Increased hand washing during COVID-19 pandemic creating skin issues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hand washing, sanitizing and cleaning. It's become a routine for most of us as we try to protect ourselves and our families from coronavirus. But in some cases, the increased cleaning is creating some unintended consequences for our skin.

Temia Lofton is a natural hairstylist at Healthy Hair Therapy in Fleming Island.

Prior to her salon temporarily closing under the Florida governor’s executive order, Lofton, like many others, ramped up cleaning to protect herself and clients against COVID-19. Lofton spoke to Action News Jax Anchor Tenikka Hughes via Zoom.

Holding up her hand during the chat, Lofton said, “My hand was discolored and from here to here. It was just black and it was irritated, anything that I put on it, it felt like it burning and if you look closely and if you looked closely it looked like my skin was cracking.”

Lofton was diagnosed with eczema years ago but says she hadn’t had a flare up like this.

“I may have had to deal with a spot or two but the way that my hand was so irritated just from dealing with all the chemicals and disinfectants from trying to clean my salon,” Lofton said.

In the last few weeks, Mayo Clinic Dermatologist Dr. Olayemi Sokumbi told Hughes that she’s had an increase in calls from patients dealing with hand dermatitis, commonly known as hand eczema. Dr. Sokumbi said, The skin has a top layer that prevents outside material from coming in and hurting the skin. And what we’re doing with our frequent handwashing -- which we should all be doing and I’ll keep reiterating that -- but we’re stripping the skin of his natural oils.”

Dr. Sokumbi said, “We refer to it as an irritant contact dermatitis and that just means the skin gets red gets flaky gets dry for some people it can get bad with them actually getting cracks and fissures on their hands.”The doctor says after she cleans her hands, she moisturizes them immediately.

“Every time I wash my hands or use hand sanitizer, I always carry a hand cream. So what I’m doing is every time I strip the oils, I replace the oils,” said Dr. Sokumbi.

Lofton said she saw improvement after using a special balm she created for her clients who suffer from with eczema and psoriasis on the scalp. Lofton said, “I would put a dab on and rub it in there. I noticed that it was easing it, then I continued to do it.”Dr. Sokumbi says you may have irritated skin or you could be having an allergic reaction – so it’s important to let a doctor take a look to determine the best treatment.

Here are the key things Dr. Sokumbi said you need to know:

  • Keep washing your hands, but use mild, gentle soaps. Avoid harsh soaps or ones with heavy fragrance. Dr. Sokumbi says this is especially important for your children.
  • Immediately after you wash or sanitize your hands - apply moisturizer.
  • If your skin is red, flaky, cracked, itchy or you notice a rash or signs of infection- you should make an appointment with a dermatologist.