Hand eczema cases have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hand eczema is a chronic condition that is difficult to treat. With the pandemic, hand washing, the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, is crucial for daily life. However, constant hand washing may exacerbate symptoms and eczema flare-ups for those with eczema on hands and puts healthcare workers at a higher risk. Eczema is caused by a defect in the skin barrier along with inflammation of the skin. Since the skin barrier for eczema sufferers is defective, the skin is even more susceptible to skin irritants which is why finding a gentle hand wash is crucial.
With eczema skin being more irritable, it is crucial for individuals to be aware of eczema triggers that could cause an outbreak and what to look for in eczema-prone hand washes. A common ingredient used in over 90% of hand washes is sodium lauryl sulfate. It creates heavy foams but may lead to intense dry itchy skin. It is a harsh synthetic detergent that corrodes the surface it comes into contact with in order to clean, stripping the skin of natural oils, causing dry skin, irritation and allergic reactions.
Methylisothiazolinone is highly used in washes, detergent, skincare products as preservatives. It leads to skin sensitization and could worsen existing skin conditions. It is a known skin irritant in high concentrations, and in response, the United States, along with many other countries, have restricted the concentration level allowed in products.
Fortunately, there are natural remedies for eczema and ways to let your hands be eczema free while still being safe and hygienic during the pandemic. After you wash your hands with a hand wash for eczema, dry your hands fully by patting, not rubbing. Rubbing could also cause bacteria to be transferred and leave moisture between fingers causing further irritation. After drying or sanitizing your hands, use adequate moisturizer that also does not contain skin irritants. Bring your own sanitizing and moisturizing products out with you. Even those without eczema may find that alcohol-based sanitizers and harsh soaps can cause irritation by drying out the hands. Lastly, use gloves when needed. If you are using strong cleaning products or even preparing food, wear gloves to keep the skin barrier intact.