Hand Dermatitis

Dermatology A to Z


Hand Dermatitis

Hand dermatitis is common. It is also called hand eczema. Hand rashes usually result from a combination of 1) sensitive skin and 2) irritation or allergy from materials touched. Everyone’s hands routinely touch irritating soaps and detergents several times a day. Add the raw foods, solvents, paints, oils, greases, acids, glues, and so on that most of us touch at work or in the home, and you can see that the skin of your hands takes a beating.

Not everyone gets hand dermatitis. Many lucky individuals have “tough” skin, but, unfortunately, some individuals have skin that is easily damaged. The result is dermatitis. Individuals with hand dermatitis often have dermatitis elsewhere, and frequently blood relatives have hand dermatitis. We can’t toughen your skin, but we have effective treatment to heal your dermatitis.

Skin protection is an important part of treatment. Follow the instructions below carefully in order to protect your hands.

1. Protect your hand from direct contact with soaps, detergents, scouring powders, and similar irritating chemicals by wearing waterproof gloves. Heavy-duty vinyl gloves (such as Cyralon) are better than rubber gloves since you may become allergic to rubber. Heavy-duty gloves are usually available at paint and hardware stores. Buy four or five pair so they can be conveniently located in kitchen, bathroom and laundry areas. If a glove develops a hole in it, discard it. Wearing a glove with a hole is worse than wearing no gloves at all.

2. The waterproof, heavy-duty vinyl gloves may be lined or unlined. You should have enough waterproof gloves so that the insides of the gloves can dry between wearings. Cotton liners (available at paint or photography stores) may help.

3. Wear gloves while peeling and squeezing lemons, oranges, or grapefruit, peeling potatoes, and handling tomatoes and other juices.

4. Wear leather or heavy-duty fabric gloves when doing dry work and gardening. Dirty your gloves, not your hands. If you do house work for your family, scatter a dozen pairs of cheap cotton gloves or liners around your home and use them while doing dry housework. When they get dirty, put them in the washing machine. Wash your gloves, not your hands.

5. If you have an automatic dishwasher, use it as much as possible. If you don’t, let a member of your family do the dishes. Do your laundry by machine, not by hand.

6. Avoid direct contact with turpentine, paint thinner, paints and floor, furniture, metal and shoe polishes. They contain irritating solvents. When using them, wear heavy-duty waterproof gloves.

7. When washing your hands, use lukewarm water and a very little amount of mild soap. Rinse the soap off carefully and dry gently. All soaps are irritating. No soap is “gentle to your skin.”

8. Rings often worsen dermatitis by trapping irritating materials beneath them. Remove your rings when doing housework and before washing your hands.

9. Use only the prescribed medicines and lubricants. Do not use other lotions, creams, or medications- – they may irritate your skin.

10. Protect your hands for at least four months after your dermatitis has healed. It takes a long time for skin to recover, and unless you’re careful the dermatitis may recur.

There is no fast, “magic” treatment for hand dermatitis. Your skin must be given a rest from irritation. Follow these instructions carefully.


The most important part of your treatment is to apply a corticosteroid medicine to your hands as directed. Apply the medicine very thinly (medicine still visible after application is wasted) and apply frequently after washing. The medicine may be a cream, ointment or lotion. Use the steroid only on inflamed red areas, blisters, or abnormal areas.

Do not apply any cream, lotion or ointment to your hands except the ones prescribed or recommended by your doctor. One exception: If your skin is still too dry, you may apply plain white petrolatum (Vaseline) thinly after rubbing in your medicine. Other good preparations for dry chapped skin and hands include: Neutrogena Hand Cream, Aquaphor, Moisturel, Aveeno, CeraVe, Nivea, Lubriderm, and Vaseline dermatology formula. Avoid preparations with fragrances and exotic ingredients. Apply the preparation of your choice as frequently as necessary to keep your skin moist and supple.

When washing your hands, use lukewarm water and a very little mild soap. Rinse the soap off well and dry gently. Then apply a little hand cream or medicine and massage it in well. Medical soap substitutes may be used in place of soap.

Pamper and protect your hands by following the hand protection instructions.

If your rash doesn`t clear up, please return so we can re-evaluate your problem and current treatment.