Skin Problems in the Industry

Regular contact with irritating substances and too much contact with water are among the worst things to which skin can be exposed. In other words, it is no surprise that industrial workers can suffer from severe skin problems.

Occupational skin diseases are an increasingly widespread problem. In the EU countries alone, this is thought to entail as many as around three million lost work days per year. The problems are caused by skin coming into contact with substances it cannot tolerate. This primarily manifests in the skin becoming dry, red and itchy. It can also peel, become swollen or cracked, and develop calluses or blisters.

Primarily the hands and underarms are affected – body parts that tend to come into contact with water, lubricants, oils, cutting fluid etc.

Skin’s worst enemy

In industrial settings where it is easy to become coated in dirt and debris, cleaning your hands often requires water and a powerful hand cleanser. This is the perfect recipe for skin problems. At greatest risk are people with frequent contact with water and fluids that can break down the skin’s natural defences, such as solvents and oils. This can easily create a vicious cycle.

If you come into contact with strong substances, then of course you want to wash them off – frequently and thoroughly. And the more often you wash, the greater your risk of developing a skin problem.

“Industrial workers and workers in other jobs that involve heavy soiling often find themselves in a dilemma. If you don’t get rid of all the dirt, it really wears on the skin. But it’s essentially just as damaging to use really strong substances like solvents to get rid of it,” says Chris Anderson, professor at Hudkliniken, a dermatology clinic at Linköping University Hospital.

He says it’s always best to use milder cleansers first, like soap, before using extra tough products. “But if you know the dirt isn’t going to wash off with liquid soap, there’s no point in going through tons of extra steps. In that case, you may as well skip right to the stronger products,” says Chris. Today, there are effective, powerful hand-cleansing products that are also gentle on skin.

Washing wears

Washing your hands eliminates some of the protective oils from the skin. If you wash often, it can be tough for the skin to restore its natural oil layer.

This can cause itchy and irritated skin, or eczema. That is why it is important to refatten the skin regularly with a good cream or a rich salve for a long period of time. Many people make the mistake of no longer using skin cream as soon as their skin feels soft again. But the risk then is that the skin has not yet been properly restored. In other words, it is best to continue applying moisturiser, even after the skin has regained its natural appearance.