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Source: Tiedemann, D. et al., Effect of glove occlusion on the skin barrier. Contact Derm. 2015, Vol. 74.


Tiedemann, D. / Clausen, M. / John, S. / Angelova-Fischer, I. / Kezic, A. / Agner, T. (2015)

Protection or damage? The influence of liquid-proof gloves on the skin

Background: Wet work ranks among the most common causes of irritant contact dermatitis on the hands. In 2008, the German Ordinance on Hazardous Substances officially classified the work with liquid-proof gloves as wet work and thus as a risk factor for skin diseases. Gloves are intended to protect the hands against irritants such as soaps, detergents and water. However, also the effect of occlusion (blockage of perspiration and heat dissipation through the skin) can damage the skin’s barrier. The most common method used for examining the skin barrier is to measure the transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which is directly linked to the skin’s health. The objective of this study was to take a closer look at the occlusion’s effect on the skin barrier.

Methods: Tiedemann et al. conducted a qualitative review and identified a total of 13 relevant studies. These included both studies on occlusion on healthy skin and findings on the effect on irritated skin.

Results: Eight studies examined the effect of occlusion on healthy skin. Four of them could not prove a damaging effect due to prolonged glove use. The other four, however, reported a significant TEWL, which could indicate a damage of the skin barrier. Particularly very long wearing times of, for example, 14 days with 6 hours each revealed a negative effect. Also the material was an influencing factor: one study proved a significant TEWL after one-time use of vinyl gloves for 18 hours, other studies could not prove such an effect with nitrile or elastyrene gloves.
Five of the studies included in the review examined the effect of occlusion on irritated and pre-damaged skin. Four of them proved an increased TEWL due to occlusion after the skin was exposed to detergents such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS). Here, a glove use of 6 hours on 3 consecutive days produced a significant TEWL.

Conclusions: Based on their literature review Tiedemann et al. conclude that the influence of occlusion is limited on healthy skin as long gloves are not worn extensively (6 hours a day for more than 10 days). According to the researchers the studies also prove that gloves significantly increase the damaging effect of soaps and detergents on the skin barrier. Hence the scientists advocate that the use of liquid-proof gloves was included as risk factor for skin diseases in the German Ordinance on Hazardous Substances.

Tiedemann, D. et al., Effect of glove occlusion on the skin barrier. Contact Derm. 2015, Vol. 74.

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