recommend stronger concentrations or different compounds to break up the scales and treat the disorder if these ingredients do not work.


The treatment of dermatitis neglecta is also as easy as routine skin washing. It can also help to eliminate dead skin cells and leave the surface feeling rejuvenated by exfoliating healthy skin with a dry brush or loofah.

Every day, taking a bath or shower helps avoid the deposition on the skin of dirt, sebum, and bacteria. For warmer months or after doing physically demanding work or exercising, taking more than one shower per day can even be appropriate.

If someone’s self-care is complicated, Dermatitis neglecta can show up after surgery. During this time, it might be beneficial for them to suggest finding a caregiver or asking a loved one for assistance.

For elderly or disabled persons that have difficulties washing properly, a caregiver can also be useful.

In many body washes and soaps, sensitive skin can not react well to any of the chemicals and fragrances contained. This aspect may cause the symptoms of dermatitis neglecta to occur or may aggravate established ones. Fragrance-free, hypoallergenic soaps can help avoid signs of dermatitis failure in people with sensitive skin.


Dermatitis neglecta may be mistaken with other skin diseases, which is why an extensive examination of a person’s skin is advisable for a dermatologist.

Many forms of dermatitis neglecta will clear up with daily full-body washing if it is handled properly. It can take a few weeks or a few months to fix, depending on the seriousness of the situation.

A symptom of an external infection can be sore patches of skin that break, drip, or ooze. For further care, certain symptoms should be reported to a doctor or dermatologist.

The outlook for most cases of dermatitis neglect is good with a correct diagnosis and careful treatment.