Treating Eczema and Over-Washed Hands
Oct. 12, 2020
Are your hands feeling the effects of Covid-19? We wash and sanitize our hands so many times a day, you might be noticing that starting to reflect in your skin. This can be an absolute nightmare for those with eczema or people who are prone to dry hands. It’s so incredibly important that we stay clean and safe, but we don’t have to let our skin suffer!
I'm going to be talking about ways you can treat hand eczema from home. Keep in mind that something that helps eczema will likely help over-washed hands as well!
Eczema on the hands can present itself as dry, scaly skin, cracked skin (that may bleed), intense itchiness, redness, raw skin, blisters, bumps, or rough texture. You may experience a combination of symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and eczema has many forms.
Over-Washing causes dry, flaky, and sensitized skin ranging from mild-moderate. Excess washing strips vital oils from your skin and damages its barrier.
Please note that eczema and over-washing can present in many other ways. These are just examples.
AVOID ALLERGENS AND IRRITANTS
Allergies can cause our bodies to over-produce histamines, which can lead to flair-ups in conditions of the hands. Harsh chemicals, pollen, seasonal allergies, and irritating ingredients will worsen symptoms. If you’re sensitive to fragrance, use unscented hand soap and lotion, and treat your seasonal allergies over-the-counter or consult with your doctor. Avoid scratching your hands, as the constant friction will just make matters worse.
*Pro Tip: Note that whatever you use in your hair or on your face can linger on your hands well after applying. If you use scented hair products, wash your hands right after you use them. If you use chemical exfoliants on your face, DEFINITELY wash your hands after! Those traces of exfoliant will really irritate your hands over time.
*Pro Tip: Swap your regular laundry detergent for fragrance-free or sensitive formulas. If you're dealing with sensitized hands, the clothes you wear and touch every day could be adding to the irritation.
*Pro Tip: When drying your hands, use a microfiber or soft towel to pat dry, because harshly rubbing with a rough washcloth or paper towel will tear up and damage your skin even further.
COOL DOWN THE TEMPERATURE
I used to have eczema on my hands that would flair-up every winter. One thing that relieved some of the itchiness was washing with really, really hot water. What I didn’t know then is that hot water dries the skin, and actually contributes to the itchiness later. I was in a constant cycle of temporary relief while actually prolonging my symptoms. Since you’re washing your hands so often, opt for lukewarm water to reduce excess dryness. The same idea applies to your showers.
CHOOSE GENTLE HAND PRODUCTS
Washing your hands, sanitizing, and wearing gloves is irritating on its own, but using harsh, fragranced products just adds fuel to the flame. Most hand soaps contain Sodium Laureth Sulfates/Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and these should be avoided. Opt for gentle, dye-free, unscented hand soap, and follow up with unscented/dye-free hand lotion. As for hand sanitizer, being anti-bacterial is a necessity, but you can find sanitizers that are also formulated with skin-nourishing ingredients. It's pretty difficult to find hand soap without fragrance and SLS. I found a few though, and also a hand sanitizer that will be less aggravating.
Things to avoid:
- Essential oils
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
Much less irritating than your typical hand soap.
If you're constantly on the go & a serial hand sanitizer user, this may be the one for you.
With dryness comes itchiness, and with itchiness comes cracked, sore skin. The best way to treat severe dryness from home is to moisturize after getting your hands wet EVERY TIME. Carry a hand cream with you everywhere you go, keep hand cream in your car, in your bathroom, and keep some by your nightside table so you don’t forget to apply it before bed!
Key ingredients to look for:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Fatty acids
- Shea butter
- Colloidal oatmeal
- Urea (not suitable for broken or cracked skin, but CAN work for rough texture/dryness)
I researched all of these thoroughly so you didn't have to. They all have good ingredients and should be suitable for hand eczema or over-washed hands.
*Pro Tip: I mentioned to avoid AHA's, but an AHA that CAN be used is Lactic acid. Studies have been done on the efficacy of lactic acid for eczema with positive results. A couple of drops of The Ordinary 5% Lactic acid + HA added into your hand cream is a cheap alternative to buying a Lactic acid-specific body lotion.
*Pro Tip: To avoid trans-epidermal water loss, be diligent in applying moisturizer RIGHT after you wash your hands. The longer you let your skin dry, the less effective the moisturizer will be.
I know a lot of us are already wearing gloves when we go out, but I’m talking about gloves to bed and around the house. Hear me out!
- When doing dishes/cleaning: Wear rubber gloves. Dish soap and cleaning chemicals are extremely stripping, especially on hands that are already compromised with eczema, or are over-washed. Waterproof gloves are the barrier between your hands and the provoking chemicals.
- Before bed: Applying lotion to your hands before bed is one of the best things you can do. Your body does a lot of regeneration at night, so this is the perfect time to treat your hands with a deep moisturizing cream.
*Pro Tip: After applying your hand cream, layer an occlusive like vaseline to lock the hydration in. Wear soft gloves to bed (one of my favorite methods) to encourage absorption, AND to protect your sheets/pillows from getting lotion all over them.
- When going out: Make sure to apply hand cream before leaving the house and wait for it to sink in before putting plastic gloves on. If you live somewhere that's getting colder, moisturizing and wearing warm gloves will help your eczema or sensitized hands. Machine washable ones, of course. Preventing cold air from reaching your hands will help your skin retain its moisture.
Our sweat is composed mainly of water and trace amounts of urea, salt, sugar, and ammonia. When wearing waterproof gloves, our hands can get a little sweaty. When sweat sits on your skin for prolonged periods of time, the salt and trace chemicals can irritate and draw hydration out of your hands. While it’s important to protect your hands from chemicals and bacteria, it’s also crucial to let your hands breathe every so often to reduce sweat from sitting too long. When you notice your hands becoming sweaty, take your gloves off and let them have some air.
VISIT A DERMATOLOGIST
Remember that eczema is a medical skin condition. If you suspect you have it, you likely need a dermatologist's diagnosis. All of my recommendations are for soothing irritation and potentially lessening the side effects. A doctor will be able to prescribe oral or topical medications that will likely be more proficient in treating your eczema.
As for over-washing, now is a better time than ever to find a good hand care routine. Next time you need soap and lotion, opt for gentle products so your skin can start to recover. After all, we are going to be washing our hands and sanitizing like crazy for a LONG TIME.