Parents: Do your hands look like this from washing, cleaning and repeated hand washing after changing nappies?

Finger dermatitis

How many times a day do your hands get wet or come into contact with soaps detergents, cleaning products?

When handwashing with soaps or using cleaning products we are exposed to many types of substances which may lead to localised skin irritation and inflammation, called contact dermatitis.

There are 2 types; irritant contact dermatitis (often cumulative exposure to substances) and allergic contact dermatitis (may be caused by sensitisers/allergens).

It can be acute lasting for days or chronic lasting months and years.

Symptoms include red itchy skin. Sometimes papules and blisters develop and if chronic can lead to painful cracks in the skin.

Have you tried every moisturiser/hand cream on the market? What can you do to help control this dermatitis?

  1. Identify which substance is irritating the skin; the cause is often crucial to helping treat the problem. Some of these substances are acids, solvents, latex, isocyanates, acrylates, epoxy resins and potassium dichromate.
  1. Check the labels and pictograms of the products for warnings like; may cause skin irritation, skin sensitisation or skin corrosion.
  1. Remove the irritating substance and replace with a safer substance.
  1. If this is not possible, reduce exposure and limit the time your hands are wet.
  1. Protect yourself by using gloves. Gloves sometimes contribute to the dermatitis (hands become sweaty) and therefore cotton gloves underneath may be appropriate.
  1. If your hands need to get wet or be in contact with a chemical then barrier creams may be useful to apply before exposure. This makes it easier to remove some of the substances that stick to the skin.
  1. Washing hands in warm soapy and thorough drying of the skin water is recommended.
  1. Moisturising is important; sometimes your doctor may give you topical corticosteroids. If the skin is damaged preventing infection is crucial.
  1. If you are concerned seek medical advice.


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2015). OSH Fact Sheet Dermatitis. Retrieved from

Keegel T., N. R., LaMontagne AD.,(2012). Exposure to wet work in working Australians. Contact Dermatitis, 66(2), 87-94.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.). Eczema and Dermatitis. Retrieved from

Safework Australia SA.). Personal Protection-Contact Dermatitis. Retrieved from

United States Department of Labour. (2015). OSHA Hazard Communication Pictogram. Retrieved from


  1. I used to be a nurse and knew people who suffered from this. I’m actually surprised there were not more sufferers. Nurses need to wash their hands numerous times a day, even when they wear gloves. The hospitals had moisturiser available but it seemed that as fast as it was applied it was washed off again.

  2. This happened to me when my children were young. Initially I did not use any skin protection when using a nappy whitening product and then I became aware of a contact dermatitis. I then had to wear gloves whenever using the product!
    Still years later if I use a nappy whitening product I have to use gloves as I have developed a sensitisation to it.

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