Eczema: Care for Your Hands and Feet

Your hands and feet are prime targets for eczema triggers like dry winter air or hot summer days. And flares on your fingers and toes can be itchy and painful. So give these parts of you a little extra TLC.

Cut Back on Hand Washing

Wash your hands only when they're dirty or have germs, like after you use the bathroom. Each time you wash up, you rinse away some of the nourishing oils that your skin makes.

Also, be picky when you choose soaps, because some have harsh chemicals. Look for products that don’t use the word “soap” but instead say “mild cleansing bars” or “lipid-free cleansers.” These are gentler on sensitive skin.

Before you suds up, take off your rings -- they can trap irritants next to your skin. Rinse your hands with lukewarm water, then pat them dry and moisturize before you put your rings back on.

Love the Gloves -- for a Little While

Use protective, cotton-lined gloves when you’re doing housework or using cleansers and chemicals. Latex gloves can cause allergic reactions, so it’s best to avoid them. Don’t wear waterproof gloves for too long, though. They can make your hands sweat and lead to an itchy eczema flare-up.

Manage Cracks on Your Hands

If a flare-up makes the skin on your hands crack and bleed, try the “soak and smear” technique.

  • Soak your hands in lukewarm water for 5-10 minutes and then pat them dry.
  • Next, smear plain petroleum-based ointment all over your hands and put on cotton gloves. Glycerin-based ointments also help heal dry, cracked skin.
  • Wear the gloves for at least 30 minutes.

Do this twice a day. If it’s hard to do at work, make sure you moisturize often.

Dial Back the Shower Power

A long, hot shower may sound like your idea of heaven, but it's anything but paradise for your hands and feet. Instead take short, lukewarm showers each day or every other day to help prevent dry skin. Use mild, soap-free cleansers or body washes that have moisturizer.

After your shower, pat your skin dry. Apply a rich moisturizer while you’re still slightly damp. Look for cleansers and moisturizers that are “fragrance free” -- ingredients that give products a scent can trigger eczema flare-ups.

Save Your Soles

Are your feet often dry and itchy? Your socks may be to blame. Synthetic fabrics and wool can irritate your skin. For everyday wear, choose 100% cotton socks, preferably ones that have not been dyed. Also, change your socks a couple of times during the day if your feet sweat. Damp socks can make eczema worse.

For evenings and work attire, try silk stockings and cotton tights. Avoid spandex, which has dyes and chemicals that can bother your skin.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on June 02, 2020



Sejal Shah, MD, dermatologist, Schweiger Dermatology, New York City.

Robert Anolik, MD, dermatologist, Laser & Skin Surgery Center, New York City, and medical director for Beauty Bar.

EczemaNet: “Daily Skin Care Essential to Control Atopic Dermatitis.”

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