Cleanroom Contamination

How to Reduce Skin Shedding in a Cleanroom

Dozens of articles and research tell us that cleanrooms can be easily contaminated, and the top source of contaminations is humans, with dead skin cells being a major culprit. According to the National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB), the number one cause of contamination within cleanrooms is the personnel. In fact, cleanroom technicians are responsible for around 80% of cleanroom contamination problems. While many factors contribute to human cleanroom contamination such as skin, hair, and personal clothing, this article touches on skin shed. As a normal process for the human body, cleanroom personnel should be aware of skin shed and understand best practices for good personal hygiene and ensure the skin is properly covered before entering a cleanroom.

Skin cell turnover

Humans lose 200 million epidermal skin cells every hour. During a 24-hour period, a person loses almost 5 billion skin cells.[1]

Skin Cell Turnover

It is normal for the body to continuously shed dead skin cells through a process called desquamation[2]. As shown in the image above, it takes about 28 days for new cells to surface and then flake off. New cells begin at the base layer or the stratum basale. As the body continues to produce new skin cells at the base level, those cells push the older cells up through the skin layers, moving through the stratum spinosum to the stratum granulosum, and finally to the stratum corneum. It’s this top layer and the skin’s surface where the human body sheds the skin.

The flaking process can be exacerbated if the skin is trying to heal damage from sunburn, allergies, infections, or diseases and treatments.

Controlling skin shed

While it can’t be prevented, skin shed can be controlled to mitigate contamination in the cleanroom. But not every cleanroom has this concern. Regulations for particles size in microns per cubic meter differ by the type of cleanroom, the importance to contain all particles such as skin shed is not always required. But critical cleanrooms such as for medical and pharmaceutical uses are required to contain the smaller particle sizes like skin cells. Specific cleanroom protocols and FDA regulations should be adhered to for those working in cleanrooms. Each has specific requirements and regulations to follow but here are a few best practices to understand more about this issue and what can be done.

Bathing and nail care

To help control skin flaking and dandruff, keep the body and scalp (hair) clean by bathing or showering and shampooing regularly. Even though a cleanroom has protocols and even perhaps an air shower, performing these habits at home can be helpful. But baths and showers can dry the skin too, so it’s best to keep them short. Limit the time in the water and the temperature from getting too hot.[4] Trim fingernails short to eliminate bacteria and dirt from gathering under the nail. Long nails are not recommended because they can puncture gloves and dirt can accumulate under the nail.

Dry skin and moisturizer

Dry skin, called xerosis, can be a result of several factors. Skin can be drier in the winter when temperature and humidity levels are low. Heat can reduce humidity and dry out the skin. Harsh detergents and soaps can dry out the skin because they strip oils from the skin. It’s a good practice to use soaps and moisturizers specifically formulated for the cleanroom. People with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis or eczema are prone to dry skin, so medical attention may be needed to curtail these types of issues.

Cover skin

When outside, keep skin covered to prevent sunburn which can cause peeling skin and additional problems for a cleanroom setting. Many types of clothing have SPF built in, eliminating the need for SPF lotions that can irritate sensitive skin.

It’s common knowledge that complete skin coverage is required before entering a cleanroom, but the type of cleanroom class will dictate what coverings are required. From head to toe, items include coveralls, headwear and face coverings, gloves, goggles, and shoe protectors. They are placed outside of the cleanroom with dressing protocols in place.


The cleanroom requires specific regulations and protocols due to its sensitive applications and contamination challenges. Humans provide 80% of contamination in a cleanroom and shedding millions of skin cells every hour, skin shedding is one of the top cleanroom challenges. Personnel should be aware of and help to prevent skin shedding by ensuring they adhere to good personal hygiene habits and using proper PPE before entering a cleanroom, as dictated by the cleanroom protocols and regulations.


  1. Colin Smith, Imperial College London, New insights into skin cells could explain why our skin doesn't leak, Accessed March 28, 2023.
  2. Angela Palmer,Very Well Health Desquamation Process and the Outer Layer of Skin , Accessed March 28, 2023.
  3. Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, Very Well Health, What is Dead Skin? , Accessed March 28, 2023.
  4. Dana Sparks, Mayo Clinic, How do I prevent or treat my difficult dry skin at home?, Accessed March 28, 2023
  5. Ron Perry, RPA, Semiconductor Digest, Preventing Human Generated Particle Contamination in Cleanrooms, Accessed March 28, 2023.

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