Yep, you heard me right. You love your job, but you’ve noticed something peculiar. You tend to suffer from various skin issues, either chronic or acute since you’ve started working. You’ve often asked yourself if perhaps your job might be the culprit, but you can’t seem to pinpoint the exact cause and the trigger remains somewhat of an enigma.
OTC & prescriptions, plus everything under the sun, there isn’t anything you haven’t tried.
So let’s crack this case together and explore a few job related skin issues and how we can manage them proactively.
In dermatological practice they are known as occupational skin disease and they account for the majority of dermatology OPD visits. In most cases, prevention is better than the cure, but it’s best to seek professional help in case of persistent or worsening skin disease.
- Sitting for prolonged periods in front of monitors and devices might lead to pre-maturely aged skin. Digital devices emit blue light (400-500 nm) that is capable of penetrating deep in the dermis may lead to photo-aging. Blue light will result in a release of free radicals that can result in dryness, wrinkles, loss of elasticity and dull skin.
- Blue light will result in poor skin micro-circulation, hindering cell function and cellular respiration leading to dull skin.
- Long hours of work may result may compromise a good cleansing and skin care routine, that will mean poor skin health and an unhealthy complexion.
RX – This issue can be managed by using screen filters and taking breaks between work to minimize exposure and decrease stress on the skin. Recently, a few innovative cosmetic manufactures have released compounds and chemical filters (botanical based mainly) that may help in combating blue light damage when applied topically. When buying skin care products, you may want to look out for ingredients such as flavonoids, lutein, titanium dioxide and certain types of algae extracts. A good skin care routine, adequate sleep, physical activity and a healthy diet will all ensure skin-wellness and limit damage from digital devices.
Estheticians & Hair Stylists
- Irritant dermatitis (hair dyes, shampoos, soaps, hair products) and latex allergies.
- Hyperpigmentation of the skin.
- Mechanical skin injury due to constant use of sharp objects and other salon equipment.
- Worsening of eczema.
- Allergic contact dermatitis.
- Skin infections.
- Nickel allergies (scissors and tools)
RX – Hands take the worst hit so it’s a good idea to maintain regular moisturization using unscented emollients. Staff education on safe handling techniques and hygiene is top priority. It’s always a good idea to use less toxic alternates in the workplace with fewer percentages of perfumes and dyes. Using non-latex gloves when washing hair or applying dyes and face masks when applying bleaching agents is a good way to keep a check on dermatitis and irritation. Treatment of skin issues by a professional is a must but these simple measures will certainly keep most of the workplace related skin problems to a minimum.
Gardeners & Florists
- Florists are prone to cuts, abrasions and secondary bacterial and fungal infections. Hand dermatitis, contact dermatitis, urticaria and irritant dermatitis may become an issue due to regular exposure to chemicals in plants (acids, pollen and enzymes) and various components of the flowers and plants itself.
- Gardeners will suffer from extensive sun damage, skin cancers and environmental related skin damage, mechanical skin injury, reactions to fertilizers, pesticides, biological and chemical agents, allergic reactions to insect bites, contact and irritant dermatitis that can develop when handling various plants and trees, animal manure and tainted water.
RX – Florists should as much as possible maintain a ‘zero contact’ policy and wear non-latex gloves when handling flowers and plants. Hand washing with non-soap cleansers and adequate moisturization will help minimize irritations and keep the barrier intact. Care during trimming and cutting is important, and prompt treatment of injury is indicated. It’s best to seek professional help if hand dermatitis develops.
Gardeners must always practice lifelong sun safety and wear sun protective clothing at all times along with the generous use of SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum sunscreen on sun exposed areas. Care when handling lawn and plant care equipment is important in order to prevent mechanical injury and secondary skin infections. Skin infections must be managed at once as they can develop into more serious conditions. Insect bites must be treated and an adrenaline injection must be kept nearby at all times in case of wasp and bee stings. Care must be taken when handling manure, compost and water and it is highly advisable to wear industrial quality gloves. Constant use of unscented emollients is important to prevent dermatitis.
- A compromised skin barrier (loss of natural moisturizing factors due to repeated hand washing), protein contact dermatitis, mechanical skin injury and burns (knives, blades and other kitchen equipment), allergic contact hand dermatitis and hand infections, worsening of eczema and contact urticaria.
- These conditions can occur due to constant exposure to detergents, soaps, water, prolonged glove wearing, extremes in work temperatures (hot stoves, oven, grill and freezers), allergic reactions to certain foods and preservatives used in foods.
RX – Treatment and management will include extreme care when handling hazardous kitchen equipment, managing dermatitis and completely abstaining from triggering allergens in the case of allergic contact dermatitis. Professional help must be sought if condition worsens or persists.
Daycare & Childcare Workers
- Human bites are a common occurrence in this often stressful and face-paced occupation. Handling nervous babies and toddlers might become tricky and bite injuries can occur.
- Mechanical injuries like paper or scissor cuts might occur. This will increase the chance of secondary bacterial skin infections.
- There may an increased incidence of sun burns and sun damage as child care workers are responsible for arranging outdoor activities and monitoring children at all times during playground activities.
- There is increased chance of contracting head lice infestations from the children.
RX – In case of human bites, the area must be washed right away, and antibiotic with dressing must be applied to avoid infection. If TDP vaccinations are not up to date, it’s best to get them. Mechanical injuries can be avoided through careful handling of stationary equipment. When overseeing outdoor activities, sun protection is mandatory. In case of head lice infestation, treatment with medicated lice shampoo and combing is advised. Teachers, daycare and childcare workers should regularly screen children for lice infestations and notify parents immediately if detected.
- Painting is considered one of the high risk occupations in terms of occupational skin disease. Constant exposure to epoxy resin, formaldehyde, acrylics, and other paint chemicals greatly increases the risk of contact dermatitis.
- Exposure to corrosive agents and plasters may cause serious loss of epidermal tissue and compromise the barrier.
- Globally inconsistent education and training standards for this type of job classify it as a high risk occupation for skin disease.
- Eye and facial skin chemical injuries if paint and toxins are accidently introduced to sensitive eye and facial area of the body.
- Sun damage when involved in exterior painting projects.
RX – The most important preventative measure in this scenario is the vigilant usage of personal safety gear like face masks and protective gloves. Switching to water based paints will lead to a dramatic decrease in the emergence of dermatitis. Proper training is essential in order to avoid work related skin issues. When working on an outdoor project, sun safety is mandatory.
As you may have gathered from the notes above, your type of job and the occurrence of skin disease can be directly related. The most important measures that one can take are isolating the triggers, using appropriate steps to minimize exposure and prevent future problems from occurring, and finally treating the issue as soon as it is identified.
So all is well that ends well. You can maintain your job without having to suffer painful or irritating skin problems if you are careful.
Prevention is the key.
Stay safe, stay informed.
Consultants at Cuticonscious