Frequent handwashing leading to irritation?

Whether it’s a need to do chores involving water, due to one’s occupation, or just a habit, frequent handwashing can lead to irritated skin of the hands.  The hands become dry and stripped of their natural protective oils.  Irritant dermatitis is the name of the rash which often ensues from frequent handwashing — it is a type of rash that occurs as a result of direct physical, mechanical or chemical trauma from an outside culprit.  The most frequent culprit is handwashing.  Between the soap and the water, the damage is done.  Skin becomes dry and rough, and can become variable degrees of pink/red.

So how can you prevent irritated hands from frequent handwashing?

– First, if it’s not necessary, then don’t wash your hands.  This is not to mean that you should not wash your hands when they are dirty or soiled. You should!  Handwashing is important in preventing spread of germs.  However, if you find yourself excessively handwashing, figure out if you can cut back.

– Although hot water helps cleanse the hands more readily of microbes, they can also strip the skin’s oils more readily.  Depending on how germy your hands are, you may considering using lukewarm or cold water to wash as opposed to hot water.

– Limit the amount of time you are washing.  Do not wash for an excessively long time.

– Pat dry instead of rubbing dry.

– Follow up with a moisturizer.

– If all else fails, see a medical professional such as a dermatologist for help.  If your rash is particularly bad, prescription medicated creams or ointments may be helpful.

Top Tips to Keep your Skin Moisturized

from Wikimedia user Ser Amantio di Nicolao
from Wikimedia user Ser Amantio di Nicolao

The dry air is setting in and your skin is drying out!  Here are some top tips for keeping your skin hydrated.

1. Use a humidifier.  Re-create a more moist environment by infusing some water into the air.  Make sure to choose a humidifier that can capably humidify the size of your room.  For safety, choose a cool mist humidifier for your child’s room.

2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Increase your frequency of moisturization.  Moisturizers increase the water content in your skin and can prevent the water content from evaporating off your skin.  Find one that is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.  Hydrolatum, which is often behind the pharmacists’ counter, is one simple cost-effective moisturizing cream.

3. Keep sample sized/travel sized moisturizers at your desk, by your sink, and in your purse.  If you have it around, you’re more likely to use it.

4. Avoid harsh soaps.  Sure, that Irish Spring has a scent that will wake you up, but it will also strip your skin of its oils.  Find a gentler soap such as one that is infused with emollients.

5. Use lukewarm water and not hot water.  Although that hot water feels great when you are itchy or have a rash such as eczema, your skin is left in even worse shape than before!  Turn down the dial on the heat and also limit the amount of time you spend washing.  And remember to moisturize (#3) after your shower.

What is the best moisturizer to use for eczema?

Choose a fragrance-free hypo-allergeneic moisturizing cream or ointment.
Choose a fragrance-free hypo-allergeneic moisturizing cream or ointment.

Take a look at your local supermarket/pharmacy’s skin care section and you can easily get overwhelmed by the different moisturizer options.  There are many different brands, and formulations.  Creams, lotions, and ointments, oh my!

So what are some guidelines to follow when choosing a moisturizer for eczema?

Your moisturizer should be hypoallergenic.  The last thing you want is for your moisturizer to give you an allergic reaction on your skin.

  • Your moisturizer should be fragrance-free.  Fragrances are a leading cause of skin contact allergies.
  • Look for creams or ointments.  Your moisturizer should not be thin and watery.  It should be thick. Why? because then it can seal and lock in your skin’s moisture.  If your moisturizer is thin and watery, the water will evaporate off, leaving little protectant on your skin. Ointments are great, but some people don’t like the oily feel.

Here are some of my favorite moisturizers (and no! I have no conflicts of interest and am not paid by these companies!):

  • Vanicream moisturizing cream – This one is hypoallergenic and fragrance free and comes in a big tub.
  • Cerave moisturizing cream – This cream includes ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid which help protect the skin and seal in moisture.
  • Aveeno eczema therapy – The moisturizing cream contains colloidal oatmeal.  It is not as thick as the above creams, but many patients have found this to be a very pleasant cream
  • Vaniply ointment – I like how this one comes in a travel size which I can stick in my purse to moisturize my hands or lips on the go.
  • Aveeno healing ointment or Aquaphor healing ointment – I’ve also found this very handy for the hands or lips on the go.
  • Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream – This is slightly less greasy than other ointment but thicker than a cream.  It also comes in a size that is easy to throw in my purse or keep at the desk.  I frequently use this after washing my hands or when I don’t have a separate chap stick around.
  • Plain old Vaseline petroleum jelly – Inexpensive and a great sealant!  The skin will feel a little greasy afterwards, but it’s supposed to!

