Is your eczema flaring up? This may be why.
Eczema is a condition that unfortunately has no cure. Instead, it has to be managed with the right skincare and lifestyle habits. If your skin has been red, itchy and inflamed more recently even though you haven’t switched up your routine, these surprising causes might be to blame. Here are nine things that could be aggravating your eczema and making it worse without you realising.
1. Eating too much sugar
Your 3pm pastry and cookie fix isn’t doing you any good. Research has linked a diet high in refined sugars to increased levels of inflammation in the body. And the last thing you need when suffering from eczema is chronic inflammation since that is one of the triggers of a flare-up.
Ah, stress. A little stress is great for getting things done but too much can send your body (and mind) into a frenzy. When you’re stressed out, your immune system gets compromised and this can trigger body-wide inflammation that can cause your eczema to flare. While it’s hard to pinpoint an exact situation where stress becomes bad for you, these eight signs can give you an indication of whether or not you’re too stressed out.
3. Hot water
Bathing in hot water after a long and tiring day might feel great, but you’re going to regret it once you step out of the shower. Hot water actually strips your skin of moisture and natural oils, and this can exacerbate dryness and irritation. The same goes for washing the dishes in hot water. Keep your showers no longer than 10 minutes and always bathe in cool or lukewarm water. Gently pat or dab off excess water when you towel yourself dry, and immediately reapply your creams and moisturisers to damp skin to lock in hydration after.
When you have an eczema rash, you may be tempted to keep scratching it – or you may even find yourself doing so subconsciously! While scratching provides temporary relief, the itch actually doesn’t go away and in fact, might become worse. Scratching may break the surface of your skin and cause your eczema patch to spread or become more irritated. Resist the urge to scratch by covering up and using creams or ointments that have anti-itch properties.
5. Laundry detergent
When you suffer from sensitive skin, something as innocent as your choice of laundry detergent can also cause your eczema to worsen. Many commercial detergents contain ingredients that can irritate skin. According to the National Eczema Association in the US, look for liquid detergents as these tend to have less residue than powders, and make sure the formula is hypoallergenic, formulated for sensitive skin and free of artificial dyes and fragrances. You can also run your clothes through an extra rinse cycle at the end to make sure there aren’t any soap suds or residue left. (Psst, find out how many calories you burn while doing housework here.)
6. Fragranced products
Similarly, avoid using any cosmetic products that contain added scents. Artificial fragrances can further irritate eczema-prone skin. It’s also a good idea to stay away from perfumes. If you must, spritz it onto your clothes and avoid direct contact with your skin.
7. Hand sanitiser
Alcohol-based hand sanitisers tend to be harsh and drying. These can dehydrate your skin and wipe out all bacteria – both good and bad – from your hands. Disrupting your body’s natural microbiomes can further compromise your skin’s natural protective barrier and lead to greater moisture loss in the long run. What’s worse, these sanitisers are also often laced with fragrances – another big irritant for sensitive skin.
Strange as it may sound, it’s very possible to be allergic to your own sweat. Sweat contains certain compounds that can induce an allergic or inflammatory reaction in skin. This response is quite common among eczema sufferers. Prevent this by making sure you have ready access to shower facilities post-exercise and remember to thoroughly moisturise after bathing. Wear lightweight, breathable clothing as far as possible too, and wipe off excess sweat if you’ve been out in the sun a lot.
Hormonal fluctuations can be blamed for all sorts of weird bodily changes, and it’s certainly related to eczema flare-ups as well. When your body experiences a rise and fall in hormone levels such as during pregnancy or at certain times in your cycle, eczema symptoms like dryness or itchiness may be aggravated.