I only use gloves when toning , developing with PMK or Amidol.
I have been doing darkroom work for over 50 years and the only thing that has happen to me is the lost of finger prints. It is hard to get a decent set of fingerprints. However, since those days are gone I don't worry about that loss.
I also keep one hand dry and rinse after fixing and before moving on to another exposure.
With students, I discuss the options and let them decide. In 30 years I have only had one or two who opt for gloves as they knew they had a skin problem and their Doctor recommended gloves.
I use tongs while printing and latex gloves for toning, bleaching, etc. and I also have a horror story of a friend that ended up not being able to continue working in the darkroom because of developing an allergic reaction to developers. Its commonly known as Metol poisoning and can be quite painful. I have been told that some people react the first time they come in contact with the developer and others develop the condition after continued exposure over the yearss and of course there are those that never do. This and the other warnings you have received I'm sure are not to scare you off using your bare hands in processing. But why take the chance?
Personally, I use Trojan Magnums, and when I want my prints to have a little more sensitivity I use the ribbed Trojans. As an added benefit the ribbed ones allow me to stay in the darkroom a lot longer and increase the pleasure of the experience.
Of course when using a something new or especially something that has been used a lot by others, I tend to be a "double bagger".
I go bare back young lady. Anything more is unmanly. But seriously, for prints I usually just use my hands. I develop my pyro negs in a tank and don't use gloves there either. If by chance I get some pyro stuff on me I just rinse it off. I hate the feel of gloves. Same reason I take my glasses off before I eat. Just can't stand to have anything between me and the food I guess. And no I don't eat with my fingers.
Once the darkroom session is over a nice skin cream insures I maintain my silky smooth hands.
Sensitization is a real possiblity. I didnt' use gloves for some time, but then started getting poision ivy-like blisters around my nails. I use gloves now. Some people can have much more worse reactions.
Well Aggie - you sure got a lot of responses on this one - To glove or not to glove, that is the question. ....
I never touch any chemicals for film (I don't need to) - I don't tray develop and I don't do 8x10 film. I have a great deal of respect for Pyro and Catechol and am very careful with them.
I have no idea how you would manipulate a 16x20 fiber print with tongs and I can't feel the wetness on the gloves and that causes me to spoil the next sheet. Maybe I need training? I use tongs for toner - selenium and cyanide have me spooked.
I figure with all things it is a matter of exposure. If I breathe L.A. air all day everyday, I will die young from lung cancer - so - when I am in L.A. - I only breathe half as much (LOL) and I don't go into L.A. every day. I don't work in my darkroom more than a half dozen times a month. And I only spend four or five hours in there. So my exposure is less than 25 hours a month broken into four hour streaches of breathing the air and soaking my hands. In that I also minimize my exposure with frequent rinsing and drying. I believe this minimal exposure level is reasonably safe. I pulled MSDS sheets on most of the chemicals I use and none of them are an extrordinary health hazard. Metol, Hydroquinone and Thoisulphate are the bulk of it. I have read that some of photographic chemicals are not unlike chemicals that the body creates and treats as waste in normal living, being just another iteration of the Benzine ring. Of course a genetic disposition of sensitivity to any one of these chemicals would certainly be an unfortunate turn of luck. But on the other hand, if I am not so unlucky, there is a reasonable chance there will be no adverse consequences. Kind of like hiking in the woods - there is a reasonable chance you won't get eaten by a bear, poisoned by a snake or given Lyme Disease by a tick. So I hike also.
If I was in the darkroom 4 hours a day, I would certainly do things different.
No gloves for me. I used them with pyro until I got the pyro out of the tray and into the tank. I use tongs and keep my hands out of the dev as much as possible, but am not afraid of it. Stop and fix I don't worry about at all. I'm considering using phenidone in my Defender D55 dev. Seems to work fine, but I have so much metol that I want to use up.
Who cleans dev trays?
I've been working in darkrooms for almost my whole life, and it wasn't until I began working 40+ hrs a week as a job as a lab tech, that I started to wear gloves. The chemistry eventually did me in (the color stuff is particularly foul)--but even with the gloves, I eventually developed contact dermitis--the culprit at this point was not the E6, b&w machine chemistry, selenium/sulfide toners, dektol, rapid fix or the b&w deeptank line I run & maintain. It wasn't having to clean rollers in our processor, or mixing up chemistry every week or running tray lines or cleaning the silver recovery unit. It wasn't using Latex gloves (which I've switched to vinyl or Nitrile now after hearing the OSHA reports on latex alllergy alerts)--in the end it was the pHisoderm cleaner just about every lab I've ever worked in has used at their sinks. I had to do a process of elimination with my doctor to figure this out. My hands & wrists broke out in scaly rashes that eventually broke open at my knuckles & every little small crease and oozed fluids & bled. It took me almost 4 mos. to get over it. I still use a corticosteroid creme & have to minimize wet time on my hands and religiously wear gloves for the deeptank line, use tongs & disposable gloves for tray use & chem mixing, clean-up and find myself using machine processors more and more....
So, it only took about 15 yrs for this to happen to me, but it's what I do for a living as well, and hopefully will continue to do so. PHOTOFINISH might not bother you--but it dries the hell out of my skin. I clean our deeptank with it monthly. I'll use it to neutralize chem if I spill it on my bare skin as well--it's great for stop bath--but I avoid it in general to use like a soap.
For me, one of the best reasons to wear gloves besides keeping chemistry off off my hands & arms, is well, actually to keep it off my skin and from being transfered around the darkroom and in a worst case onto dry negatives or finished prints....where I work, we don't handle negatives without wearing white cotton gloves or Polygenex gloves, we don't handle prints that are artifacts without wearing gloves either--and 95% of the artifacts are handled with gloves as well--the exception being items where you need the tactile feel to handle them safely. So, another way to look at gloves, if not for your safety is the safety of the items around you....
While we're at it. take particular care with the gel chemicals in Polariod film packs... *ESPECIALLY* keep the stuff out of your eyes. I know a few Engineers that worked in the Polariod film plant, and it is common knowledge among them that that stuff is *mean*!!
If you do have the misfortune of getting that gel into your eyes DO NOT WAIT - GET MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY!!