Common Triggers for Dermatitis
Flare Ups and Common Triggers
With eczema, flare-ups can arise randomly, but there’s also a potential measure of control that can arise from predictability. Certain surfaces, clothing fabrics, environmental conditions, or dietary intake can trigger a flare-up. The patterns aren’t easily evident, especially when one is new to navigating the challenges of eczema. We wrote this guide to help you identify your triggers, group them into easy-to-remember categories, and get started with creating your very own trigger checklist for eczema.
Firstly, we acknowledge that it’s not possible to predict every eczema flare-up, and we don’t want to set up the expectation that you can, or should even try. Instead, think of a trigger checklist as a tool. Hopping on a flight? House undergoing renovations? Any or all of these scenarios can present factors that trigger a nasty flare-up. Having the ability to prepare for these scenarios can help with managing eczema—and being prepared can help you get faster relief.
Unravelling Eczema Triggers
Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that can be triggered by substances you touch. Triggers for contact dermatitis loosely fall into these categories:
- Detergents and other chemicals
- Cleaning substances that are meant to be safe on the body, including dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, and hand, hair or body soaps with harsh detergents as key ingredients (link to article)
- Harsh cleaning solutions for kitchens, bathrooms, industrial spaces, carpets, and more
- Makeup, including eyeshadows, eyeliners, mascara, lipsticks, and blushes
- Natural juices from fruit, meats or vegetables
- Artificial scents in body washes, perfumes, etc.
- Essential oils used as fragrance components
- Chromium, cobalt, chloride, copper, gold nickel
- Fabric or lining materials
- Polyester, used in most clothing
Sometimes the trigger isn’t caused by touching something. Don’t despair. If your triggers aren’t, per se, tangible, it doesn’t make them less real or less manageable.
- Substances in your space
- Allergens such as dust mites, cigarette smoke, pet dander, or mould
- Environmental conditions
- Extreme heat or cold
- Very dry or very humid conditions
- Temperature swings or sudden altitude changes
- Chemicals in your surroundings
- Swimming pools containing chlorine or full of chloramines
- Other peoples’ perfumes or room fragrance spray
Finally, flare-ups can be caused by your internal state. Food, stress, and sleeping patterns can all play a part.
- Work or daily life
- Unexpected circumstances
- Certain foods
- Foods that can cause allergies: cow’s milk, eggs, soy, wheat, seafood or shellfish, pitted fruits, nuts
- Sweaty elbows, armpits, knees, and more
- Places where certain fabrics rub against your skin during workouts
Creating your Trigger List
- Using our list as a base, create a three-strike checklist that you can put in a convenient physical or digital place. Your fridge, diary or mobile Notes application are great starting points. When you experience eczema, check it off. If a particular substance or situation earns three strikes, this may be a definite and reliable trigger.
- Consider situations where you might be exposed to unexpected triggers. We will start you off with a few examples:
- Taking a flight. In the cabin of a plane, the air is very dry.
- Home renovations. Dust and other particulates from construction can irritate your skin and send it into a frenzy.
- Celebrations. Whether it’s food, drinking or simply the long night of dancing, a faster recovery, rather than prevention of a flare-up, might be the goal instead.
- Utilize your trigger checklist when planning for activities. Take no more than 5 minutes to briefly brainstorm some of the factors that might affect your skin (don’t burden yourself with overpreparation). Prepare creatively—like bringing mini versions of your best eczema-soothing products with you, or plan some downtime after the activity.
Bard, S. (2021, September 3). What Causes Eczema to Flare Up: Stress, Triggers, and More. Healthline. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/severe-eczema/triggers-how-to-avoid#eczema-triggers
Eczema Causes & Triggers. (n.d.). National Eczema Association. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/causes-and-triggers-of-eczema/