Studies show that healthcare workers have a much higher prevalence of dry skin and hand eczema than any other profession.
Cracked or tough skin can be uncomfortable and unsightly, and when it’s your hands it’s hard to hide. But fear not, the experts at Hello Skin are giving you the best advice and top tips on how to keep your hands looking and feeling soft and lovely.
As a healthcare provider, your hands are exposed to several stress factors that can trigger contact hand dermatitis.
There are two main types of hand dermatitis:
Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) is the most common form of dermatitis experienced by healthcare workers. As the name indicates this is caused by substances touching the skin.
Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) is a less common form of contact dermatitis. It can develop at any time in a your career and often happens after ICD has already affected your skin. It is not uncommon to find that you’ve suddenly developed an allergic reaction to chemicals you’ve used for years without any difficulties.
Some of the common symptoms you might experience are:
- Redness and dry skin
- Itching and scaling
- Blisters, bumps and cracks
Changing the habits you’ve build around your work doesn’t have to be hard. Small changes in your routine might just give your skin the daily relief it needs to rebuild and stay healthy.
But be advised: the hygiene protocols at your workplace should always be prioritised and consulted before you implement new actions in your daily regimen.
In the following, we go a bit more into the details of the irritants you deal with during a shift and how you can prevent and relieve symptoms of hand eczema.
We often think of gloves as a protective measure, but studies have showed that frequent use of gloves is actually one of the triggers causing very dry skin and dermatitis. Determining the exact cause between the link has been difficult, but there a few things to be aware of.
Frequent use, even for small periods of time, can cause skin irritation from friction. Exposing your skin to irritants such as rubber additives and glove powder can be very drying. If it’s possible with your hygiene protocols, try to avoid long exposure to gloves. This can cause clogging of the pores and overhydration, leaving the skin vulnerable to infections and bacteria.
When doing the majority of your day-to-day tasks, wearing gloves is unavoidable. But be sure to limit exposure and only use gloves when it’s really needed – your hands will thank you by the end of a long shift.
Incorporate skin-friendly hand hygiene measures
Over-exposure to water is a major trigger factor for dry skin and eczema. Studies show that nurses wash their hands up to 40 times during a single shift!
This daily exposure to both water and soap is very drying for the skin, and can cause damage to the skin’s’ natural barriers. It can also harm the re-generation mechanism of the skin barrier, as your hands do not have the time to heal before the next trigger exposure.
Over time, this repetitive exposure to the drying effects of soap and water could cause lasting damage to the skin’s barrier function. In the worst case, your dry skin or eczema might become chronic.
Luckily it’s relatively easy to resolve. Outside of your normal hospital hygiene protocols, try to only wash your hands when they are visibly soiled. Otherwise, go with an alternative such as a disinfectant moisturiser which is less drying for your skin.
When it is necessary to wash your hands, make sure the duration is no longer than it takes for your hands to be clean and rinse off any residual soap from the skin.
Get into a good skincare routine
Dry hands and hand eczema must be managed according to severity. Generally speaking, preventing and soothing dry hands and hand eczema can be done with the right skincare routine.
Moisturisers and creams have been proven to help support the skin’s’ natural barriers, aiding it in keeping in moisture while also protecting the skin from irritants, so try and incorporate regular use of a good moisturiser as part of your daily routine.
Moisturising products vary in consistency and effectiveness depending on their fat content. In general, the higher fat content a product has, the better it is to treat dry skin. As a rule of thumb, use ointments at night and creams or lotions during the day.
We suggest incorporating a moisturising product specifically designed for very dry skin, which are enriched with ingredients to support your skin’s natural regeneration process. Balneum Cream, for example, is enriched with both urea and ceramides, which are both essential for keeping the skin’s moisture at a healthy level.
Use the product after being exposed to a trigger factor and make sure to continue these routines once your shifts end in order to provide your skin’s natural properties with maximum support. This will help keeping your hands healthy, soft and moisturised and ready for a new day of work.
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Source: Textbook of Hand Eczema, A. Alikhan et.al Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014 p.185 – 195