Hand and Foot Care

The skin of the hands is constantly exposed to the weather outside and in the home and at work to water, and sometimes also to “aggressive” cleaning agents. These factors result in loss of lipids and moisture from the skin. The skin becomes dry, rough and cracked. This skin condition is known as abrasion dermatitis. The skin’s acid protection barrier (hydrolipid film) is destroyed, and harmful substances and agents can penetrate through to the deeper skin layers. Loss of the hydrolipid film is especially critical for people with allergic contact dermatitis (contact eczema). Through consistent use of care and hand protection products, contact with the harmful and allergenic substances can be significantly reduced or even prevented. Wearing protective gloves can also prevent the occurrence of abrasion dermatitis and contact allergies. Before the gloves are put on, the hands should be creamed in order to lessen the influence of the moist climate inside the gloves.

For cleaning stressed hands, pH-neutral soaps and acidic syndets should be used. A normal healthy pH value of the skin’s surface (pH of about 5.5) prevents microorganisms from settling on the skin. Hand care products consist of W/O or O/W emulsions. A sufficient lipid content in the hand care product stabilises the lipid film and reduces the loss of moisture through perspiration. Many products contain glycerol in concentrations of 10 – 20 % to retain the moisture in the skin. Glycerol, urea, paraffin, hydrocarbons, fatty alcohols and oils such as silicon oil stabilise the hydrolipid film on the skin and so reduce water loss through the skin. In concentrations up to 10 %, urea acts as a moisture retaining factor; in concentrations above 10 %, it has a keratolytic (scale releasing) effect. A combination of moisture retaining factors and soothing ingredients such as allantoin, bisabolol, panthenol and vitamin E, and less frequently vitamin A, provides good skin protection. In the summer months, it is essential to use sun protection products with sun protection factors of 15 – 20 and more. Through consistent use of sun protection factors of this kind, blemishes through over-pigmentation on the backs of the hands can be largely prevented.

When we walk, our feet sometimes have to carry as much as five times our own body weight. Despite these heavy loads and the work they perform every day, our feet tend to be neglected. Through the large number of sweat glands and wearing shoes and socks made of materials that prevent the circulation of air, the feet are usually surrounded by a moist climate, causing stresses on the skin. The skin then dries and becomes susceptible to microorganisms, especially fungal infections. When we do a lot of walking or standing, particularly in shoes that are too tight, painful pressure sores can occur in the shape of corns and calluses.

Foot baths are a good way for relaxing tired, painful and smarting feet. Foot bath additives can be bought in the form of bath salts, bath tablets or liquids. Menthol, camphor, essential oils or scented oils can also be used to provide additional cooling and refreshment.

After the bath, the calluses and corns can be dealt with using pumice stone. Callosity (skin) files or planes can also be used, but require great care. The feet should also be treated once – or if necessary even twice – daily with O/W or W/O care products. A light massage will relax the feet and help the active ingredients to penetrate more quickly, so no “greasing” of stockings or shoes can occur. Foot powder can be used to absorb sweat and so reduce foot odour. Foot sprays are very similar to other normal deodorants, with sweat-inhibiting and deodorising substances as the main active ingredients.

Tips

Rest tired, painful or smarting feet for about 5 – 10 minutes above head height. The best way to do this is to lie on the floor with the feet on a cushion, a chair or the wall. This will produce noticeable relief within 10 minutes. The same effect can also be achieved in bed at night by resting the feet on a special foot piece.

Discolouring and blemishes to the hands and feet can often be removed with fresh lemon juice. The hands should then be washed with mild soap, followed by care cream.

Specks of tar that sometimes become stuck to the soles of the feet when walking barefoot on the beach can be relatively skinpilot side toureasily removed with oil or body lotion, or if necessary with a sun protection product.