I haven’t always had hand eczema. For the first 35 years of my life I washed my hands with whatever was on offer without a second thought. And when you are practicing vet and have small children, you do a lot of hand washing.
Sometime after DD3, my hands started to feel a bit dry. The skin grew thicker and the first painful cracks appeared. I put my first fissure down to a paper cut but before long I realised that something else was going on. Off to the GP I trotted.
He barely glanced at my hands, let alone asked me any of the lifestyle type questions the websites tell you can help with a diagnosis.
‘You’ve got hand eczema’ he told me. ‘Stop washing your hands so much’.
I’m pretty sure he had me down as suffering from OCD but basically I was just a mum who changed a lot of nappies!
I was given a prescription for E45 and some steroid cream to use only when my hands were really bad and was told to wear gloves as much as possible. I hated the gloopy E45 and the gloves even more.
My low point was waking up one day and finding my ring finger on my left hand swollen like a sausage. I had got eczema under my wedding and engagement rings and it had got infected. The rings had to be cut off but I had been terrified I was going to lose my finger. I haven’t dared get my rings repaired so for 5 years I’ve been wandering around bare fingered. I call myself by my maiden name quite a lot anyhow so my poor husband grumbles away and wonders why he even bothered with a wedding.
I’ve tried various lotions and potions to help with my hands. Most things help for a little while, then stop working after a bit. The best cream I have found is Simple Derma cream which unhelpfully isn’t sold in any of the chemists on our high street. In fact I’ve never found it in a pharmacy and buy it online. At the moment I have run out, but it looks like some will be delivered tomorrow. If I apply it 3-4 times a day, then by next week my hands will be looking and feeling a lot better.
I use steroid cream sparingly but don’t like to use it when I have open fissures on my hands. I’ve also found my hands are much better when I use sodium lauryl sulphate free products. Sodium lauryl sulphate, or SLS, is used to make foam in many everyday beauty and cleaning products. Products like bubble bath, dishwashing liquid, shampoo and liquid soap. I’ve had some success replacing all the these products in our house with SLS free ones. The range I use is mainly ‘Surge’ from Waitrose. I even get the kids to use SLS stuff, so I can wash their hair without developing problems.
Mostly, I have my hand eczema under control these days, but occasionally I have a flare up. I’m having one now, as you can see from these photos. I’ve managed to trace this back to running out of my usual Liz Earle face cleanser and using Oil of Olay foaming wash instead. Stupid because what makes it foam but SLS? My face isn’t affected thankfully, just my hands.
When my hand eczema is bad it’s really painful and I have trouble doing basic things like opening jars and packets, and turning pages on books. I’m quite often embarrassed by the state of my hands and on a couple of occasions have ripped a bit of skin off while doing something and bled everywhere, which obviously isn’t great. I’m not a vain person but I do feel my hands look ugly when they are like this.
But the thing that upsets me the most is that my children won’t hold my hands when they are rough and sore. But who can blame them when they look like this?