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Get a Grip: Dealing with Sweaty Glove Hands

A gymnast's hands covered in chalk holding a gymnastics bar to represent tips to prevent sweaty glove hands during lab work

Gloves protect the skin from the numerous hazards lurking in research labs. There are many varieties and types of gloves available depending on your needs, whether you want protection from chemical or biological hazards or simply to prevent surface contamination.

However, a very noticeable side effect of using gloves is the dreaded “sweaty glove hands”.

Perhaps you’ve faced the embarrassing situation of sweaty handshakes—not ideal! Or soaking your keyboard, paper, or other equipment with your sweaty hands.

Even trying to get on another pair of gloves with sweaty hands becomes almost impossible.

But these sweaty glove hands not only are annoying but also can become uncomfortable and prone to rashes, as prolonged exposure to sweat, coupled with the frequent handwashing required in a lab, makes your skin more likely to chap and crack. This can then lead to more troublesome conditions, such as dermatitis.

Gloves can’t be avoided during laboratory/research work; however, there are some things you can try to reduce or circumvent this sweaty problem.

10 Tips to Banish Sweaty Glove Hands

1. Choose Your Material Wisely

The choice of material for your gloves is important, not only to help with sweat but also to avoid more serious issues, including allergic reactions and dermatitis.

The prevalence of latex allergies in healthcare workers has been shown to be more than double that in the general population. [1]

Therefore, you should use non-latex gloves and powder-free (reduced latex protein) gloves if possible.

For more information on the different types of gloves available, see our guide to gloves.

2. Topical Medications to Counter Sweaty Glove Hands

There are lots of topical medications you can try to counter perspiration and skin irritation caused by the frequent use of lab gloves. Formaldehyde lotions/aluminum chlorohydrate are known to denature keratin and thus occlude the sweat pores on the hands, leading to reduced sweat release.

One such multi-use topical gel is the Stokoderm® Triple Active Gel.

3. Use Fabric Glove Liners

One strategy to avoid the sweaty glove hands problem is to wear a fabric glove liner. There are a variety of glove liners available, including fingerless gloves and cotton full-hand liners, but speak to your lab manager to see if they recommend any or even if they have any that you can use.

4. Change Gloves Regularly

The most convenient method to avoid sweaty hands is to change your gloves regularly. It is helpful to wash (and moisturize!) your hands after removing gloves—it might be handy (pun intended!) to keep a stash of small towels so you can thoroughly dry your hands.

5. Use 70% Ethanol/Hand Coolers

Most labs have a stock of 70% ethanol, which as well as being used to disinfect, denature protein, and dissolve lipids, can also be used to cool down gloved hands and prevent sweating.

Apply the ethanol to your gloved hand and after a few seconds, you should notice a nice cooling sensation. Don’t be tempted to use 70% ethanol on ungloved hands because it might lead to dry skin conditions.

Hand coolers are devices that can be worn on hands to prevent sweat, and although they can’t be used while wearing gloves, they can be used during glove-free periods to help cool the hands.

6. Have Some Glove-Free Time

It is also critical to have some glove-free time to avoid sweaty hands. You can use this time to plan your experiments!

7. Remember that Size Matters

I use a slightly larger size of gloves than the actual size of my hand. This gives those little pores a bit more space so they don’t perspire as much. It’s also easier to change gloves regularly when the size is a little larger than required.

8. Get Baby Soft Hands

Some people use baby (talcum) powder on their hands as it is effective at absorbing sweat. Given that there have been some safety concerns raised over the prolonged use of talcum powder, baking soda or corn starch would be effective alternatives.

9. Hydrate!

This is general advice to help you sweat less and seems a little counter-intuitive: drinking water keeps our body cool and reduces the core body temperature. More moisture means less moisture released, and fewer sweaty palms.

10. Try Iontophoresis

Some people have a condition called hyperhidrosis, where they sweat more than the average person. Interestingly, hands are the most common hotspot for this condition, which may be exacerbated by the use of gloves.

The long-term and most effective solution to treat sweaty hands is iontophoresis (a procedure whereby a weak electric current is passed through water to the affected body part).

Moreover, it circumvents the use of harmful chemicals and has no reported long-term side effects. [2]

I hope these tips for dealing with sweaty glove hands are useful for fellow glove wearers. If you have any other top tips for banishing those sweaty glove hands, please comment below!

References

  1. Wu M, et al. (2016) Current prevalence rate of latex allergy: Why it remains a problem? J Occup Health 58:138–44. doi: 10.1539/joh.15-0275-RA.
  2. Pariser DM, Ballard A (2014) Iontophoresis for palmar and plantar hyperhidrosis. Dermatol Clin 32:491–4. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2014.06.009

Originally published December 4, 2019. Reviewed and updated April 2021.

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