Eczema is something that has come to fascinate me over the past few years. The reason why is because, although I know some people who have eczema (some worse than others), it wasn't until about six or seven years ago that I noticed a patch behind each ear myself. As someone who has a fungal sensitivity and really no other health issues, I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on.
When I discovered the fact that eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) was a skin inflammation issue, that there are basically seven different types of eczema (you can read more about that here) and that while it's more probable in individuals who have family members that have it, the reality is there are triggers that can cause almost anyone to have a flare-up, I decided to share what some of those triggers are with you.
Because anyone who's had the constant itchiness and/or scaly skin and/or weeping blisters knows that if there is anything that can be done to keep eczema at bay, it's best that you do it. Anyway, here are seven common things that can cause eczema to show all the way out.
Personally, when it comes to what causes the area behind my ears to get irritated by eczema, I'm willing to bet that it's my diet more than anything. While I strive to eat pretty responsibly most of the time, right around my period, I tend to be on some other ish.
For instance, remember how I said that the root issue of eczema is skin inflammation? Well, wouldn't it make total sense that foods that cause inflammation could cause eczema to happen from time to time? Some of those foods include dairy (which is my thing when I decide to go all in on ice cream and pizza during PMS), sugar, gluten, soy, tomatoes, citrus fruit, eggs and even spices like cinnamon and vanilla.
Does this mean that you have to give all of this up? Lawd, life would suck if you did, right? It's more like, what you might want to do is either go by a process of elimination to see which foods personally affect you or opt to not eat several of those foods at the same time. Besides, it's not like a lot of dairy, sugar or soy are the best things for you, anyway. A bout of eczema may be just what you need to remind you of that very fact.
2. Dry Skin
Tell me something. How good are you at keeping your skin nice and moisturized? If you've always been curious about how you can know for sure that your skin is well-hydrated, make sure that you "seal" it by moisturizing it while it is still damp. Also, it's important to drink lots of water throughout the day and to pay close attention to if your skin feels tight or if your make-up looks "cake-y" when you put it on (by the way, signs that you're over-moisturizing is your pores are clogged, your skin keeps breaking out and/or you're noticing that your skin isn't absorbing whatever you put on it).
When this doesn't happen, it can cause your skin to become super dry, flaky and scaly. And that can definitely cause eczema to rear its ugly head. So, definitely make moisturization a priority. Your skin will always thank you for it if you do.
While I'm not personally an avid Tyler Perry movie watcher, there is a line from his film Temptation that I adore and use semi-often. It's a scene from when Vanessa Williams's character said, "Good luck with your struggle." Here's the context. A bad habit that I used to have with my clients is I would sometimes find myself far more invested in them getting better than they were which resulted in my becoming more stressed out than I ever needed to be. And looka here — as you get older (and hopefully wiser), you learn that anything/anyone that comes with a lot of stress, it just isn't worth the time or even the paycheck.
One of the reasons why is because long-term stress is tied to health-related issues like obesity, diabetes, asthma, headaches, depression and even shortened longevity. Girl, no person, place, thing or idea is worth all of that drama.
And just what does all of this have to do with eczema? While many health professionals do not believe that stress actually causes eczema to occur, when we're stressed out and the cortisol (our natural stress-related hormone) increases, that can result in bodily inflammation which can ultimately lead to eczema symptoms. That's why, I don't care if it's meditation, exercise, sex, sleep or releasing some people, watch your stress levels. If you don't, your skin could alert you that things have gone way too far.
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Out of all of what I've already shared, this probably makes a lot of sense when you think about the fact that airborne allergens like mold, dander and pollen have the ability to weaken your immune system over time and potentially irritate your skin which could also cause an eczema outbreak. So, what should you do in this instance? Vacuum regularly. Change your sheets no less than once a week. And speak with your physician about whether or not you should take an antihistamine. The less your body reacts to allergens, the greater your chances will be of avoiding eczema on your skin.
5. Household Chemicals
Remember how I said in the intro that there are different types of eczema? Well, there's one in particular that is also known as contact dermatitis. It's when your skin is triggered by things like soaps, cleaning products and clothing dyes. Not only that but the chemicals in hair dyes and cosmetics, along with the perfumes that may be in all of these things, can also cause an eczema flare-up to occur. While you will need to see your doctor in order to confirm that this is the cause of the itching, burning, tenderness, inflammation or scaling that you might see, chances are that if you go with products that are as natural as possible and fragrance-free, that could help relieve eczema-related symptoms. Significantly so.
6. Hormonal Shifts
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Here's a heads up, especially if you are perimenopausal or are currently going through menopause. Something that happens during this particular season of life is our estrogen levels start to significantly decrease. Once this happens, it can be more challenging for our bodies to maintain enough fluid to keep our skin moisturized. And, as I already shared, when our skin is dry, eczema can oftentimes become triggered as a direct result.
