Hand eczema and hand dermatitis are technical names for irritation of the skin and hands. Hand eczema a usually starts with red scaly patches on the back of the hands and in the web spaces between the fingers or on the palms. There may be redness under jewelry, especially rings. When the symptoms are caused by an allergy there may be small blisters on the skin, usually on the fingertips and the back of hands. Often the skin is very itchy or sore. Sometimes there are cracks in the skin, which can be painful and become thickened and leathery from scratching. Other conditions such as psoriasis and ringworm can mimic the appearance of hand eczema.
Anyone can get hand eczema at any time, but it is most likely to occur in people who are genetically pre-disposed, those who have wet-work jobs, those exposed to irritating or allergy-producing substances, and sometimes even in people who are under stress. Some people are more susceptible to developing hand eczema than others; for example, those with a personal or family history of allergy, hay fever, or asthma are prone to develop hand eczema.
The types of skin irritation nail technicians experience are most often caused by allergens and irritating chemicals and substances in nail salons can cause hand eczema? Water, for one. People who frequently have their hands in water are susceptible to hand eczema because water exposure, especially repeated wetting and drying, can be very damaging to the skin. Detergents in the water can further irritate skin.
Nail polish remover is another irritating substance found in nail salons. Even non-acetone formulas are very irritating when they come in contact with the skin. Regular skin contact with nail polish remover can cause nail technicians to develop eczema on the tips of their fingers.
Allergies to various chemicals and other substances found in salons are also a common cause of hand eczema in nail technicians. For example, nickel, a common metal used in many nail implements, frequently causes allergic reactions. The allergy manifests as allergic contact dermatitis (which looks exactly like hand eczema) on the nail technician’s hands.
Less commonly, toluene sulfonamide formaldehyde resin, a chemical found in many nail polishes, can cause an allergic reaction. It usually causes the nails to separate from the nail bed and a rash to develop around the client’s cuticle.
But perhaps the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis for both clients and nail technicians is acrylic liquid. Clients can experience redness and blisters around the nail and separation of the nail plate from the nail bed caused by acrylic liquid that doesn’t polymerize with powder. For nail technicians, symptoms can show up anywhere that the liquid touches the hands. Although gloves can help prevent nail technicians from developing symptoms, acrylic liquid sparingly and cautiously, not allowing it to come in contact with your or your client’s hands.
Some gloves themselves can cause an allergic reaction. For example, an allergy to latex can be a cause of hand eczema. In trying to avoid allergens and irritants, some people are inadvertently worsening the situation by wearing latex gloves.
How is hand eczema treated? The best way to treat it is to prevent outbreaks in the first place. To do this, avoid skin contact with chemicals and substances that are known causes of hand eczema (like those listed here). It is also helpful to keep your hands out of water as much as possible if you are prone to outbreaks of hand eczema. After washing your hands, dry them thoroughly. Wear heavy gloves with cotton liners to do dishes and housework. Using an emollient such as petroleum jelly can help prevent or minimize hand eczema symptoms. (While emollients help, avoid skin lotions that are watery or contain fragrances or other additives because they can worsen the problem.)
The primary medical treatment of hand eczema is a cortisone cream or ointment, which can help reduce the redness and irritation so the skin can heal. A cortisone ointment that is greasy is usually more effective than a water-based cortisone cream. Sometimes when there is an obvious bacterial infection, characterized by weeping or cracked skin, antibiotics are prescribed. In every severe cases, internal cortisone may be used; however, long-term treatment with cortisone is avoided because of the potential for adverse side effects.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.