While it’s long been a top priority in health and aged care, meticulous hand hygiene has now become more important than ever in any industry. But when it comes to effective hand washing, there’s a lot more to consider than simply killing infections with harsh chemicals.
The Downside of Harsh Chemicals
Washing your hands too vigorously with strong chemicals or sanitising too often can cause unwanted skin irritation, dryness and cracking, especially for those who are susceptible to dermatitis or eczema, such as the elderly.
If the user experience is unpleasant, then handwashing can become an unwanted chore that is avoided. What’s more, dry skin not only feels uncomfortable as it can be itchy and irritated, but if cracks appear, this can open the door to infection.
Investigations by the American Journal of Infection Control showed that:
“Product composition and selection can significantly influence health care workers skin condition. …regimens that are designed to minimise the damaging effects of hand hygiene practices can improve skin condition while achieving skin disinfection. Importantly, the use of such products is expected to substantially impact and increase hand hygiene compliance.”
And it’s not just residents, staff also need to be considered. As reported in the Journal of Cosmetic Science1:
“The most common cause of skin dryness and irritation is exposure to surfactants and/or solvents, either as part of aggressive daily hygiene, repeated hand washing, exposure to cleaning solvents, or occupational activities.”
Moisturise Without Compromise
The good news is, the addition of moisturisers to the process can reduce both primary irritation and dryness as well as prevent their recurrence, and it can also accelerate the skin healing process1.
From heavy-duty commercial hand sanitisers to antibacterial foaming soap and moisturising hand wash, there are many hand care products on the market, so it is important to find a good balance between cleaning effectiveness and skin care.
Whether you offer a separate hand wash and moisturiser, or you get a two-in-one product such as a moisturising soap where the soap itself contains moisturiser is up to you, but leaving out moisturiser altogether can lead to dermatitis, with symptoms including dryness, redness, itching, and pain.
The Dermatology Advisor article Hand Dermatitis and Hygiene in the Workplace cites studies demonstrating that dermatitis amongst healthcare workers can lead to a greater risk of spreading infectious pathogens.
According to the piece, 46% of nurses who had symptoms of dermatitis reported that they had taken actions that can go against hand hygiene recommendations. These included handwashing less frequently, using less effective products and using gloves more often, which can exacerbate skin conditions.
The Key Ingredients
When choosing the best hand care system it’s essential to look at the ingredients used to kill germs and control infection outbreaks.
Commercial and medical hand care systems have powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, but can be in higher quantities and more acidic. Alcohol-based hand sanitising gels are also popular and effective, but be sure that the hand gel contains at least 60% alcohol as advised by the TGA.
To balance out these protective properties, some hand care systems include moisturiser in the formulation and have a milder pH that is kinder and gentler on sensitive skin while still effectively cleaning and sanitising hands at the same time.
Many skin care products are now also including ceramides, which are fatty acids called lipids that make up approximately 50% of the outer layer of skin (epidermis). A growing body of research is indicating that ceramides may help soothe irritation and build up a barrier in some cases of dry skin.
Moisturising soap commonly contains aloe vera, a non-oily substance that gently penetrates the skin layers leaving your hands feeling smooth and soft, and vitamins that replenish your skin’s vital nutrients. Other ingredients that can be included in moisturising cream include jojoba oil for cleansing, cocoa butter to aid with the healing process and shea butter to soften your hands and alleviate dryness.
Take Care with Scrubbing Agents
Some products may also contain a scrubbing agent, such as pumice or plastic beads. Although you may feel like your hands are getting extra clean, the harshness of the scrub can cause micro-abrasions that attract infection and the scrubbing agents are not always good for the environment.
Scrubbing agents are typically useful in dirty or greasy industrial applications and best used only when necessary.
Spotlight on Aged Care
When you are working with residents in aged care facilities who typically have a lower immune system, looking after the hands of staff and residents is particularly important for infection control.
Aging skin is not only more fragile, but it also takes longer to heal should it become cracked or damaged. Therefore, you need to find a hand wash that is gentle enough not to damage residents’ skin, but powerful enough to keep their hands clean. If the skin on their hands becomes broken and cracked, it doesn’t reflect well on the level of care they are receiving!
And as a carer, don’t forget to look after your own hands both for infection control and your own comfort. Recent research found that “overzealous hand hygiene amidst the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to increased cases of hand eczema, but what is feared is that the disrupted skin barrier may create a route of entry for COVID-19” and other infections.
With Veridia, You’re in Safe Hands
It is important to find a clinical care hand hygiene system that balances killing bacteria and controlling infections with good skin and health care.
That’s where Veridia’s hand care range comes in. From antibacterial foaming soap and foaming lotion soap to hand sanitiser and moisturising cream, our products will keep your hands clean and hygienic, while ensuring they remain smooth, soft and revitalised.
For example our hand sanitiser is a one-step hand cleaner and sanitiser in foam or gel style that kills most forms of bacteria. Alcohol based (containing 72% ethyl alcohol) and enriched with anti-microbial properties, it also includes moisturisers that leave the hands feeling soft, refreshed and sanitised.
Whether you’re running an aged care facility, managing a hotel or in charge of a university campus, at Veridia, we can take care of your consumer clinical care hand hygiene systems, all at an affordable price. With high availability and reliable supply, Veridia’s products can be delivered where and when you need them.
By managing the ordering, distribution, storage and compliance risk of chemical and consumer hygiene systems, you are free to focus on the tasks that matter most.
1. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 56, 427-444 – Ability of moisturizers to reduce dry skin and irritation and to prevent their return