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When Hand Sanitiser Doesn’t Love You

Woman washing hands with antiseptic disinfectant. Beautiful drop of liquid antiseptic falling to the hand palm

Written by Philip Aumeer-Donovan

Posted 1st August 2021

Hand sanitiser is amazing stuff! It has always been an important element in infection control for those working in the healthcare industry. Our nurses, doctors and allied health practitioners (like podiatrists, physiotherapists and dentists) use hand sanitiser before and after seeing every patient to ensure that no nasties like bacteria and viruses are transmitted between patients.

More recently, hand sanitiser has also found widespread use in the general community as a staple in the fight against COVID-19 transmission. Even during lockdown when we aren’t going out very often, you can bet our essential workers are out there pumping the hand sanitiser numerous times a day.

But while we love hand sanitiser for the protection and peace of mind it gives us, hand sanitiser doesn’t always love us back! Frequent use of hand sanitiser can cause our skin to dry out and crack, causing a painful dermatitis that often does not get better with regular moisturisers.

So what can you do when you have to use hand sanitiser regularly, but it is causing the skin on your hands grief?

1. Change hand sanitiser

The active ingredient in hand sanitiser (the stuff that actually kills the germs) is usually an alcohol or a mixture of alcohols, most commonly ethanol or isopropanol (sometimes written isopropyl alcohol). The alcohol makes up about 60-75% of the hand sanitiser, with the rest being water and other additives, like perfumes or moisturisers.

More often than not, if you are having a reaction to the hand sanitiser, it is because of those additives rather than the alcohol itself.

If you are able to, swich up your hand sanitiser to one that contains fewer perfumes and additives.

If you work for a larger organisation such as a hospital, you may not have a choice but to use the product that is damaging your skin. Don’t worry though, there are other things you can do!

2. Reduce further damage

When you are not working, use your time at home to allow your skin to recover. Reduce exposure to things that will damage your skin further.

We want to avoid having our hands in water too much, or exposing the skin to irritants like detergents or other chemicals.

Try to wear gloves when doing activities that can harm your skin further, such as washing up or working in the garden.

3. Moisturise

We want to put the moisture back into dry, damaged skin so that it can repair itself.

It is difficult to recommend one particular moisturiser as people respond differently to different products. You need to find the one that works best for you – and it doesn’t have to be the most expensive cream on the market to do the job!

What you are looking for in a moisturiser is one that soaks in, doesn’t leave a greasy film, feels light and doesn’t have too many perfumes.

At Repairs Afoot, we like to use the Nutri-Synergy moisturisers NS7 for dry skin, and NS14 for extra dry skin. We stock these moisturisers at the clinics for your convenience if you would like to give this one a go.

Some other moisturisers we have had positive feedback on are:

    • QV Skin Lotion
    • Dermaveen Moisturising Lotion
    • Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion

This is not an exhaustive list and we aren’t advocating any particular brand – you should find the product that works for you.

4. Barrier creams or sprays

If you must use hand sanitiser a lot, you can apply a barrier cream or spray to your hands before starting a work shift.

These products are designed to provide a protective layer over your skin that acts as a physical obstacle to stop irritants getting in, and stop moisture getting out.

Some suggestions for hand barrier products are:

    • Natralus Hand & Skin Shield Liquid Gloves
    • Jaderma Fragile Skin Barrier Cream

Repairs Afoot use the Excilor Protector Spray 3-in-1, and we stock this product at the clinics for your convenience if you would like to give this one a go. This product was designed for people who work in wet environments to use as a barrier on their feet (to prevent warts, fungal infections and bacterial infections), but it can also be used on the hands for up to 8 hours of protection in water. Please note – with frequent use of hand sanitisers you might find you need to apply the barrier spray more often to maintain protection.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list and we aren’t advocating any particular brand – you should find the product that works for you.

5. See your GP or Dermatologist

If these suggestions are still not helping, your GP or Dermatologist will be able to conduct further investigations on the cause of your skin irritation. They will also be able to suggest over-the-counter or prescribed medications or medicated creams depending on your needs.

Stay safe out there everyone!

If you have any questions, please give us a call, email us, or send us a message – we’ll be happy to chat with you to discuss your needs.

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