Hand Soap and an Eczema Debate

Most, if not all, of the hand soaps used in public places, such as restaurants, gyms, and workplaces are not helpful and downright harmful to those with eczema.  Bulk institutional soap such as this is made in large quantities with cheap ingredients.  (My gym has switched over to natural soap from J.R. Watkins, which still has irritants from citrus-derived oils, but is a step in the right direction).

I have had hand eczema off and on constantly over the course of my life – and I think a lot of aggravation and skin injury could be saved if I just didn’t have to use those bad soaps.  I get it around my wrist and most particularly on my right hand – specifically the middle finger and pinkie finger.   My left hand is usually okay (I AM right handed).  It also gets worse in the winter due to the dry and cold conditions.

Much of the time, it isn’t outrageously horrible, but I’m used to it by now.  No one is going to ask me to be a hand model any time soon, but no one has recoiled in horror at my cracked and dry knuckles.

When I was at home over the holiday, only using my own Dove Sensitive bar soap to wash my hands, my hand eczema got better, and I didn’t even really notice since it was such a gradual thing.  Yesterday back at work, I noticed by the afternoon that the problem areas on my hands were getting red, dry, cracked, and irritated.

Now I had asked the cleaning staff company for the soap ingredients in the past, because I wanted to make sure it did not have any aloe vera, a common ingredient in soaps and one that I myself was using in hand soap before I discovered I am allergic to it.  No aloe vera but plenty of SLS – sodium laureth sulfate.  (To read more about why SLS and other ‘bad’ things in soap, toiletries, and beauty products, click here and here.)

Today I decided to take matters into my own hands (ha) and bring my own soap to work.  Heading to the women’s restroom toting a Dove bar wrapped in a paper towel, I furtively looked around to ensure no one was actively watching me, as it probably appeared that I was carrying around some form of feminine hygiene product, and I don’t want to be known at work as “that strange girl who carries pads everywhere”.

But!  My hands feel good so far and even though it’s a pain to have to carry my own soap around to the restroom, let alone the day when I have to answer questions about why I do it, I would rather take this than the alternate of having my hands literally chewed up by cheap work-restroom soap.

Now a debate – I thought about this the other day.  Who do you think is worse off with eczema – men or women?

I can think of arguments for both sides:

WOMEN are worse off:

  • Because society has very high standards of beauty and appearance.  Women WITHOUT eczema are made to fret and fuss about their skin, so to have active rashes and crazy flares is just ostracizing.
  • Women are more slaves to fashion and women’s clothing is more revealing than men’s.  So for a woman to have leg eczema (like me) and not be able to wear shorts and skirts in the spring and summer (when everyone else is) is tough on the ol’ self-esteem.
  • Women have the pressure to wear makeup and facial products.  I consider myself a pretty low-maintenance woman, but there is almost no way I would leave the house without my little helpers of moisturizer, mascara, and concealer on.  Maybe if every other woman was bare-faced.
  • Women have to shave a lot of areas – (unless you go hairy, which is totally cool – I would just feel like an ape, personally) – and this can irritate existing eczema.

MEN are worse off:

  • Because it does not seem as socially acceptable for men to talk about their eczema or actively seek solutions.  Men are expected in society to be strong and manly and uncomplaining.  I can talk with another woman and tell her that her skin looks great and what does she use – (given, I wouldn’t do this with a complete stranger, but I have done this with acquaintances), but I just can’t see most men partaking in a thorough discussion of skincare with another man.
  • Men don’t have the advantage of makeup and high fashion.  I can conceal rashes on my face, I can use style tactics to distract, like a big scarf or an interesting necklace.  What do men have… Ties?  I guess?
  • Men may be under more pressure at work and with family to “move up” the corporate ladder.  This doesn’t apply to ALL men, of course, and many women also have this pressure, but just saying that in this respect, eczema for a man can surely be a real confidence dampener and prevent him from making career moves.

What do you think, blog readers??  Weigh in!

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7 thoughts on “Hand Soap and an Eczema Debate

  1. I use the same soap! Well, I did until they just recently added PG into the ingredients, grrrrr….. I go through this SAME THING with bathrooms. I keep a bar in my purse and at work, I keep one in our kitchen so I can wash my hands in there after going to the bathroom. We’re not allowed to leave anything in the bathrooms here, otherwise I would!

    • Haha thanks! (about the blog background) I didn’t even realize it was the same as yours, but I gravitated to it just because it was clean and uncluttered! So what do you carry the bar in when you carry it in your purse? Do you have some kind of tiny box or closed soap dish so the soap doesn’t get all over everything? Or just a plastic bag? Yeah, I work in a large office building so if I left a soap in the bathroom, someone would probably walk off with it or the cleaning lady would throw it out, LOL.

  2. And nice blog background btw, lol

  3. Jennifer says:

    LOL! Cracking me up about the pads! We sent my son with his own soap to school and it’s really saved his hands. Who cares what others think!

  4. Pawel says:

    That’s a great idea to bring your own soap to work. I just recently found out that that was was making a huge difference for me as well. What I gained on taking care of my hands at home was ruined by standard bad fluid soap. I’m using either Dove or Nivea cream at home and it just works, do you know if there are some products for a one time use that you can take in your pocket – like a dove powder? I’m a guy and don’t want go with a soap everywhere 😉

    • Hi Pawel! That’s a really good question as to if there are things like soap powder that you can take with you. I am not aware of any, unfortunately. What I ended up doing with the soap is just putting it in a Styrofoam cup (like the kind you drink coffee in) that I had gotten from the work break room, and this way when I walked around with my soap it just looked like I was carrying a beverage around. That might work a little better at least?

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