Skin Health In The Workplace
It’s no surprise that the current climate calls for the workforce to care for their health more than ever. The rise of the pandemic has brought up the importance of remaining in good health. Whilst, traditionally, personal care was reserved as a homecare activity, the need for skincare in the workspace grew due to the long hours spent amidst irritants and allergens that put employee wellbeing at risk.
Progressive organisations have employed changes to keep up with the times by placing greater focus on building a culture around employee wellness. This corresponds with the fact that emerging research has proven, time and again, that employee health is a core factor in achieving organisational success.
To start off, we’re focusing on our personal armour against the world- OUR SKIN.
Skin is the largest organ in the body. This often underappreciated shield is the first point of contact for external elements, making it extremely crucial to maintain a strong and healthy barrier. While the deeper layers are difficult to penetrate, the outermost layer, the visible skin or stratum corneum requires regular maintenance given how prone it is to damage from external stressors like pollution and ultraviolet radiation.
The three primary health risks related to skin are:
- threat of skin cancer due to continued exposure to ultraviolet radiation
- threat of contact dermatitis due to exposure to harsh chemicals and irritants
- impact of smoking and consumption of alcohol on skin health
Skin Cancer Risks
In recent times, skin cancer cases have been on the rise in India. While doctors say that it’s less prevalent when compared to the US, where one in five Americans have skin cancer, it’s still important to be safe and protect our skin.
Skin cancer forms on the top layer, the epidermis. The primary cause tends to be ultraviolet radiation from the sun. While the outer layer of the skin contains melanin which offers some protection against UV radiation, there is a common misconception that darker skin tones don’t require sunscreen. This however isn’t the case and regardless of the skin’s colour, protection is vital.
Two simple ways can be through
- Applying sunscreen which works as a shield against the sun by blocking ultraviolet rays from being absorbed by the skin. Ensure your sunscreen is:
- Broad spectrum- offering protection from both Ultraviolet B and Ultraviolet A radiation, as both can contribute to skin cancer.
- Meets the dermatologically recommended SPF 30 (sun protection factor) or higher.
- Wearing protective clothing such as:
- full-sleeved shirts, that covers the skin from the sun’s UV-rays.
- Breathable cotton clothing
Common skincare conditions- Acne and Eczema
Acne is categorized as chronically inflamed skin that results in pimples and spots. It’s primarily due to bacteria reacting with oil glands –sebum- on the face and resulting in painful zits.
The treatment for acne involves simple steps like
- Cleansing the face twice a day with gentle face washes
- Not skipping moisturizers as its important to soothe inflamed skin to prevent more breakouts
- Avoid popping the pimples so scarring doesn’t occur
Ensuring the skin is clean, moisturized and protected is the best defence against acne concerns as the skin would heal itself gradually.
Eczema is on the other end of the spectrum and is referred to extremely dry, inflamed skin. It’s a chronic condition that arises as a result of the immune system overreacting to small irritants and allergens.
When it comes to tackling a flareup it’s important to –
- Apply a thick moisturizer twice a day
- Try taking a warm shower- can soothe the itching
- Avoid harsh cleansers that strip the skin barrier
- Don’t scratch the skin and apply bandages over the inflamed skin
Contact Dermatitis – The Most Common Skin Concern In The Workplace
Contact dermatitis is a skin condition caused by contact with a substance that irritates or causes an allergic reaction. Typical substances that can cause irritation include solvents, harsh cleansers and handling chemicals without protective gear like gloves.
It leads to inflammation of the skin and can result in:
- cracking and
The signs and symptoms can be so extreme that the patient is often unable to continue working and can cause absenteeism. Research also shows that they account for approximately up to 30- 40% of all occupational diseases and are responsible for 25% of all lost workdays
The extent of irritation depends on factors like:
- concentration of the chemical
- length of the exposure.
- compromised skin barrier due to repeated washing with harsh cleansers
Regardless of the skin concern, prevention is imperative and can be achieved through easy, cost-effective steps.
- Wear protective gear when handling chemicals in the workplace.
- Following proper hygiene by washing hands with gentle cleansers helps prevent outbreaks
- Identify the first symptoms like redness and irritation and seek timely help
Smoking And Alcohol Consumption On Skin Health
It doesn’t come as a surprise that smoking and drinking can be damaging to the body but their effects on our skin are often overlooked. Even if the impact isn’t immediate, overtime it can take a toll on the skin.
Some of these effects include:
- Hardened and less elastic skin as a result of toxins in cigarette smoke damaging collagen and elastin (fibrous components that keep the skin firm and supple)
- Premature ageing can present as crow’s feet, uneven skin complexion and wrinkles around the mouth from constant pursing to smoke.
- Impaired wound healing since smoking causes vascular constriction- which limits blood circulation and hinders healing of even minor cuts and scrapes.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to skin inflammation and can manifest in blotchiness, redness and dehydration – common culprits in skin damage and premature ageing
Prevention is better than cure is what we believe at Magnolia Community Health. We partner with employers to design curated solutions for addressing skincare within the workforce. Through Magnolia’s suite of services, we achieve improved health and improved workforce productivity.