What happens when you clean your hands too often?
"Excessive exposure to water can irritate your skin, we see this often in people who frequently have wet hands throughout the day, such as hairstylists. Add to that, a harsh soap or alcohol, and you increase the risk of dryness and hand eczema (aka hand dermatitis)," tells Dr. Heidi Goodarzi, California-based board-certified dermatologist and head of Juvive Women's and Pediatric Dermatology.
"The outer layer of our skin or the epidermis acts as a protective barrier from the outside while maintaining the natural moisture in the skin. The skin barrier can be impaired while scrubbing the hands with soap as it removes both unwanted oil and germs as well as natural oils in the skin," explains Dr. Katie Beleznay, a board-certified dermatologist in both the U.S. and Canada. "During winter months, with cold and less humid weather, dryness can be even worse," she adds.
How to tell if you have handwashing-induced dermatitis?
Anything that irritates your skin can cause hand dermatitis, be it harsh soap, hot water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. "Because they look similar, hand eczema can easily be mistaken for dry skin. However, unlike dry skin, hand eczema will not go away with just moisturizers," Dr. Goodarzi points out.
"Hand eczema can first present as dry, chapped skin, followed by patches of red, scaly, irritated, and inflamed skin," explains the skin specialist. "People may experience itching or burning on the area. In severe cases, hand eczema will lead to deep cracks, that may bleed, become painful or even get infected," adds Dr. Goodarzi.
Hand eczema is bad from November to March so you should anticipate it and can prevent it by generously moisturizing your skin, notes Dr. Ellen Marmur, board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare.
So, how can you keep your hands clean as well as healthy?
To keep your hands clean without wreaking havoc on your skin, follow these safe hand hygiene and hand care practices that dermatologists swear by:
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