Extra handwashing raising the risk of eczema

It would seem some if media reports and articles are to be believed there is a rise in eczema due to handwashing. In fact for quite a long time now we have written often regarding hand hygiene when we talk about the risk of inflaming eczema or causing dry skin by using incorrect products or not using correctly the right ones.

Since the Scottish schools have returned, we are seeing more and more cases of eczema and reports of red and irritated skin in children.  This is hardly surprising as the current pandemic creates the perfect storm for eczema sufferers.  And it’s not just children, we also hear reports from adults, especially those working in the care setting where rigorous hand washing is essential.

Handwashing in itself is not really a problem.  However, depending on the products (and the processes) these increased actions can add up to cause minor issues such as eczema and other painful and unsightly rashes.

Soap and Handwashing

Soap has become a valuable commodity.  Prices have increased as have demands and standards.  Many organisations are specifying anti-bacterial soap instead of normal soap.  This often can mean the soap itself is more “aggressive” (but not any more effective).  It has also made it more difficult to source soap and as businesses have struggled to find the usual supplies have often had to resort to ‘what is available’.

Another key factor with soap is that most manufacturers want you to use as much as possible (obviously!).  Liquid soaps can dispense as much as 5ml per dose.  Foaming or spray soaps use approximately 0.3-0.5ml of soap per dose, even though it looks more.  The foam is easier to spread on the skin and, most importantly, easier to wash off!  This is critical for those with sensitive skin or dry skin.

Hand Drying

This is another major issue.  Hand drying is part of the hygiene process and not the most critical part (in our opinion).  Whether you use hand dryers or paper towels (there are pros and cons to both) it is important that you have washed ALL the soap off before drying them.  Leaving traces of soap not only increase risk of dry skin but also reduce the efficacy (in the long term) of any anti-bac agent being used in anti-bac soap).

Many public washrooms have disconnected hand dryers during the pandemic and supplied paper towels.  Paper towels are like microgrades of sandpaper – some are rougher than others but rule of thumb the cheaper the paper the rougher on the skin.

Finally, another feature is a lack of moisturisers being made available.  There is a misconception that moisturisers are an expensive luxury.  But commercial options (historically used in the engineering industry) are cost-effective and the reality is that moisturisers are used mostly by people who need them and not everyone.

If you want to reduce the risk of staff, especially in the care and health sector being affected through handwashing with sore and unsightly hands and worried about the risk of developing eczema, please do get in touch.  We can advise and look at cost-effective solutions with you.