Typically, perimenopause starts to occur between 7-10 years before the time when you go without a period for a year (which is official menopause). So, if you're noticing a lot of fatigue, hot flashes, a lower libido, vaginal dryness, irregular periods or incontinence, please see your doctor as soon as possible. They can discuss what you can do to get your estrogen levels up, so that hopefully, eczema won't be as much of an issue.
By the way, it's not uncommon for estrogen levels to teeter right before your period too. If that happens, some foods that are natural sources of estrogen include dried fruit, garlic, peaches, berries, wheat bran, flaxseeds and alfalfa sprouts.
7. Extreme TemperaturesGetty Images
One more. If it seems like things are all good during the spring and fall, only for all hell to break loose when summer and winter roll around, that probably isn't a random occurrence. The truth of the matter is that summer can cause excess sweating and the salt that comes from it can cause itching and lead to the spread of eczema. On the flip side, the cold winter air can cause your skin to become extra dry and we already discussed what can come from that. So, in the summer, stay hydrated and try not to spend hours in the heat before cooling down. In the winter, don't forget to moisturize and consider sleeping with a humidifier, so that extra moisture can travel through the air while you sleep and protect your skin. Just one more way to keep eczema triggers from totally bothering you.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Many have wondered if one time is ever enough to see Queen Bey. Some argue yes. However, many of us on the opposite end of the spectrum, including myself, would disagree. Beyoncé's "Renaissance World Tour" is a universal yet varying experience for everyone who attends. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, the concert is "transcendent." For millennials, we have over two decades of her catalog that has served as the soundtrack for many of our lives and painted a personal portrait of our most coveted thoughts. Her music provides mental clarity and self-expression by serving as a universal language that has united fans from all walks of life through community, fashion, self-acceptance, and healing.
With a multi-layered approach to her artistry, just as she did on that winter day in December 2013 with the infamous digital drop of her self-titled album, she changed the game again on February 1, 2023, when she announced her world tour in support of Renaissance, her seventh studio album. Her cultural impact set the internet ablaze, with everyone trying to gather their coins, barter for presale codes, and figure out which cities to attend. The group chats were lit, and the Beyhive was stressed trying to get their hands on tickets.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
Unfortunately, I was in that number. As the concert dates passed by and the one in my city drawing near all roads led to disappointment. With time ticking on the day of the Miami show and less than two hours to spare, my wallet bit the bullet, and I purchased three last-minute tickets, costing roughly $700.00 a piece (including fees) for me, my 9-year-old and 16-year-old nieces in Section 121 at the Hard Rock Stadium. With 10 minutes before showtime, we eagerly awaited the Queen to take the stage. A sea of metallic fringes, cowboy hats, disco fans, and western boots were in full effect and filled the entire stadium.
As the lights dimmed, a flood of emotions instantly overtook my body. It continued with each note she belted, along with nearly 50,000 roaring fans. The reverberating sound of the music through the stadium transported me from one era of my life to the next. As a teen girl in her bedroom daydreaming about her first love to blossoming into an unapologetic Black woman who is still on a road of self-discovery while learning to lean into the power anthem of "You won't break my soul." For over two hours, and with each set, I felt joy, love, peace, and a commanderie with fellow concertgoers. It was therapeutic as I danced like no one was watching and sang as if I were alone in my bathroom mirror.
There were no bars held, and I realized at that moment, "Nobody can judge me but me." The "Renaissance World Tour" proved to be so vast, and my Black girl joy was re-invigorated. It was magnetic and liberating, and I had to attend again, but this time, I needed to be up close and personal; I needed to be on the floor. In the days that passed, I watched more social media clips in different cities and asked myself if I would really splurge again to attend another Renaissance show.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
After all, this would be my thirteenth time (maybe more because I lost count) seeing Beyoncé live, whether she was on tour with Destiny's Child, as a solo artist, or doing a live appearance. I contemplated for a while, but it worked itself out on its own. I was gifted two tickets and the next thing I knew, I was off to LA to attend another Renaissance show with floor seats at SoFi Stadium during Beyonce's 42nd birthday weekend! This time, things were different: no kids were allowed. It was adults only this go round.
Although the energy at the Miami and Los Angeles shows was empowering, infectious, and a celebration of life, happiness, and identity, they each provided their own unique experience. However, both concerts were what I needed for my well-being, leaving me with sore feet from dancing the night away, on vocal rest for the next few days from screaming at the top of my lungs, and on an indefinite high on life.
My introduction and love for Beyoncé began in 1996, while my older sister lived in Houston, TX, right before Bey hit the scene in 1998 with "No, No, No" as a budding R&B member. Her evolution twenty-seven years later as an international superstar and into womanhood has been an incredible journey to witness. As Mrs. Carter reminds each of us in the audience every night before the curtain closes, "I want you to remember this moment, where you're standing, who you came with, and take it with you. I hope you feel inspired."
I truly felt inspired, so thank you, Queen Bey. You awakened my inner child, and I will definitely remember these moments and take them with me.
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Feature image by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood