Keeping Good Hand Hygiene with Eczema



by Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist

The cold and flu season along with this Coronavirus (WARS) has us all religiously washing our hands - hopefully! Because the Coronavirus is spread through bodily fluid. An infected person’s bodily fluid can enter through our eyes, nose, mouth and so it is extremely important for us to be keeping our hands sanitized and our face protected. 

The average person touches their face up to 3000 times per day. So particularly during influenza and in this Coronavirus (WARS) epidemic, washing your hands is one of the most important mechanisms to prevent infection. 

Soap, Water & Eczema

soap water, ezcema

But for those who already suffer from skin issues like eczema and dermatitis, washing hands with soap and disinfecting with alcohol can prove to be quite challenging. A study by the American Academy of Dermatology showed that, in clinical settings, ‘hand dermatitis can not only lead to increased risk of infection for the sufferer, but to reduced compliance with hand washing guidelines, increasing the spread of pathogens’. What’s interesting is that they correlated this to not only contact with soaps but particularly to frequent contact with water.

Frequent hand washing removes natural oils on our skin that can protect our skin and keep it from cracking. A study published in the Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology Journal had found that sanitizing with alcohol was less irritating to the skin than washing with soap, though I must add that alcohol can still sting already compromised hands. Also washing your hands with soap is still the best way to clean well.

Healthy pH level for your skin

ph value

There are theories that people with eczema have elevated skin pH levels. A healthy skin that can regenerate should have a natural pH level under 5.0. Water and many soaps can increase our pH level of our skin. This inhibits our skin barrier to function properly and moisture escapes while allowing irritants in, creating inflammation seen in eczema and dermatitis. Our skin’s acidity levels is also related to our skin’s microbiota, yes there is good bacteria living on our skin that protects us, so changes in our skin microbiota can also weaken our guard against bad bacteria.

What can you do to keep hand hygiene with eczema?

1. Use antibacterial gels instead of hand washing when appropriate. Incidences that are not appropriate is when hands are clearly soiled and need washing with soap and water.

2. After washing or use of alcohol gels apply an anti-inflammatory cream that has both oil and water like Kneipp’s Evening Primrose Intensive Balm with Urea.

3. Balance your pH level of your skin by applying apple cider vinegar (ACV) hand mask as often as you can. Simply soak a few cotton pads in ACV and place on the affected areas. Once dry, pat dry and apply an anti-inflammatory cream. 

4. Take probiotics to increase and boost your immune system as skin microbiota may be compromised. 

5. For those wanting a more gentler hand wash you can opt for bar soaps which have fewer ingredients and pH balanced. I like Cattier’s bar soaps with clay. The fewer the ingredients the gentler it will be on your skin. I know you probably have the same question as I do though. 

Is it effective?

Well, Elaine Larson, associate dean for research and professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s School of Nursing, thinks so. Her study comparing bar soaps versus regular hand gels, found that ‘Bar soap is good at mechanically removing germs that are transiently on your hands’ stressing that soap and water don’t kill germs, but it is the mechanics of the two together that does the job. 

In the case of the Coronavirus for eczema sufferers, you can opt to : 
  • disinfect with alcohol gels more regularly than hand washing
  • follow up with an anti-inflammatory cream like this Evening Primrose Cream with Urea
  • wash hands with gentler soaps like this bar soap with clay
  • make apple cider vinegar (link to product page) hand masks few times a week to balance out skin pH levels
  • consider taking a probiotic or increasing your dose


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