Help! What Commonly Triggers Eczema?
If you pay attention to your skin even a fraction as much as we do (hey, it’s an occupational hazard), you’ve probably noticed that it’s constantly changing. Some products may feel soothing on your skin and make it appear brighter and plumper with each use, others may have an adverse effect and trigger a break out. Your skin’s mood can also change when it is exposed to certain climates, temperatures and seasons. Or, even if nothing in your regimen or life is different, skin changes can occur due to your genetics. One possible skin condition likely to pop is eczema. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of eczema include red bumps that are scaly, dry and feel rough in texture. As someone who knows the itchy struggle of eczema all too well, I reached out to Skincare.com consultant and Director of Cosmetics & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Joshua Zeichner, MD, about the common triggers often associated with this condition, and why paying attention to these triggers are important. Here’s what he had to say.
What Is Eczema?
According to Dr. Zeichner, eczema is a condition in which the skin barrier is not working as well as it should. “The skin develops microscopic cracks in the outer layer, leading to loss of hydration and inflammation,” he says. Generally, Dr. Zeichner notes that over-the-counter products (like Hydrocortisone) typically help treat these flare ups, but he advises visiting a dermatologist to confirm that what you are experiencing is, in fact, eczema symptoms.
What Are Common Eczema Triggers?
As far as why eczema might be popping up on your skin, Dr. Zeichner reveals that it’s most commonly due to genetics but exposure to allergens or irritants can also bring it on. “Allergens are ingredients like preservatives, fragrances and dyes that elicit an immune response in your skin,” he says. “Irritants are ingredients like hydroxy acids or other harsh chemicals that are directly caustic to the skin.” It is also possible that certain environmental exposures can cause dry skin and eczema. Things like hot water, using the wrong cleanser or cold, dry air can also increase eczema flares.
How to Avoid Eczema Triggers
Avoiding eczema triggers comes down to making sure you’re aware of what might cause your flare ups and knowing what is inside your products. “If you have eczema, stick to fragrance-free skin-care products,” says Dr. Zeichner. “I also recommend staying away from harsh scrubs or ingredients like retinol that can lead to skin irritation.” If you’re unsure if a product might cause an eczema flare up, a patch test will help you get your answer. Try applying a product for a few days in one spot to see if it causes a reaction in the skin, and if you are able to determine the ingredient causing the allergy, you can avoid it.
“We know that the skin barrier of people who have eczema is disrupted throughout the entire body, not only in places where there is a specific rash,” says Dr. Zeichner, “That’s why it’s important to stick to a gentle skin cleanser and moisturizer [Ed. note: Our favorite is the CeraVe Eczema Body Wash and Creamy Oil] and try to minimize the chances of developing a flare up.”