For job-related skin problems, best prevention unclear: research


LONDON, MAY 30 (DNA) – It’s hard to say whether creams, moisturizers or other preventive measures might help protect workers in many industries from skin damage on their hands that can lead to painful blisters, cracks and infections, a research review suggests.

The analysis focused on so-called occupational irritant hand dermatitis, which can affect employees who regularly come in contact with water, detergents, chemicals and other irritants or who wear gloves during their work day. People at risk include nurses, construction workers, hairdressers, farm workers, restaurant employees and individuals who work in dye, printing and metal industries.

Researchers examined data from nine previous studies with a total of 2,888 workers. The studies lasted anywhere from four weeks to three years; all of them examined the effectiveness of preventive measures like protective gloves, employee education, moisturizers and creams.

Moisturizers, and to a lesser extent barrier creams, were both associated with fewer people getting dermatitis but the quality of this evidence was low, the analysis found.

“We come into contact with lots of different chemicals and other factors every day that will either physically disrupt the natural barrier of the skin or deplete the natural moisturizing factors which then causes disruption to the skin barrier function,” said Dr. Saxon Smith, author of an editorial accompanying the study and a dermatologist at the University of Sydney in Australia.

“The body reacts to these changes and develops inflammation which presents as red, dry, scaley skin on the hands,” Smith said by email.

Gloves and barrier creams can help to diminish the impact and direct contact of the irritating chemicals on the skin, Smith added. But chemicals can sometimes penetrate gloves and barrier creams, and this may explain why the study found this approach less effective than moisturizers for preventing dermatitis – a result Smith said was surprising.