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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