Oct 8th 2019
31 MILLION, that is the number of people in the United States who have eczema according to a 2013 survey by The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. With that many people dealing with a form of eczema, it stands the chance that you or a loved one are affected by this chronic condition. One thing all eczema suffers can agree on is how the redness, itchiness, dryness and inflammation of the skin impacts their life. In my personal journey with eczema, I have been known to change clothes due to the fabric it was made of or the way it fit on my body or simply decided not to go out because of embarrassment and internal shame over the way my skin looked.
While the exact cause of eczema hasn’t been determined, it has been speculated that an over-active immune system stimulated by an irritant inside or outside the body may be the culprit. The clothes we wear, the products we use on our skin and hair and even environmental elements can cause eczema flare-ups. Listed below are the top 5 triggers that cause the most flare-ups among those with eczema:
1) Weather: Living in an area that experiences all four seasons is great, but two seasons in particular normally have me on high alert due to my eczema. The dry air that is prevalent during the cold wintery season, caused by cold winds and dry heat, can deplete your skin of its natural moisture. Humidifiers are a life saver during those cold months as they are designed to put moisture back into the air. We use cold mist humidifiers in our house; but both cold and warm mist humidifiers have great benefits. Stepping up your moisturizing routine will win you accolades from your skin. Applying a thick moisturizer twice a day will give your skin the added protection it needs to combat winter’s harsh elements. Summer, while my favorite season, can also pose a threat to those who have eczema. The humid temperatures of the summer months bring about perspiration, thus irritating the skin. As the sweat on our body evaporates, our skin becomes drier leaving salty deposits, which can irritate eczema skin. As a family, we try to stay as cool as possible by drinking plenty of water, going to the pool often, using peppermint essential oil, applying a natural sunscreen and never being too far away from central air conditioning.
2) Clothing: Fibers in man-made fabrics such as polyester or wool can cause allergic reactions in those who have eczema. If you notice that you experience itchy skin while or after wearing a piece of clothing, check the tag for its fabric make-up. To combat this possible trigger, avoid wearing any clothes that worsen the effect on your skin, wear an extra layer of clothes under the garment and wash clothes before wearing them. Breathable fabrics such as cotton are your best choice. Hats, scarves and gloves made of these materials should also be avoided. Try silk, leather or find gloves made from eco-friendly materials.
3) Food: For those that don’t know, Mr. E.B.B is an executive chef and through our marriage my food palette has pleasantly increased. However, what we didn’t realize when we first got married is that certain foods can worsen my eczema. While every person is different, the food groups that tend to cause the most flare-ups are: dairy, eggs, gluten/wheat, fish, soy, tomatoes and certain nuts. Also, eating foods linked to inflammation can be a trigger, i.e., sugars, processed grains and red meats. If this list seems a bit overwhelming, one way you may be able to narrow down the foods you are sensitive to is through an elimination diet. An elimination diet involves writing down everything that you eat or drink for a few weeks. By keeping track of the days that you have eczema flare-ups and comparing them to the foods that you consume on those days, you will be able to notice patterns. By limiting or removing the foods that cause flare-ups from your diet, it will promote healthier skin.
4) Household Cleansers: Household Cleansers contain chemicals that are known to cause problems for those with sensitive skin. The chemicals can irritate the skin causing itchiness and dryness. Wearing gloves, preferably cotton-lined ones, are instrumental in protecting your skin from these harmful irritants. Laundry detergents, shampoos and soaps are another trigger that cause havoc for those who suffer from eczema. The key is to use products that are made for sensitive skin and those that are fragrance free. Stay away from fabric softeners and dryer sheets. The less chemicals one uses to clean their body, hair and clothes, the better it is for the health and comfort of their skin. Earth Born Beauty uses nature's finest ingredients to craft skincare products specifically for those with dry and sensitive skin. Our collection of natural soaps and moisture-rich body butters are chemical free and provide the hydration that moisture-lacking eczema skin needs. View our natural soaps and nourishing body butters.
5) Water: Hot showers are not your friend. I repeat, hot showers are not your friend! While a long, hot bath or shower may sound like the epitome of relaxation after a long day; the hot temperature of the water can strip your skin and dry it out. Keep your water at a lukewarm level, limit your baths and showers to 10 mins. or less and apply a thick moisturizer while skin is still damp.
In review, there are many triggers that can cause eczema to flare-up. While the top 5 triggers are listed above, environmental factors (dust, smoke), stress anxiety and hormonal changes can also bring about a reaction. To help manage your eczema symptoms, it is vital to know the most common triggers. Avoid taking hot baths or showers, keep track of your daily foods and drinks, drink plenty of water, use fragrant free cleaning products, skincare products and detergents, steer clear of fabrics that cause irritations, wear breathable clothes and you will notice that your eczema flare-ups will diminish. It is possible to get the upper hand on your eczema and take back control of your life.