Eczema flare-ups seem to appear out of nowhere but are usually caused by triggers. Learn about what might be leading to your symptoms.

right mark

Copied to Clipboard

wrong mark

Eczema Flare-Ups: Symptoms, Triggers, And Prevention

07/22/20228 min read

Just when you think you have a handle on your skin condition, it suddenly starts getting worse. An eczema flare-up can happen for many reasons, so it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause. However, doctors have identified some common triggers.

To help you look and feel your best, we’ve put together a guide on eczema flare-ups. You’ll learn about the symptoms you might notice, find a list of potential triggers that can make your eczema worse, and get tips to help prevent future flare-ups.

Table Of Contents

What Is Eczema?

Doctor examining an eczema flare-up on a man’s arm

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that causes your skin to become dry, itchy, or inflamed. It can appear on different body parts, including your hands, feet, elbows, knees, and face.

People who suffer from eczema often have family members with the condition since genetics play a role in it. But eczema is not contagious; you can't catch it from someone else.

What Is An Eczema Flare-Up?

An eczema flare-up is simply when your symptoms appear or worsen, which can happen suddenly or gradually.

Flare-ups typically occur after you come in contact with a trigger or when your skin is dry. They can last for a few days or weeks and can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Everyone experiences eczema differently, so your flare-up may not look the same as someone else's. However, if your skin has been improving and then your symptoms start to increase again, you're likely dealing with a flare-up.

Symptoms During A Flare-Up

Dry, Itchy Skin

Woman scratching dry, itchy skin on the back of her neck

The most common symptom of an eczema flare-up is dry, itchy skin. The itch might be mild, but it could also be so intense that it disrupts your sleep or interferes with your daily activities.

If you scratch your itchy skin, it can become even more irritated. Sometimes, this can lead to an infection and make your condition worse.

Inflammation

During a flare-up, you might notice that your skin is redder than usual. This is because eczema causes inflammation.

You might also notice swelling near the inflamed areas if you have severe eczema. The swelling can make your skin feel tight and uncomfortable.

Rashes

Eczema can cause skin rashes that are often red, scaly, and crusty. They can also appear as small, red bumps.

Your rash might be small or large and can start on one body part and then spread to another or stay contained to one area.

Oozing Skin

It's never fun to see liquid leaking out of your skin but, unfortunately, this sometimes happens during an eczema flare-up.

You might notice small fluid-filled blisters, which can break and leak a clear or straw-colored liquid. The little skin ruptures can be painful and make your skin feel raw.

Rough Or Scaly Patches

If you have eczema, you're probably used to your skin feeling dry and irritated. But, during a flare-up, these sensations can become more pronounced.

You might notice that your skin feels especially rough or scaly in places. In addition, these areas are typically discolored, taking on a red or brown hue.

Causes Of Eczema Flare-Ups

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “What causes an eczema flare-up?” The triggers that affect one person might not affect another.

The good news is that doctors have identified several common triggers. By using these known triggers as a starting point, you can determine (and avoid) what causes your own eczema flare-ups and experience more good skin days.

Let’s take a look at some of them below.

Dry Skin

A woman examining dry, red skin in the mirror

As we mentioned earlier, dry skin is a common trigger for eczema flare-ups. Dry skin can be caused by the weather, taking hot showers, or using harsh soaps that strip away the natural oils in your skin.

If you’re prone to eczema, it’s important to moisturize regularly, especially during the cold, dry winter months. Our Eczema Daily Calming Cream can be used every day. Formulated with soothing ingredients including colloidal oatmeal, it helps relieve eczema dryness.

Irritants

Certain products can irritate your skin and cause a flare-up, too. These include fragrances, some dyes, wool, and other fabrics. Other common irritants are:

  • Cleaning products
  • Smoke
  • Chlorine
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen

When you're exposed to an irritant, you might notice that your skin starts to itch, burn, or sting upon contact.

Stress

While the link between stress and eczema isn't fully understood, it's clear that there's a connection. If you have eczema, you might find that your symptoms get worse when you're under a lot of stress.

This is because stress can lead to changes in your body that make your skin more sensitive and prone to inflammation.

To improve your skin and reduce eczema flare-ups, try to keep your stress levels down. This could include daily relaxation techniques or seeking out a counselor to discover strategies that work for you.

Diet

The food you eat can impact every area of your health, including your skin.

For example, if you eat a lot of processed foods, you might find that your eczema gets worse. This is because processed foods are high in sugar and other inflammatory substances that can trigger a flare-up.

On the other hand, eating a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals can improve your skin. These foods include the nutrients your body needs to support your skin and keep it healthy.

Some people find that their eczema improves when they eat more anti-inflammatory foods, such as:

  • Olive oil
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Fruits and vegetables

Talk to a doctor or nutritionist if you think diet might be affecting your eczema. They can help you figure out if you need to make any changes.

Hormonal Changes

A pregnant woman touching her belly with her eczema-covered hands

Due to hormonal changes, women with eczema often find that their symptoms get worse during pregnancy or menopause.

If you're dealing with either of these, your regular treatments for eczema might be less effective. That’s because hormonal changes can make your skin more sensitive. You may need to try a different approach or talk to your doctor about other options.

If you’re pregnant, it’s a great time to try some natural eczema remedies to avoid any harsh ingredients that can negatively affect your baby.

How To Prevent Eczema Flare-Ups

Now that you know more about what can cause your eczema symptoms to worsen, you might wonder how to prevent future flare-ups.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a proven treatment plan that works for everyone. Your exact course of treatment depends on what triggers your condition in the first place and how severe your symptoms are.

If you try different strategies to treat your condition and still experience symptoms, it’s time to talk to a dermatologist. They can help you create a personalized treatment plan.

In the meantime, here are some simple tips that can help keep your skin looking and feeling better.

Avoid Your Triggers

A person wearing gloves while cleaning the counter

If you know what exacerbates your eczema, it's essential to avoid those triggers. This might mean wearing gloves when you're around known irritants or using a humidifier in your home.

If you're unsure what's triggering your eczema, keep track of when and where your flare-ups occur. You might be able to identify a pattern after a few weeks.

Switch To Moisturizing Self-Care Products

As mentioned above, one of the best things you can do for your eczema is to moisturize your skin regularly. To help keep your skin hydrated, consider switching to self-care products specially formulated for dry or sensitive skin.

For example, use a moisturizing cleanser, such as our Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash. You can also try using a moisturizer designed for eczema-prone skin, like our Eczema Daily Calming Cream.

Try Not To Scratch

We know that your eczema patches are itchy, but scratching is one of the worst things you can do for your condition. It can damage your skin and make you more susceptible to infection.

If you find yourself wanting to scratch, try to take some deep breaths and relax. You might also try holding a cold compress against your skin.

Living With Eczema

A man scratching an eczema flare-up on his arm

An eczema flare-up can be frustrating, but by understanding your triggers and taking steps to avoid them, you can keep your symptoms under control.

Using the Bodewell line of products designed for people with eczema can help. For instance, our thick, moisturizing Eczema Daily Calming Cream can help improve your skin’s appearance over time.

No matter what brings on your own personal eczema flare-ups, with time and the right products, you’ll soon achieve better skin days!

Shop Bodewell