Natural ways to soothe eczema on your hands
The hands are a common, and inconvenient, place for dry skin conditions to occur. Hand dermatitis (also known as hand eczema) is thought to affect around 1 in 20 people, and is thought to be most common in working-age adults.
If you had eczema as a child, or you work in a job where frequent hand-washing is required (or hand contact with irritants), then you might be more likely to develop hand eczema as an adult.
Common types of hand eczema
Hand eczema can have a range of different triggers, or none at all.
Contact dermatitis can occur when skin comes into contact with an allergen or an irritant substance, such as a chemical like detergent. Frequent hand-washing with soap or repeated use of antibacterial gels can trigger irritant contact dermatitis, weakening the skin’s natural protective barrier.
Allergic contact dermatitis can occur when your skin comes into contact with a substance you have become sensitised to, for example latex, topical steroids or nickel. Your immune system causes the reaction in your skin.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, and mainly (but not exclusively) affects children. The cause of this is largely unknown, but it’s common in people who have other allergies, like asthma or hay fever. The same triggers that can spark irritant and allergic dermatitis can play a part in atopic eczema. Food allergies and stress can also be linked to flare-ups.
What are the symptoms of hand eczema?
Extremely dry skin is the tell-tale sign of eczema. Your skin might look scaly, cracked or flaky, and feel itchy and hot. If you’re not sure that what you’re experiencing is eczema, then it’s always best to visit your GP before trying to treat it yourself. There are other conditions, like psoriasis, ringworm, bacterial and fungal infections, which can appear similar to eczema but need to be treated differently.
How can I manage my condition?
Eczema can be difficult to control, wherever it occurs on the body, but there are ways you can help to minimise the symptoms and feel more comfortable. Try these top tips for relieving hand eczema:
- It sounds obvious, but a good emollient or ointment cream is key to locking in hydration and preventing skin from cracking. We find that most people tolerate fragrance-free, natural or organic products best, but some people with very sensitive skin can react to natural essential oils so it’s always best to patch test first.
- Check the ingredients of your regular hand wash or hand soap – both those that you use at home and at work. Your regular soap may simply be too drying for your skin, or contain irritating ingredients. Try switching to a moisturising formulation based around natural, gentle ingredients. Wash your hands with lukewarm water – very hot water can dry out your skin. Make sure you dry your hands very thoroughly after washing, too, as leaving hands damp can encourage moisture loss.
- If chlorine is an eczema trigger for you, a water filter system which covers your whole house or bath dechlorinator in your washing water may help to reduce your exposure to the irritant.
- If you work in an environment such as a hospital or kitchen and need to use alcohol gel very regularly, be sure to apply your emollient cream straight after use.
- If you wear rings or jewellery on your hands, then remove them when washing, drying your hands and doing housework. Irritants and allergens can get trapped underneath them.
- Gloves are ideal for protecting dry hands from external irritants. Our cotton gloves for eczema can be worn on their own or underneath rubber gloves. They’re ideal for use during any activity that may expose your hands to irritants, for example washing-up, laundry, cookery or painting. They can also be worn on top of a thick layer of emollient cream at night when your hands need an additional moisture boost. Also available in children’s sizes, they’re perfect for protecting little hands when playing in sandpits or doing arts and crafts.
- If your eczema is very bothersome, don’t be scared to visit your GP. They might prescribe you steroid creams or medicated ointments. In extreme cases your doctor may prescribe steroid tablets or immunosuppressants.
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 source: the British Association of Dermatologists
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