Dermatitis neglecta is a skin disorder caused by not cleaning the skin sufficiently. It can resemble allergic reactions and other skin conditions, but it responds better to basic hygiene such as showering than other skin problems do.

There are a few different risk factors for dermatitis neglecta, as well as some simple treatment and prevention options.

Dermatitis neglecta is an inflammatory skin condition that is caused when someone neglects personal hygiene.

Regularly bathing is vital for keeping the skin clean and the body healthy. Bathing and scrubbing the skin helps eliminate germs, oils, and dead skin cells.

Not bathing for a length of time can cause dermatitis neglecta. Dermatitis neglecta is rarer than other skin conditions that produce similar symptoms, so it is often mistaken for these disorders.

A proper evaluation of a person’s symptoms and risk factors can help diagnose and treat most cases of dermatitis neglecta.

A person’s skin is constantly being renewed as dead skin cells are shed from the body and new ones form. This is a process that repeats itself about once a month.

The dead skin cells are easily removed from the body by exfoliation and basic hygiene, such as washing with soap and water.

If a person does not wash one or more areas of the body, these dead skin cells may build up in patches of skin that are often dark, scaly, and rough.

Symptoms may get worse the longer a person does not wash. Secondary infections and other skin conditions can arise if patches are left untreated.

Patches of unhealthy, scaly skin are a collection of different components, 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
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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 in one area of the body that is difficult to reach or painful to wash.

Symptoms may take a few months to develop. The patches that form, called plaques, may be waxy, dark, and slightly raised. The skin may also appear red, inflamed, and irritated.

A rash may appear on the skin alongside the typical scales, and the area may become very sensitive.

Dermatitis neglecta is not like other skin conditions, though it can appear similar to other forms of dermatitis. The key difference is that dermatitis neglecta is often easily treated with proper hygiene.

There are many risk factors associated with poor skin care that can lead to dermatitis neglecta.

People who fall into the following categories may be more likely to experience dermatitis neglecta than others.

Trauma and surgery

Symptoms may be indirectly influenced by a recent trauma or surgery. For instance, a person with injured arms may have difficulty reaching certain parts of their back. This may put the unreachable areas at risk for dermatitis neglecta.


Age and age-related conditions can also influence symptoms. Many people lose mobility in the body as they age. This sometimes leads to certain areas not being washed or a lack of self-care altogether.

The number of traumas, treatments, and surgeries a person has can also go up as they age, which may be another reason why dermatitis neglecta symptoms appear.

Physical disabilities and mental health conditions

Long-lasting disabilities and some mental health conditions may increase the risk of dermatitis neglecta symptoms, regardless of someone’s age.

Anyone with a physical or mental health condition that makes it difficult to reach some areas of the body, or to wash regularly, is more at risk for symptoms of dermatitis neglecta.

Sensitive skin

Some cases of dermatitis neglecta are caused 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.

Diagnosing dermatitis neglecta can be difficult, as it may be confused with other skin conditions. A doctor might refer a person to a dermatologist who specializes in skin conditions to get a diagnosis.

A dermatologist will often ask questions about a person’s medical history and personal hygiene routines. These questions will help rule out other skin conditions and allow the dermatologist to be certain of their diagnosis.

If they remain unsure, the dermatologist may take a sample of the skin to have a laboratory analysis done.

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

Treatment for dermatitis neglecta may vary, but it is usually simple and straightforward.

Simple cases of dermatitis neglecta with no complications can be treated with regular washing of the affected areas using a gentle soap and washcloth.

A person who starts washing the area may notice immediate results, as dead skin cells and other waste particles are scraped off the body.

Regular washing over a few weeks or months will treat many cases of dermatitis neglecta. Some plaques that appear from the condition may be treated with alcohol wipes or other antibacterial wipes.

Cases of severe dermatitis neglecta may require some topical medicine to break down tough patches of skin and scales. These treatments are typically salicylic acid or glycolic acid, which can be bought over the counter in low concentrations.

If these ingredients do not work, doctors may prescribe stronger concentrations or different compounds to break up scales and treat the condition.

Preventing dermatitis neglecta is often as simple as regularly cleaning the skin. Exfoliating healthy skin with a dry brush or loofah may also help remove dead skin cells and leave the surface feeling rejuvenated.

Taking a bath or shower every day helps prevent the buildup of dirt, sebum, and bacteria on the skin. Taking more than one shower each day may also be necessary for warmer months or after doing physically demanding work or exercise.

Dermatitis neglecta may show up after surgery if someone’s self-care is difficult. It may be helpful for them to consider hiring a caregiver or asking a loved one for help during this time.

A caregiver may also be helpful for older or disabled people who have trouble washing sufficiently.

Sensitive skin may not respond well to some of the chemicals and fragrances found in many body washes and soaps. This factor may cause dermatitis neglecta symptoms to appear or may make existing ones worse. Fragrance-free, hypoallergenic soaps can help people with sensitive skin prevent symptoms of dermatitis neglecta.

Dermatitis neglecta can be confused with other skin disorders, which is why it is advisable for a dermatologist to perform an extensive examination of a person’s skin.

If it is properly diagnosed, many cases of dermatitis neglecta will clear up with regular full-body washing. Depending on the severity of the case, it may take a few weeks or a few months to resolve.

Painful patches of skin that crack, bleed, or ooze may be a sign of an additional infection. These symptoms should be reported to a doctor or dermatologist for further treatment.

With a proper diagnosis and diligent treatment, the outlook for most cases of dermatitis neglecta is good.