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Mar 12, 2020

Can Washing Your Hands Too Much Cause Eczema?

Can Washing Your Hands Too Much Cause Eczema?

Could it be possible that washing your hands too much causes eczema?!

Well, there’s a definite, well-documented link between frequent hand washing and eczema flare-ups, as evidenced by a study that showed healthcare workers who washed their hands throughout the day had a higher incidence of hand eczema than those that didn’t.

The problem seems to be that hot water + soap x frequency = very sore skin.

The water and soap combine to wash away germs, but also bind with the skin’s natural oils and wash them away too, leaving skin vulnerable to dehydration, as well as irritated from allergens such as perfumes and colours in the soap.

If you’re prone to eczema then that’s a big problem, as any further damage to the skin’s barrier function leaves the skin vulnerable to flare-ups. Irritants penetrating the skin can trigger an immune system response and lead to histamine release, and then to itching and swelling. It’s a difficult cycle to break, especially if you’re required to wash your hands frequently throughout the day.

It’s important to realise that hand washing doesn’t cause atopic eczema as such, as eczema is a hereditary, life-long condition. If you’re prone to atopic eczema, frequent hand washing can cause soreness and flare-ups because, as an eczema-sufferer, your skin barrier function is already impaired.

If you’re experiencing eczema for the first time because you’re washing your hands frequently, then it’s likely that something - most probably ingredients in the soap you’re using - is triggering is a case of irritant contact dermatitis. If that’s the case, then you need to identify the culprit and change your routine:

  • Swap out your soap for a milder cleanser
  • Ditch the scented toiletries
  • Wash with lukewarm not piping hot water
  • Dry your hands to just-slightly-damp with a soft paper towel
  • Use oil-based ointments or balms rather than water-based creams
  • Apply a moisturiser immediately after washing every time
  • Moisturise again throughout the day!
  • In severe cases, apply balm under thin cotton gloves and leave on overnight

Important Note

If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.

If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.

Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.

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