greentapestry : The Hands of A Gardener

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Hands of A Gardener



Yes it's that time of year when my hands begin to take a hammering and my battle with eczema starts its yearly cycle. They are already the victim of years of neglect. My mother's advice to protect and moisturise has gone unheeded and now I look down at them and don't recognise them as my own. They are more horribly wrinkly ~ crinkly than any other part of me. I hate wearing gloves to garden - I think that they can be a hindrance. I dislike the feeling of barrier creams. There is also the additional complication of the eczema which with age seems to be hitting my hands. As a child it was the back of my knees and the inside of my elbows that caused me endless grief. The condition  hindered me from swimming once I got into my teens and became more self - conscious.

I am sure that I have worked my way through every possible cream, lotion, potion and ointment known to the medical profession and the pharmacy counters. With the passage of the years the condition has cleared up somewhat and since finishing work my legs are symptom free. I put this down firstly to less stress but more down to the fact that I no longer wear tights everyday. However the hands still hurt so any tips, recommendations for relief from fellow sufferers would be more than welcome ~ please let me know what works for you.

To ease the horror I photographed my hand near a hellebore. These beauties are just coming into their own and had H been a week or two later they would have had the upper hand.

P.S. Contact with hellebores can cause allergic reactions but I assure you that my hands were not harmed in the course of taking this photo.

Hop over here to ABC Wednesday now for more on the letter H.


  1. Hi Anna

    I get it sometimes. Stress can definitely cause a flair up, I use hydrocortisone cream, like H45. It helps considerably. Sunshine helps a bit!

  2. Oh yes, I know! I have all sorts of handcreams, rarely used and numerous pairs of gloves which I tend to start off with and then discard in the middle of a job somewhere!

  3. I agree with you Anna, I hate wearing gloves to garden but force myself to if I'm grubbing about in the soil.

    Your poor hands - eczema is a nasty condition. I'm afraid I don't have any tips on managing the condition apart from the ever faithful E45 emollient. A friend uses their ointment at night and swears by it!


    PS I will look through my notes to find the name of the hellebore in my last post. I'm useless with remembering names!

  4. Been there done that, as child with eczema in the knees and elbows. I learnt to live with it. Wear layers, of cotton, not wool, when the weather is cold. When I turned vegetarian, that helped too. Then it was, just the hands. The gloves and barrier cream don't fit my life, but, every evening I put on a goodly layer of whatever my hands currently accept. Innoxa hand cream now. Works for me.

  5. You may have to resort to gloves after all. Try and find some light weight cotton ones that can be easily washed with allergen-free soap. Don't dismay...perhaps now you're retired all the symptoms will ease off.

    ABCW Team

  6. By this time of year my hands look so awful I'm embarrassed for anyone to look at them. Mine are pretty wrinkly too and look like they belong to someone 40 years older than me :) I've just found a new Aveeno lotion that works really well, not sure if you can get it there, but it has made a huge difference and doesn't have that thick feel that some barrier creams do. Hope they feel better soon!

  7. Hi Anna,

    Have you tried addressing the possibility of it being an allergy? I assume you know that eczema is caused by allergies, but in case you didn't then it's always something to look into.
    I have eczema and psoriasis and use the hydrocortizone cream and it always works for me, but I'm tired of using chemicals and have attempted to fight the cause rather than the effect.
    You may be surprised to know that common allergens are caffeine (I drink decaff and am also milk intolerant) but also Tomatoes.
    I discovered that I think I might have an allergy to tomatoes but also to fruits such as berries (kinda makes having Blackcurrant, strawberries etc pointless!)

    But of course stress also causes it, as I am sure you are well aware.

  8. sounds painful, to boot. wish you good luck this season.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  9. I have no remedies but I do wish you well and hope a reader does have an answer. I can't use gloves, either...

  10. I do feel for you, eczema is a horrible thing. I've suffered with it since being a child, though not badly. I tend to use a hydrocortizone cream when I get a flare up which settles it down until the next time. Unfortunately, I've passed it on to my daughter, though not my son, he got my hay fever.

  11. I used to have eczema but it was mainly in the winter so it was not the same as yours. We installed a humidifier and mine pretty much cleared up. Again, yours is a different type.

    I also tried every sort of cream on the market and none of them really worked well.

    The thing is that most people who don't have the condition don't think that it is that big a deal. That's frustrating.

  12. Hi Anna, sorry to hear about your eczema, beastly. Your hands look just like mine in that photo, I hate wearing gloves to garden in too, so they are always mangled and dry and topped with grimy cuticles. Yum. I was going to suggest lightweight cotton gloves too, I don't have eczema myself but someone I know who does and is a fanatical gardener uses them and find they work quite well. Good luck beating it in to submission.

