What causes dry, itchy skin? Many aspects of our daily routine, from household chores to practicing good hygiene, can cause our skin to break out into a rash. Our hands are especially susceptible to becoming irritated since they tend to see the most wear and tear, including a surprising source of irritation: hand washing.
Below is the full interview with Dr. Cheryl Lee Eberting about hand washing.
Q: What is hand eczema?
A: Hand eczema describes any kind of eczema breakout on your hands. It is typically characterized by itchy, dry areas of the skin that may become inflamed and eventually crack and bleed. Sometimes, your hands may even feel itchy and irritated before a rash or any other signs of irritation appears.
Hand eczema can affect anyone, but those who are prone to eczema breakouts elsewhere are more likely to experience it.
Q: Can washing my hands too often cause an eczema breakout?
A: Yes. In fact, any situation that causes you to frequently get your hands wet puts you at risk for an eczema breakout. Hand Washing, however, remains a major cause of hand eczema since good hygiene more or less dictates that we wash our hands frequently.
Washing your hands with soap literally removed the skin barrier-protecting lipids from the skin and increases the pH of the skin too. When the lipids are removed, the skin cannot hold on to water as effectively and the skin dries and and becomes itchy.
The water increases the pH of the skin for several hours and raises the pH of the skin. This decreases the skin’s ability to replace the missing skin lipids, and infection is more likely to be able to set in.
Q: How can I prevent a breakout?
A: Obviously, you can’t avoid washing your hands. Clean hands protect us and those we come into contact with from germs and illness, so a compromise must be found.
When it’s time to wash your hands, use lukewarm water and a mild, unscented soap. Blot your hands dry rather than rubbing them, and apply a skin barrier optimizing moisturizer as soon as possible.
Additionally, be sure to remove your rings before washing your hands as they can trap soap underneath them and the skin barrier can break down under your jewelry—and can become confused for an allergy to your jewelry and can induce further skin breakdown and irritation; this is kind of like a domino effect where one area breaks down and an inflammatory response is triggered leading to a very exuberant rash.
Q: Can hand eczema be treated?
A: Absolutely. Here are some tips:
- Every time you wash your hands, apply a skin barrier optimizing and preservative-free ointment. This will help to keep water IN the skin and to keep soap and water OUT Of the skin.
- Frequent use of the skin barrier optimizing moisturizers can help to improve the itching and flaking. In very severe cases, a prescription-strength steroid cream may be necessary to reduce swelling, itching, and inflammation. I like to compound the prescription steroids INTO the skin barrier optimizing ointment.
- Absolutely avoid the use of fragrances. Avoid touching/handing metal objects (many metals are VERY common allergens), and avoid harsh soaps. The antibacterial soaps contain a chemical called triclosan. Triclosan may be carcinogenic, it induces resistance to the bacteria in our environment, and it often causes an allergic reaction on the hands.
- Do not use products that contain fragrances or essential oils. Fragrance allergy is very often implicated in hand dermatitis and the essential oils have many of the allergenic chemicals that are also found to be allergenic in fragrance. Make sure to read labels carefully.
Washing your hands is imperative; however, avoid fragrances, antibacterial and harsh soaps. Moisturize every time you wash.
The TrueLipids Skin Barrier & Optimization Technology is specifically engineered to help the skin obtain its natural state of balance by addressing skin lipid deficiencies, skin pH, inflammation, cellular turnover and chemical sensitivities.
It is truly hypoallergenic, 99% vegan, and safe for all ages and skin types–even those who have the most allergy prone skin.
CherylLeeMD, is the eczema expert. For treatment of hand eczema or dry, cracked or chapped hands, purchase the TrueLipids Ultimate Eczema Kit. The combination of the three products will immediately begin to help your skin to become healthy again.