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The Eczema Condition: Is Your Skin Too Clean?

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Americans almost seem obsessed with cleanliness. A walk into the local grocery store or department store reveals one or more aisles of products related to personal hygiene. Shoppers often have a wide selection of choices of soaps, facial washes, scrubs, and shampoos. Is it possible for us to be "too clean"?

The outer layer of the skin acts a barrier against potentially dangerous organisms. Normally, the skin maintains a delicate balance of water, fats, pH, and turnover of skin cells. Washing removes the oils in the skin, upsetting the moisture balance, and compromising the protective barrier properties. It's particularly a problem in the cold, dry months of winter. Eventually, too-frequent washing can lead to chronic damage to the outer layer of the skin and cause the development of rough, dry skin and conditions, such as irritant contact dermatitis or eczema.

Ironically, while washing is meant to remove germs, research shows dry, damaged skin actually harbors more disease-causing GERMS than healthy skin. In addition, in people with damaged skin, washing is less effective in removing germs. One study found the number of organisms spread by nurses who wash frequently with antimicrobial soap actually increased over time.

There are other reasons to be concerned about over-cleanliness. Not all bacteria are bad. But personal cleaning products don't distinguish between the good and the bad? Washing it all away. In addition, overly clean environments may not be good for infants and children. We need some exposure to GERMS for our immune system to develop antibodies and to learn how to respond to an infection. Some researchers speculate the increase in asthma and other immunological diseases may be related to decreased exposure to GERMS and poorly developed immune systems.

There are some small steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of skin problems from personal hygiene routines. Try to limit washing to one bath or shower a day. Use a mild cleanser and warm (not hot) water. Pat dry the skin with a soft towel. Use a moisturizer immediately after washing to seal moisture in the skin and reduce further moisture loss.

Article source:

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