All posts are copyright Barbara Rogers 2018. Please ask if you wish to share, and give attribution to the author.My ancestry and more personal notes are now at a revised version of "When I Was 75."

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I've got skin problems from working in clay, have you ever heard of that?  On your hands mainly?

I sure do.

Every once in a while I stay away from clay like the plague.  My finger tips are raw, hurt to even type, and I know I can be in clay work for only about 15-30 minutes at a time.   First it starts with an avoidance that has no real reason.  Then I acknowledge it hurts to have clay drying on my fingers and hands.

I wonder if it's because I've been using reconstituted clay, which has had lots of time to sit there nice and wet and sometimes warm, maybe growing some nice micro-organisms.  The slip and water I use also just sits there from day to day.  But doesn't every potter do that?

 For me, the clay gets into every crevice of my fingerprints, and just sucks out any moisture.  I lather on hand lotion after carefully washing all the clay off.  I admit I've found having 70 year old skin is much thinner and less resilient than it used to be.

But yesterday I got to the extreme, and wore plastic gloves over olive oil.  It worked.  It reconstituted the pads enough that I could work a bit on a sculpture.

I'm thinking of using aloe vera right off the plant leaves today.  Again wearing a different pair of plastic gloves so I don't rub it all off in my daily moving around the house.  I'll let you know how that works.

If you have suggestions, I'll be glad to try them too.  (My preference isn't to buy the expensive potters lotions that I know might help also)


  1. sorry to hear this - you might try using thin nitrile gloves while working the clay. They are quite sensitive and don't interfere really - although they feel odd in the clay at first. i buy them by the boxful.

  2. Sorry to hear about your problems. Hope you find an agreeable solution.

    I sometimes dig my own clay from nature and the resulting sludge rests in buckets outside or in the garden shed, covered in water when it rains. And the result can be rather smelly when i decide to use it. And like you, i´ve got slip standing in buckets.

    So i´m sure, i´ve got a nice collection of microbes as well.

    Luckily i´ve not had skin problems yet, - only the normal dry hands after work. So i´m an addict of hand cream. - I also got told by a fellow potter to always wash my hands in cold water. Never use hot water, - that will only increase the drying out of the skin. So cold water, as cold as one can handle. And i must say, i feel the difference.

  3. I have eczema on my hands and it is badly irritated by working in clay to the point that my hands would bleed. I use hydro-cortizone creme mixed with mentholatum ointment after throwing and it has successfully kept most of the symptoms at bay for many years, even though I throw almost daily. It might be worth a try?

  4. I think that aloe vera might help because it seems to make a barrier on the skin, disposable glove might help. I think the reconstituted clay must have microorganisms and mold growing in it. Lavender lotion seems to help heal too. I keep a fresh bucket of water right near where I work and I wash my hands in it often, so far so good, but I am not throwing only hand building so my hands are most often not in wet clay.

    1. My favorite hand lotion (use every night before going to sleep) has lavender. I'm also hand building now, and need to wash more often. And will start changing to new clay more often too!

  5. I know several people with dry cracked hands swear by Bag Balm ( originally developed for cow udders) They put the balm on at night, before bed and wear thin cotton goves. Gloves keep the balm on hands and not on the sheets.

  6. you said it, my hands are totally dry and painfully cracked half the year!


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