Are you ready for your “handy” tips? Did you catch my little pun? I thought it was fun – agh, now I’ve rhymed too. Ok, enough joking around, it’s time for these essential hand eczema tips that are hands down….oops. Ok, I’m done. Here we go, on to what you came for.
According to the National Eczema Association, hand eczema affects close to 10% of the U.S. population. It is most often trigged by contact allergens (especially if you work with chemicals and other irritants), but also environmental allergies and food allergies or sensitivities. Similarly to all forms of atopic dermatitis, hand dermatitis can cause both itching and redness along with cracked skin and sometimes blisters.
Regardless of which type of hand eczema you suffer from, it’s important to keep skin under control and protected as to not cause infection.
So, how can you control your hands’ eczema?
To first understand eczema flare-ups, it’s important to think about what can trigger it. You might not realize it, but grooming products that you use on hair and skin as well as household cleaning products can trigger a flare-up due to the chemicals used or if they contain an ingredient you may be allergic to. For example, shampoos, soaps, laundry detergents and surface cleaners can cause your skin to react. You may even react to metals like nickel, which is found in rings either alone or as a filler in white gold! Read Jennifer’s story about her nickel allergy and how she thought she was allergic to her wedding ring.
Food is often a trigger for people, but the specific offending food varies from person to person. Many times the top most common food allergens are a good place to start with eggs, dairy and gluten a leading cause of eczema on hands.
To really know whether a skincare product or home cleaning product is causing your outbreaks in the form of contact dermatitis, it’s best to conduct an elimination test to really get to the source of your flare-up. The best thing to do is move to all vinegar and water cleaning products, as you can’t get much more simple than that and if you make them yourself, it’s both easy and super inexpensive. Vinegar cleans really well and has so many uses around the home. If you don’t like the idea of vinegar and water for your laundry routine, I suggest giving the Smart Klean Laundry Ball a try. There are no added ingredients, just minerals to wash away dirt and grime. Commercial stain remover are loaded with harsh chemicals that can trigger contact dermatitis. A good alternative is the Smart Klean Natural Stain Remover, which has very limited ingredients, all of which are natural, and is a much safer and a gentler version of commercial stain removers.
If you’re experiencing irritation from every day skin and body care products like soaps or shampoos, you might want to take a look at more natural alternatives. In general, products that use as few ingredients as possible are the best bet. This way, if you do react to a product, you’ll easily be able to determine the offending ingredient when it contains only 6 instead of 20+ ingredients. In terms of hand soap, you cannot get more natural than grass fed tallow soap, which contains only 3 ingredients and is free of artificial colors and fragrances. Tallow soap is famously fatty and moisturizing and will keep your hands clean without stripping skin. It can also double as a shampoo for short hair, but if you find it’s too moisturizing or you prefer a liquid soap, Emily Skin Soothers also makes a natural body wash for eczema that doubles as a shampoo for scalp eczema or seborrheic dermatitis.
If you’ve tried all of the above and you’re stilling seeing flare-ups on your hands, it’s time to look at food and determine if it may be a trigger for you. The best way to do this is to carry out an elimination diet under a physician, dietitian or nutritionist’s care, so that you can start removing certain foods from your diet to determine which may be causing the most harm. Not sure how to get started on an elimination diet? Check out our post: Our Eczema Elimination Diet Success (How You Can Do It Too!)
Another type of trigger for eczema on fingers and hands can be from seasonal allergens found in pollen and environmental allergens like dust mites, mold and dander from pets. Although these are much more difficult to eliminate, there are natural remedies that can help alleviate your allergy symptoms. Check out our post: Top Natural Remedies for Allergies for some great ideas.
Change Your Hand Washing Routine
Although natural soaps have less ingredients and some are much more fatty and moisturizing than others, soap is always more drying than washing just with water. So, whenever possible, skip the soap and rinse your hands with water and then pat dry. If you absolutely need soap, something simple like the tallow soap mentioned above is best, but always immediately follow with a good moisturizer. Switching to a natural soap is actually what really helped improve the eczema on my boyfriend’s hand. So I’m a big proponent of experimenting with different soaps.
If you’re experiencing dry, cracked skin or tiny blisters on your fingers and hands, you’re going to want to opt for a moisturizer that will keep your skin moist, and again has very few ingredients. Although there are several over the counter products you can use, as well as prescription creams, these are often filled with chemicals and common irritants. Thankfully, there has been much success with natural skin care too.
A favorite of ours is the Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream because it contains only 6 ingredients! And it can moisturize even the driest of skin and is great if you have itchy bumps on your fingers. This cream is extremely gentle and nourishing and won’t burn or sting your skin.
Protect With Gloves Day and Night
Because we use our hands all day long, it’s important to protect them from irritants as much as possible and there is no easier way to do this than to wear gloves. Although a moisturizer alone might work to keep the area moist and hydrated for a little while, wearing gloves at home over a moisturizer will lock in the moisture and help skin heal faster. If you have contact eczema (because of laundry or any other irritants), gloves will help keep your hands protected and prevent fewer flare-ups.
What are the best gloves for eczema? 100% cotton gloves can stretch out over time and lose their shape, but we have found two types of gloves we really love.
- Remedywear™ ADULT Gloves for Psoriasis and Eczema in soothing TENCEL and zinc fabric. And for little ones, try their KIDS Gloves for Eczema. They now make eczema mittens for toddlers and babies as well.
- Bamboo gloves – these gloves maintain their form and are cooling, an added bonus. Learn more about them here: bamboo eczema gloves for adults and in children’s sizes too.
For overnight use, apply a layer of moisturizer on clean skin and cover with gloves. Wearing gloves overnight on top of a layer of moisture is called “Dry Wrapping,” and it protects the skin from scratching and irritants AND covering the skin with moisture that’s locked in with the gloves will provide soothing and overnight healing. Want to know more about dry wrapping? Check out Our Eczema Trials: Dry Wrapping.
Wet Wrap Therapy
If you’re experiencing a severe case of hand dermatitis, you’ll want to take a look at wet wrap therapy. This process goes a step beyond dry wrapping. To wet wrap you apply a cream or balm and layer it with a soaked damp glove followed by a dry glove on top for a minimum of 2 hours. This type of therapy will keep the skin even more moisturized and will provide quick relief for even the most stubborn cases of eczema on fingers and hands because the damp layer will lock in moisture and allow it to penetrate the skin over a longer period of time before drying out. The Remedywear or bamboo gloves mentioned above work well for wet wrapping as well as dry wrapping.
Wet wrapping worked wondered for Jennifer’s son’s eczema. Read more about it here: Our Eczema Trials: Wet Wrap Therapy
Although having eczema on your hands can be both frustrating and irritating (literally), there are several products and therapies out there to provide relief. However, before treating the symptoms, it’s always important to know which underlying issue is causing the flare-up. This way you’ll be better prepared for flare-ups and perhaps eventually heal your hands all together!
What keeps your hand eczema under control? Share with us in the comments below!
Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.