Hand dermatitis and hand rashes are due to a variety of causes including: over exposure to water, friction, dry air, soaps, detergents, solvents, cleaning agents, personal care products, and chemicals used in the work place. There are many types of hand dermatitis including irritant hand dermatitis, atopic hand dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, frictional hand dermatitis and Dyshidrotic hand dermatitis. Once the skin becomes red and dry, even so called “harmless” things like water from frequent hand washing, can be irritating, rather than soothing.
Good Hand Care Tips
Take rings off your fingers when washing your hands. Trapped soap and moisture underneath jewelry can cause irritation. Use lukewarm water and rinse hands thoroughly after washing with soap.
Avoid detergents, perfumed soaps, harsh soaps, and deodorant soaps. When these products are used excessively, they can cause more dryness by reducing the natural oils in your skin. Instead, you might try soaps that contain moisturizers such as CeraVe, Cetaphil and Vanicream. Whenever possible wash with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser or Aquanil Cleanser in place of water. These products are designed for use on sensitive skin and are soap and lipid-free. They do not need to be washed off with water! When drying your hands, blot dry with a towel.
Apply a Greasy Moisturizer
While your skin is still damp the moisturizer will penetrate better. Use products such as plain Vaseline petroleum jelly, CeraVe, Cetaphil cream or Vanicream.
Creams, Lotions, & Moisturizers
The rule of thumb for moisturizers is the greasier the product, the better. Cream-based moisturizers should be applied immediately after hand washing, bathing, and removing gloves. One of the best products you can use is an ointment-based product such as white petrolatum jelly (Vaseline). In addition, night-time use of white petrolatum jelly applied to the hands, then covered with cotton gloves, can significantly help reduce any dryness and/or irritation.
Lotion-based products are the least effective. Lotions evaporate off the skin, as opposed to “rubbing-in”. The evaporation from the water in a lotion may cause more drying of the skin over time. Many lotions have up to 80% water as their main ingredient.
Gloves are very helpful in protecting your hands from exposure to irritating chemicals and water. However, if you wear the gloves for extended periods of time your hands may sweat, and this sweating may worsen hand dermatitis or hand eczema.
Many people think that they are allergic to latex when their hands break out from glove use. But often the rash from gloves is an irritation from wetting and drying inside the glove and not a true allergy. Allergy to latex is very serious and can lead to a life threatening condition called anaphylaxis. Allergic contact dermatitis to gloves presents as a rash on the top of the hands that is itchy and weepy and lasts for days to weeks. Allergic contact dermatitis to gloves is often due to one of the chemicals used to process both latex and nitrile or synthetic gloves. Patch testing helps sort this problem out.
Recommendations for Glove Use
- Wear a glove that is allergen free: N-Dex Free Nitrile Glove or N-Dex Nighthawk Nitrile Glove.
- Purchase Rx and OTC Products Online
- Avoid powdered and latex gloves.
- Wear a cotton liner inside the rubber glove. (Allerderm.com)
- Wear the N-Dex glove, vinyl gloves or plastic gloves when washing dishes, folding laundry (the fabric soaks moisture out of hands), peeling vegetables, or when handling citrus fruits or tomatoes.
- Keep several pairs of cotton-gloves at home for use in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry area. Use cotton gloves for non-wet housework and gardening too.
- Always replace cotton, plastic or vinyl gloves when they develop holes.
- Dry the cotton-gloves out between uses. Change them if they become wet on the inside.
- Wear the cotton gloves, with a thin pair of vinyl or plastic gloves over the cotton gloves, to repel water.
- Moisturize hands with a greasy moisturizer after removing the cotton gloves.
Other Recommendations for Hand Dermatitis Care
- During winter months, protect your hands from the cold, dry air. Wear winter gloves when outdoors, or at least keep your hands in your pockets to prevent exposure to the cold and wind.
- Do not wear rings on your fingers while doing housework.
- Do not peel, press, or slice oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tomatoes or onions with bare hands.
- Avoid contact with solvents and stain removers, as well as cleaning products, when working with metals, floors, cars, glass, and furniture.
- Wear waterproof gloves with cotton liners inside when gardening.
- Do not pick the loose dry skin on your hands. Those loose ends are best clipped off with a small nail clipper or scissors. Each time the skin is picked or peeled away the healing process starts all over.
- If dry skin does not respond to self-care measures, discussing other treatments with your doctor is always an option.