How to keep dry hands clean
October 25, 2009 5:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep my hands clean without water or alcohol?

I'm a waitress, so I have my hands in water a lot, and need to wash them frequently. Unfortunately, I also have eczema, and dry skin in general, and if my hands get too dry from contact with water, they will break out (I use Protopic pretty religiously so the breakouts aren't too bad). How can I keep my hands clean without alcohol or water (both just dry out my skin to the point of pain)? Does anyone have any recommendations for waterless soaps or alcohol-free sanitizers? TIA
posted by queseyo to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Pampers Sensitive Skin Wipes are alcohol-free.
posted by Linnee at 5:39 PM on October 25, 2009

Cleaning and sanitizing are two different things; sanitizers do not remove organic material from your hands. Nor are alcohol sanitizers effective against norovirus, bacteria spores, or protozoa- you've got to wash your hand to get rid of those.

I get really bad contact dermatitis from dish washing as well. The only thing that has truly helped is wearing gloves. Washing my hands with non-detergent based soap and then applying shea butter seems to help the eczema go away faster. I also make a point of just washing the insides of my hands, and not my knuckles, which dry out faster.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:48 PM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Working in hospitality gave me terrible contact dermatitis too, to the point where the skin of my hands cracked painfully and bled. To be honest, nothing alleviated it completely except finding work in a different field, but here's how I kept the lid on it:

1. Wash your hands with aqueous cream (with or without water). Aqueous cream can be used both as an emollient and a cleanser, and is often recommended as a soap-free alternative for people with eczema.

1. Wear gloves as much as possible. It's not always possible when serving customers, but wearing latex gloves at other times might help cut down your daily handwashes. Always, always wear long gloves if immersing your hands in the sink (to wash dishes or whatnot).

3. Wear thin cotton gloves under the latex gloves. I was reluctant to start doing this as it made me feel prissy, but it really helps wick away moisture from your skin and keeps your hands dry inside the gloves for longer.

4. Apply whatever medicated cream your doctor recommends (I preferred an over-the-counter 1% or 2% hydrocortisone cream).

FWIW, barrier creams never did anything for me.

Good luck.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:58 PM on October 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

i wash my hands obsessively at work (office, lots of people who are generally in varying stages of illnesses, plus i inherited a really nasty grimy keyboard) and haven't yet figured out this problem. i have mad dry skin, especially in the winter.

applying cocoa or shea butter (as pure as you can get it) after every time helps with the chapped, bleeding knuckles and i wear lined rubber gloves when i clean/do dishes at home.
posted by chickadee at 6:02 PM on October 25, 2009

I've worked BOH & FOH. I am/was a chronic hand rinser. (under running water, H20 being the universal solvent. I hate germs.)

My only other suggestion is to wear cotton gloves to sleep (these are common for hand models, FWIW) and slathering on pure shea butter or olive oil. I tend to avoid commercial formulations if the condition is serious, as lotion additives often negate the active ingredient's benefit, in my opinion.

Also, if I am cracked/bleeding... Neosprin ointment, not cream. (If this didn't work for me so often, I wouldn't constantly recommend it.)
posted by jbenben at 7:22 PM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Purell makes an alcohol hand-sanitizer with aloe and vitamin E which is nowhere near as harsh as their regular product, and they're also marketing a moisturizing version. I also have very, very dry skin--yes, to the point of pain--and the aloe Purell definitely leaves my hands feeling better and softer after every use (I work in a hospital-affiliated research institute, so I use it many times a day). Have you tried that?
posted by halogen at 8:28 PM on October 25, 2009

Use a silicone based barrier cream. Workers in labs and hospitals use this stuff to waterproof their hands and keep multiple washings from cracking the skin. I have no personal experience with it for use around food, but it appears to be USDA approved from the product description. A bonus is that the water runs off your hands after use so one shake gets them reasonably dry.
posted by benzenedream at 8:28 PM on October 25, 2009

If you need to wash your hands can you carry lotion? In nursing school I always had lotion in my pocket for after handwashing.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:16 PM on October 25, 2009

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