Keeping small hands with sensitive skin clean and hygienic whilst avoiding irritated skin can be challenging.
The coronavirus pandemic has made hand washing more important than ever. Most of us have found ourselves washing our own and our children’s hands far more frequently than we normally would.
Even those without skin conditions have found the frequent hand washing and use of harsh alcohol sanitisers has taken its toll on the skin on their hands, drying it out and sometimes even causing it to crack painfully.
If your child suffers from eczema, then you may have found it particularly challenging to find a balance between keeping their hands clean and preventing their skin from becoming dry and causing an eczema break out.
In this article you will find out the best handwashing products and tips for washing your child’s hands to keep them both clean and comfortable.
Hand washing and eczema
Washing children’s hands with soap kills harmful bacteria, germs, and viruses to keep them healthy and safe, something that is particularly important during the covid-19 pandemic. If your child has eczema, care must be taken when washing their hands to moisturise the skin thoroughly afterwards and choose your cleansing products carefully.
Another benefit of washing your child’s hands regularly is to help remove allergens, chemicals, or other substances that may exacerbate their eczema.
However, many soaps can strip the skin of its natural oils and protective barrier, causing it to become dry, irritated, and sore, and exacerbating the symptoms of eczema. If you have a child with eczema, it’s particularly important to explain to them the importance of keeping their hands clean and following a hand washing routine that avoids irritants and will keep their skin moisturised.
Hand washing tips for children with eczema
Following the gentle routine and using the tips below may help to keep your child’s hands clean without causing their eczema to flare up.
- Choose a gentle soap with a low pH and avoid harsh or fragranced soaps.
- Use warm water, not hot or cold.
- Avoid alcohol sanitisers unless this is the only option available.
- Avoid hot hand dryers.
- Dry hands gently, don’t rub vigorously.
- Using a microfibre towel can be extra gentle for a child’s delicate skin.
- Leave hands very slightly damp for moisturising.
- Apply a moisturiser immediately after drying.
- Apply moisturiser to hands that are still very slightly damp to lock in moisture.
- Choose a thicker emollient cream or ointment rather than a lotion.
- Apply lots of emollient to the hands at bedtime and cover with scratch mitts to seal in moisture.
- Carry a suitable gentle soap and moisturiser with you for your child to use when you’re out and about.
If frequent hand washing is causing eczema on your child’s hands to flare up, consider increasing the use of a steroid cream on the area. Using steroid creams when necessary can help to bring a flare up under control quickly and prevent it from worsening to the point where you may require a stronger steroid cream.
Different types of hand cleansers for children with eczema
With so many different soaps available to choose from, it’s important to be informed about what makes a product suitable for a child with eczema.
The best kinds of soaps for children with eczema tend to be those with gentle, moisturising ingredients and a low pH. Liquid soaps tend to have a lower pH than bars of soap, while foaming soaps often contain ingredients that can cause an eczema flare up.
When choosing a soap, look for brands designed specifically for children with dry or sensitive skin, like Child’s Farm and Faith in Nature.
Hard soaps – Many popular brands of hard soap have a high pH level and can be very drying on the skin. However, soap bars that are designed for sensitive skin like Vanicream and Avene will generally have a much lower pH. Transparent glycerine soap bars are also effective at injecting some moisture back into the skin.
Liquid soaps – While liquid soaps usually have a lower pH, they are often guilty of containing harsh ingredients. When choosing a liquid soap, avoid those that contain sodium laureth sulphate (SLS), parabens, or methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI).
Foaming soaps – Foaming soaps are usually best avoided if your child suffers from eczema as they usually contain both SLS and alcohol, both of which can irritate and dry out the skin causing an eczema flare up.
Hand sanitisers – hand sanitisers are extremely drying and are best avoided where possible. To effectively kill germs, hand sanitisers usually contain at least 60% alcohol, which is left to dry onto the skin. This can leave skin feeling very dry and chapped, if skin on the hands is already broken then it will also really sting on application.
To summarise, children with eczema are best using either a bar of soap or a liquid soap. When selecting a suitable soap, look for products with the following features:
- Designed for children with dry or sensitive skin.
- Low pH.
- No preservatives.
- No fragrances.
- Contains gentle moisturising ingredients like glycerine and aloe vera.
- No sodium laureth sulphate (SLS).
- No parabens.
Hand washing and Covid-19
The medical advice from the NHS is to wash your hands regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds at a time to protect against covid-19.
According to a Harvard article, soap is effective at beating coronavirus because it can dissolve lipids, allowing it to break down the outer envelope of the coronavirus. It also loosens the grip between the virus and the skin.
If you have been in the habit of washing your child’s hands using an emollient or other soap substitute, then this will not be effective at killing the covid-19 virus. It’s important to first use a proper soap to wash hands, and then apply the emollient afterwards to restore the skin’s moisture.