  13. Hi Anna

    I too have had ezcema all my life and now, in my 60s it is my hands that give me the most problems. I am a fanatical gardener and allotmenteer and struggle to find hand creams that I am not allergic too and that do the job, Currently Bodyshop Hemp is working. I wear cotton gloves under leather gardening gloves but can't cope with gloves for jobs such as pricking out so have to cope with the consequences. I use emulsificans to wash my hands - using warm, never cold, water. When I get a split (very frequently) I cover them with fabric (not waterproof) plasters and they heal completely after 48 hours. Occasionally I have to resort to my prescribed dermovate but try to avoid this. When I was a child I was given hydrocortisone ointments (part of a medical trial) which no one initially realised thinned the skin. I also take omega 3 or cod liver oil capsules - not sure if they help but I am sure they must do me some good in some part of my anatomy.


  14. Hi Anna, your poor hands. I agree with Jacqueline, Bodyshop hemp handcream is really good. I hate wearing gardening gloves but since my foxy visitors in the winter and reading about Weil's disease I have been wearing gloves but I don't know how long that will last. Nails is another thing, lovely and long for a couple of months mid-winter and then back to gardener's nails but no gain without pain. Ronnie

  15. i wish that this skin problem will resolve, nice one for abc-wednesday

  16. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions. Fellow ABC participants I will be visiting you soon if I have not already.

    Rob ~ sunshine certainly does the trick ~ will have to wait for that week in France later this year :)

    Pots of unfinished cream, discarded gloves ~ snap Elizabeth!

    I hope that you can remember the name of that hellebore Jeanne ~ it's a beauty. Unfortunately E45 does not seem to work on my crocodile skin :(

    Your evening care routine sounds a good idea Diana ~ I know that I should make a more determined effort to be consistent. I have not tried Innoxa products - yet :)

    Catherine, I know exactly how you feel. I often hide my hands in my pockets. We can buy Aveeno products over here. I have used their hand cream with collodial oatmeal in the past with some degree of success.

    Liz, I am sure that allergy comes into the equation as I also have asthma and hayfever for my sins :) I do not want to use hydrocortisone any more than is strictly necessary but do resort to it from time to time.

    Sorry to hear that your daughter has eczema Jo - it quite often runs in families. I am the only one of four children to have it but Mum has allergic rhinistis, food allergies and hay fever and my brother has dreadful hay fever too. The other two escaped scott free!

    Thanks for visiting and commenting Jacqueline. Like you I know all too well how difficult it is to find creams that like you :) You and Ronnie both recommend the Body Shop's hemp hand cream, which I will certainly look out for on my next trip into town. I am also interested by your comments about cod liver oil capsules and will do some research into this :)

    Ronnie, as for the nails ~ now there's another story. How long have you got ? :)

  17. Sorry to hear about the eczema, Anna - I only have it mildly, but enough to know how painful it is when your hands start to crack.

    Have you tried Shea butter? It works for me, and has the advantage of being chemical-free, though it's not cheap. I get it from Natural Collection, but Amnesty also sell it.

    Healthy House sell packs of washable cotton gloves for ezcema sufferers - they might be easier to use than gardening gloves.

    I also wonder whether Aloe Vera (straight from the plant) might help?

  18. I hope with all of the comments you're receiving good advice, Anna. Unfortunately I can't recommend anything. ... It was worth it to touch this hellebore to get a good photograph. It is just gorgeous!

  19. Hi Anna - like you I never wear gloves and age has caught up with me so that now my hands feel like sandpaper. Started using a Heel Balm, designed to soften even the toughest skin! Your hands may be suffering but at least you have green fingers - as your lovely Hellebore shows

  20. Thanks for your kind comment on my own blog Anna. I get eczema on my stomach in winter from longjohn wearing and eating chocolate! I use aloe vera both neat gel (Forever Living has really good stuff or get a plant) and previously aloe propolis cream which combines it with bee propolis and smells wonderfully of honey. You will probably find a willing seller near you! Get some free samples off them to see if it works - if it does it's worth the money. Best wishes, Jane

  21. I'm a glove hater too, and I do sympathise... my excema comes and goes but has so far not been too bad on my hands.

    I finally threw everything out and started using Elizabeth Arden's eight-hour cream because it seemed to work best forme. Certainly better than anything else. Worth a try?

  22. Oh and vitimultimins! Vitamin C, E and starflower/borage oil for the skin. Calcium and magnesium, and Vitamin B to calm the nerves, against stress.

    And I can remember dressing for work in a Swiss winter. I would ration myself to one or two strips of plaster on each hand, for the eczema cracks. Looked as if I had been in a fist fight ;~((

  23. It sounds like you have had some great suggestions here Anna.

    My hands are getting worse the older I get, and the more I garden. I now get a kind of "contact dermatitis"
    from a variety of plants, tomatoes and all plants from the same family being the worst offender. But the list appears endless and gets longer each year.

    Currently I am using something I got at Malvern last year - a beeswax barrier cream, let me know if you want the details.


All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at :


- Anna.