What Causes Eczema? 7 Surprising Things That Can Trigger It

Anyone who suffers from eczema knows that dealing with the skin condition can be a pain. To make matters worse, it can often flare up at times that are seemingly random. However, there are a number of surprising things that cause eczema breakouts, and sometimes it has nothing to do with how you are treating your skin from the outside. They might not be obvious, but being aware of these triggers can help you manage your eczema in a holistic way.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that makes your skin itchy, red, and scaly. "It is a hereditary condition where patients do not make enough of a protein which helps with skin moisturization," dermatologist Dr. Carolyn Jacob tells Bustle. "Consequently, they develop drier skin. It also makes them more prone to skin infections, itching, and allergies/asthma."

If you suffer from eczema, you're not alone. Ten percent of people in the United States have some form of eczema. Although taking care of your skin is especially important when you have this skin condition, there are other areas of your life that you should focus on as well that surprisingly have an impact. Here are seven unsuspecting things that can trigger eczema, according to experts.

1Stress

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Dealing with stress is annoying as is, but to make matters worse, it can also trigger an eczema flare up. "Stress uses up your body’s reserve of cortisol (a natural steroid)," dermatologist Dr. Suzanne Friedler tells Bustle. "When this is depleted, we start to itch and scratch, bringing on eczema."

2Extreme Weather

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Anything from a hot summer day to a cold winter evening can unfortunately result in an eczema flare up. "Both hot and cold weather can be triggers for eczema," says Dr, Friedler. "When we overheat, our bodies can start to itch, and the scratching can bring on eczema. In the cold weather, our bodies become dried out, as there is less humidity in the air. Dry flakey skin can lead to itching scratching and the rash of eczema." Speak with your dermatologist and ask them how to best manage your symptoms when the weather changes.

3Nickel On Your Clothing

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Some of the clothing or jewelry you wear can also trigger this skin condition. "Many people with eczema are also allergic to nickel," says Dr. Friedler. "Nickel is found on clothing, in zippers and jean snaps, and also in costume jewelry." It may be difficult to avoid entirely, but just something to keep in mind.

4Swimming

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Everyone loves a good dip in the pool, but it might not be the best for your skin if you suffer from eczema. "Chlorine and other chemicals can be harsh on the skin and soak in when the skin is wet," says Dr. Jacob. "After swimming, if the water dries off, it leaves chemical residues, which irritate the drier skin."

5Detergent

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What you use to do your laundry can also have a big effect on the health of your skin. "Detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets leave residue on clothing that can lead to itching, scratching, rashes and secondary skin infections," dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD tells Bustle. "Use fragrance-free detergents and skip the additives. Consider running clothing and towels and sheets through a second rinse cycle and use a rubber laundry ball instead of a dryer sheet."

6Fragrances

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You might want to think twice about spraying your favorite perfume: Fragrant products can be triggers for eczema. "People with eczema need to be very careful of skin care products with fragrances, even botanicals, since they can easily flare their skin," dermatologist Dr. William Kwan tells Bustle.

7Food Allergies

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If you are eating foods that you are allergic to, this could result in a flare-up. "It’s well-known that if a person ingests food that they are allergic to, their skin may itch," dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban tells Bustle. "However, in some people, not only does this can become itchy but they can break out in red scaly rashes." Seasonal allergies can also trigger itching that can lead to eczema breakouts as well.

If you suffer from eczema, cutting out these triggers may help, but when in doubt it's always best to consult with your dermatologist about how to best manage your symptoms.