Not Cleaning Your Apple Watch Can Cause Skin Irritation—Here’s How To Deal if That Happens

Photo: Getty Images/d3sign
Much like Twitter, Reddit can be an extremely terrible place—but if you know where to look, there are pockets of good where you can discuss things like Yellowjackets theories, ways to make oatmeal taste better, and skin concerns. A recent popular thread in the latter category was about Apple Watches and skin irritation. A user asked for advice after noticing skin irritation right where they wear their Apple Watch, despite wearing it for years and not experiencing any issues. Lots of people could relate, so we asked board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, to weigh in.

"Contact dermatitis is a reaction in the skin caused by direct contact from an external factor," explains Dr. Zeichner, who notes that you’re no more at risk for an allergic reaction to your watch than you are to your jewelry. "You can develop either direct irritation or a true allergy. Allergic contact dermatitis is often caused by fragrances and preservatives and cosmetic products. It also can be caused by metals, plastics, adhesives, or even dyes used in textiles or leather." So yep, it's definitely possible that your smart watch could cause this kind of skin reaction.

Experts In This Article
  • Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital

"Most of the rashes that we see from watches is the result of irritation, as sweat, oil, and dirt build up under the watch and are pushed against the skin," Dr. Zeichner says. "Direct friction of the watchband against your wrist can also lead to irritation. depending on the band you’re using." To help prevent this, he recommends that you keep the watch and your skin clean, and wear the watch slightly loose on your wrist so that it doesn't put too much pressure on your skin.

If you do develop a rash, the first thing to do is take the watch off so that your skin can recover, Dr. Zeichner says. "You can apply a moisturizer to help repair the skin barrier. I usually recommend Vaseline Essential Healing Lotion ($10), which forms a protective seal over the skin using triple purified petrolatum along with colloidal oatmeal," he says. You can also apply an over-the-counter, one-percent hydrocortisone cream, which can help with itchiness and redness—however, Dr. Zeichner notes that this shouldn't be used for longer than two weeks in a row.

If you don't see any improvement, go see a derm! While most watch rashes are caused by irritation, there are some cases where the person has a true allergy, Dr. Zeichner says, depending on the type of watch band or if you are sensitive to certain metals. "Allergy testing known as patch testing may be appropriate to determine whether you have a specific allergy," he says.

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