What are some of your favorite moisturizers? 

Want to learn about the proper way to apply moisturizer?  The answer is HERE.

Frequent handwashing and instant handsanitizers making your hands dry and itchy?

Hand SoapThe combination of dry weather and frequent handwashing or hand sanitizing can really wreak havoc on your skin.  For those of us in the healthcare profession, we’re cleansing our hands before and after seeing each patient in order to prevent the spread of germs from one patient to the next.  For those of us who do chores like dishwashing, laundry, cooking, and for those parents who are taking care of kids and pets, we have even more reason to be handwashing.

So what do you do about the dry, irritated, red, cracked skin that can result?

1) If you don’t need to be cleansing your hands, then don’t. This sounds silly, but excess water exposure will dry your skin out.  While it’s important to maintain good hand hygiene, if you don’t have a need to be washing your hands, then don’t.

2) Use lukewarm water instead of steaming hot water.  A pet peeve of mine are those automatic faucets which pipe out steaming hot water and there’s no way to change the temperature.

3) Pat dry instead of rubbing your skin dry.  You needn’t scrub away your skin after handwashing.

4) Follow up your handwashing with a moisturizer.  Being a dermatologist, I have little sample-sized hand moisturizers at my desk that I use after washing my hands and whenevermy hands feel dry. (Remember that episode of Grey’s Anatomy where they showed all the dermatologists moisturizing? Well, that’s not all that we do…!)

5) If you suspect you could be having an allergic or irritant reaction to your hand sanitizer, try a hypoallergenic one such as this one from VMV Hypoallergenics.  They added moisturizer to their hand sanitizer!

6) Wear gloves if you can to protect your skin while doing chores.  I like the really inexpensive clear plastic food handler’s gloves to lightweight chores.

What tips do you have for preventing dry irritated skin on your hands?

The kidney and your skin

Image from wikipedia user Sanjayach

The skin has been described as a window into internal disease. You can’t see your internal organs with your naked eye but the skin is available for examination.

The skin can reflect disease in virtually every organ system of your body. Kidney disease can be reflected on the skin in many ways. Here are some of the presentations of kidney disease on the skin:

1. Itch (pruritus) – Individuals with chronic kidney failure often experience itching. The itching can be quite difficult to treat and can affect all the skin. I’ve had patients tell me that it feels like the itch is coming from “deep within.” The itch can lead to scratching which leads to further itching, etc. (the itch-scratch cycle)

2. Dry skin (xerosis) – The skin can become dry and scaly and lead to itch in and of itself. Liberal use of moisturizers can help.

3. Dark, yellowing or pale skin – Kidney disease can be associated with darkening (hyperpigmentation) of the skin, yellowing of the skin (thought to be from carotenoids), or pale skin from low blood counts.

4. Nail changes – Lindsay’s half and half nails are described in patients with renal failure — the far half of the nail is pink or reddish while the half of the nail closer to the cuticle is white.

Other conditions such as calciphylaxis, perforating diseases (“perforating disorder of renal disease”) or calcinosis cutis are also related to kidney disease.

What’s the right way to use moisturizer?

Image from wikipedia user Serenity.

For those of us who suffer from dry skin, there’s always that feeling of playing catch-up. How can you stay ahead of hand washing, chores that abuse the skin, dry air, and instead prevent that fragile, dry, cracked skin?

Proper use of moisturizers is a key component of successful dry skin care.

Find a moisturizer that is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. A thicker moisturizing cream will be more effective than a watery lotion at sealing in moisture.

Moisturize immediately after washing your hands or chores involving water. Otherwise, the evaporation of that water on your skin can lad to more dryness.

If you’re at home or sleeping, you can wear a glove over your moisturized hands as well.