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What is Housewife’s Eczema?

Mou Lian Qun Senior Physician


What is housewife’s eczema?

Housewife’s eczema is a type of hand eczema that is also known as chronic irritant contact dermatitis. It mostly affects housewives, especially in wintertime, which likely has to do with dryer skin and colder air and water in the winter. During winter, one should soak hands in warm water daily, and avoid extended contact with soap, laundry detergent, and other fat-soluble chemicals that cause dry skin. Those who are not housewives but also experience dry and cracked skin in the winter tend to have family history of this condition.


Clinical presentation of this type of dermatitis includes dry hands, peeling, redness, itchiness, blisters, and cracked skin. It typically affects areas distal to the wrist, such as the palm and fingertips, etc. It frequently affects homemakers, healthcare providers, cosmetologists, hairstylists, car mechanics, cooks, and those prone to allergies.


What causes housewife’s eczema?

Those affected have extended contact with water, detergent, disinfectant and other irritants, which causes decreased sweat and oil secretion of the hands, and leads to thinning of the skin, dehydration, dryness, splitting and decreased resistance to irritants. The symptoms can worsen with aging. Housewives who have frequent contact with water, detergent and disinfectant should wear rubber gloves for skin protection, avoid excessive hand washing, and use hand cream after tasks. Self-care before bed is also important. Soak hands in 40°C warm water for 10 minutes, apply a generous amount of oily skin care products on the skin, and sleep with cotton gloves on. These steps are very effective in helping dry skin and cracking during fall and winter seasons. Oral herbal prescriptions that nourish blood, moisturize skin and stop itching can also be used for severe symptoms. These herbs include Chinese angelica (Dang Gui), Danshen root, spatholobus stem (Ji Xie Teng), scorpion, and caltrop fruit (Ci Ji Li).


Try the following herbal prescriptions under your TCM physician’s supervision.

1)      Soak 10g of licorice in 50ml of sesame oil for 24 hours, and then simmer until the liquid thickens. Discard any solids and let the liquid cool. Use it topically on symptomatic skin, twice a day for 2-4 weeks.

2)      Simmer 30g of wolfberry root-bark (Di Gu Pi) and 20g of alum in water for 30 minutes. Discard any solids and use the warm liquid to soak hands and feet, once a day.

3)      Heat 30g of lard till boiling. Let it cool and mix it with 70g of honey. Store in jar. Use it topically on hands and feet, twice a day.

4)       Mix bletilla powder (Bai Ji Fen) in with vegetable oil. Use it topically on hands and feet, twice a day.

5)      Wash hands with rice water (second rinse), and you will find the skin on your hands healthier and smoother.