7 Common Eczema Triggers
- Avoiding Eczema Triggers: How to Fend Off Flare-UpsOne in 10 people in the United States can expect to get eczema at some point. Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema inflames the skin and makes it itchy, red, and painful. More than half of people with eczema are embarrassed or angry about it. They tend to feel less healthy, miss more workdays, skip social activities, and have trouble sleeping. Knowing your eczema triggers can help you avoid them and get your personal and professional life back.
- 1. Dry skin.Dry skin can cause eczema to flare up, so don’t let your skin get too rough or tight. Ideally, it should be soft and flexible. To achieve this, moisturize at least twice a day–more often in cold weather or dry climates. Choose fragrance-free moisturizers that have more of a greasy than creamy texture, because they usually contain fewer skin-drying preservatives. Experiment with some options and ask your dermatologist for a recommendation. Your shower routine can also help keep your skin from drying out. Keep showers and baths short (10 to –15 minutes) and use warm water instead of hot. Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it and moisturize right away.
- 2. Personal care products.Think about all the products you use on your skin, like soap, body wash, shampoo, shaving cream, lotion–and be intentional about what you purchase. Avoid antibacterial and deodorant soaps. They can irritate skin and dry it out. Don’t use soap or shampoo that contains fragrance, or this known irritant: cocamidopropyl betaine. Many people with eczema have poor reactions to this ingredient, as well as preservatives like formaldehyde. Chemicals called sulfates, used to create a lather in shampoo and body wash, should also be avoided.
- 3. Household cleaners.Surface cleaners, floor polish, laundry detergent, and disinfectants are common sources of skin irritants. Look for fragrance-free options with fewer ingredients and ingredients that you know. Keep in mind that “hypoallergenic” isn’t a claim generally accepted by dermatologists. Products that can genuinely claim to be biodegradable, non-toxic, and petroleum-free can be good choices. Some household cleaners have the NEA Seal of Acceptance. It certifies that a product meets the standards of the National Eczema Association.
- 4. Irritating fabrics.For 85% of those with eczema, the condition is a factor in what they wear. You may want to avoid wool or synthetic fabric like nylon or polyester if it makes your itch worse. Keep an eye on how your skin reacts to leather, too. Some leather is dyed with a chemical called paraphenylene-diamine, a known irritant. Natural, soft, breathable fabrics are usually a better choice, so look for 100% cotton, silk, and bamboo. Apply the same guidelines to bedding and upholstery.
- 5. Certain foods.More research is needed to establish a scientific link between diet and eczema symptoms. However, many people with eczema notice certain foods or drinks seem to make their symptoms better or worse. Some benefit from avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sugar, trans fats, gluten, nuts, dairy, and fish. Others benefit from eating fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as probiotic yogurt and kefir. Be on the lookout for your own connections.
- 6. Scratching.Scratch. Itch. Scratch. Itch. The routine can be relentless. Scratching an itch really can make it worse. It’s a condition called neurodermatitis and it’s a common experience for people with eczema. A few different techniques can help. Instead of scratching, press a fingernail gently into your skin. You can also try clenching your fists and counting to 10. If you still itch, put an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on the area. Cooling off your environment can help, too.
- 7. Stress.Like itching and scratching, stress and symptom flare-ups tend to feed each other. Stress can cause a flare-up, which can lead to more stress. Try a relaxation exercise to help you stay calmer: deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi. Taking time to exercise or work on your hobbies can also relax you. More than 30% of people with eczema also have depression, anxiety, or both. If you have persistent sadness or anxiousness, it’s important to talk to your doctor, who can help you find a counselor or another mental health professional.