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Categories > Skin and Scalp Care > Treating skin problems

Getting the best of hand eczema
What causes eczema?
Treating the rash

Self-help for your hands
Self-help for your hands

If you have dry, chapped hands or eczema, follow the tips below to help your hands heal.

  • When your hands are in contact with water or household chemicals, wear cotton gloves under rubber gloves, or use vinyl gloves.
  • As much as you can, avoid washing dishes and clothes by hand.
  • Use warm water (not hot) and very little soap when washing your hands.
  • Dry your hands thoroughly after washing them.
  • When outdoors, wear unlined leather gloves to protect your hands from the cold.
  • Use an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream to speed healing of eczema, but only if you know the cause of the rash and are certain you’re no longer being exposed to that substance. Prolonged use of corticosteroids can damage skin, impair the function of your adrenal glands and cause a “steroid rash.”

After your face, your hands are your most visible feature. You use them, no doubt, to express yourself, to greet people and to comfort loved ones. If you’re like most people, you probably also use them to wash, scrub, buff and polish various parts of your house and the things in it. The latter can lead to a rash called hand eczema dermatitis.

Dry, chapped skin is the first sign that eczema may be on its way. Patches of red, scaly, inflamed skin, on the other hand, mean eczema has arrived.

What causes eczema?

The list of possible causes of the uncomfortable—and unsightly—rash is long. While it may be internally provoked by stress, for example, eczema is more commonly triggered by contact with an external irritant.

Common culprits include overexposure to water or dry air, chemicals in certain household cleaners, soaps, lotion, shampoos, hair and fur dyes and leather. Some people are allergic to nickel, which is used in watches and other jewelry.

Ironically, those who think they’re protecting themselves from hand eczema by wearing rubber gloves may in fact be provoking it: Rubber contains paraphenylenediamine, a chemical that has been identified as a culprit in this type of rash!

Although eczema isn’t dangerous to your health, the itching causes a great deal of discomfort. And scratching the affected areas only makes the condition worse by causing infection as well as the formation of blisters.

Treating the rash

Nonprescription hydrocortisone creams, a paste made of baking soda and water, or calamine lotion can offer relief. But preventing hand eczema is the best strategy of all. Your doctor can help you find out what’s causing the rash. He or she may recommend that you see a dermatologist to have a patch test, which will help determine what substances irritate your skin.