What Causes A Flare Up? 5 Top Treatment Tips For Eczema
We know it, all too well. You think your skin is FINALLY beginning to get better. You’re feeling great. Damn, might even sweat it out at the gym and take a hot shower.
And then, BAM! Your skin has different plans - another flare up. It’s not easy, living a life dictated by your skin.
Lack of sleep. Itchy. Irritated. Stressed. Sound familiar? We feel you!
But just as luck would have it, we thought it best to help all you eczema sufferers out and give a quick lowdown on flare ups.
In this article, you’ll find:
1) What is a ‘flare up’ and symptoms to look out for
2) The underlying causes of a flare up
3) Common triggers to be aware of (that you should try your best to avoid)
4) How to figure out your triggers
5) 5 top tips for dealing with and preventing a flare up
Let’s get to it!
First up, what is a flare up?
When it comes to eczema (atopic dermatitis) there are two distinct phases we need to understand and be aware of.
A ‘flare up’ is a term used to describe the phase when your skin is at its most irritable. I.e. it’s extra sensitive to allergens and stressors in your close environment. (Basically you become a ticking time bomb).
It can also be referred to as the ‘active’ or ‘acute’ phase and has the following symptoms you should look out for:
- Intensely itchy skin. We’re talking about can’t take your mind off it itchy skin. It may also get worse at night and to some cause a burning sensation.
- Dry, red, inflamed skin that may lead to a rash. In some this can also appear swollen, and may bleed if scratched repeatedly.
You get the idea, it’s nasty.
A flare up can appear on the body anywhere the heck it likes, but is most common on the face/neck, chest, hands and wrists.
The more pleasant time in an eczema sufferer's life is called the ‘non-acute’ phase (inventive naming we know). Even though you may still experience itchy or dry skin at this time, the symptoms are less harsh and shouldn't impact your life as severely.
What causes an eczema flare up?
Unfortunately, it’s not known what causes eczema. The widely accepted belief is that it’s a combination of genetics and internal/external triggers.
People who suffer from eczema tend to have an overactive immune system and a weakened skin barrier that, when triggered, responds by producing inflammation. It is this response that causes the itchy, dry, red patches you see on your skin and can be so distressing for those suffering.
Common triggers to be aware of
Right then, the interesting part. Understanding and avoiding your triggers is CRUCIAL for taking back control of your skin and reducing the severity of your flare ups.
Eczema differs from person to person and there is no one size fits all solution. However, there are common triggers you should be aware of.
This is a biggy. And can produce an almost instantaneous response if you eat something that you're allergic to. The biggest culprits when it comes to eczema-prone skin are:
- Refined carbs
- Red meats
But of course, anything has the potential to trigger your skin and the list is essentially endless.
The best way forward? An elimination diet is a good place to start. Our preferred method is to cut a host of things from your diet all at once, wait to see if your skin improves, then slowly re-introduce different food groups one by one to test your reaction.
It’s important to bear in mind that overly strict elimination diets are not recommended, due to the effects they can have on your overall nutritional intake. This is particularly important for children - parents enforcing strict food elimination may hamper the growth of their child through restricting important minerals and vitamins.
However it should allow you to pinpoint what’s causing the problems (and we cross our fingers for you that it’s not dairy, as man it is in like EVERYTHING).
2. The weather
Both hot and cold climates can cause an issue here. Cold, because chilly temperatures and recycled hot air indoors can dry out your skin. And hot, because heavy perspiration can aggravate skin and cause itching.
3. Airborne allergens
We’re talking pollen, dust mites, pet dander and mold. Basically, keep your house clean and avoid the family dog (as tough as we know that can be).
This is an often overlooked trigger but plays a huge part in eczema flare ups. Ever notice that your skin acts up when you’re exhausted at work and the kids just will. not. shut. up.
That’s stress. And it causes a release of a number of hormones in the body which in turn can produce an inflammatory response. The result? Itchy red patches baby.
5. Detergents and scented products
When it comes to washing detergent, cosmetic creams, soaps (you get the idea) it’s so important you always go for fragrance free and hypo-allergenic. Anything else may cause an adverse reaction with your skin.
6. Exercise and sweat
Although this is great for stress relief (and super important to build into your weekly routine) just be careful if you feel a flare up coming. The sweat can aggravate your skin and cause itching.
How to figure out your triggers
This can be a difficult process. It requires a trial and error method, and a boat load of patience. Try seeing a dermatologist (if you can get an appointment) or go private for a patch test. They don’t often provide concrete answers, but it’s a step in the right direction.
5 top tips for dealing with and preventing a flare up
1. Stop itching!
We know, like the most annoying advice ever. But it’s so important! Excessive scratching can prompt a downward spiral and only prolong your flare up.
As luck would have it, our very own calming spray has you covered here!
Enriched with a blend of 3 traditional Chinese herbs trusted for 1000’s of years in Asian medicine, our plant-based formula is especially designed to combat the symptoms of eczema-prone skin.
Basically, it’s the nuts.
2. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise
Can’t say it enough, folks. We know when you suffer from eczema you have a damaged skin barrier and struggle to retain moisture. So give yourself a helping hand - slather on cream morning and night and your skin will be smiling.
Meditation and mindfulness is how we like to play it. We KNOW it’s so hard, especially with all the pressure of a busy life. But you have to prioritise your own mental health, for the good of your skin and your happiness.
Jump over to our social channels @yanyeeskincare for a nudge in the right direction.
4. Understand and avoid your triggers
Hey we just spoke about it, and we meant it. Find out your triggers then stay far far away. Forever.
5. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep and be consistent
Self-explanatory, but worth a mention. Make sure you’re sleeping enough and looking after your body. Oh, and stay consistent. Small actions repeated daily over a long period is the path to success.
Flare ups can be draining both physically and mentally for those suffering. The plus side? We’re with you. And we hope the advice we’ve laid out above has been of some use.
What have we missed? Jump over to our Twitter page and let us know!
The yan-yee team
- Disorders of the immune system. (n.d.). Link
- Should you try and elimination diet to determine the root cause of eczema? (2019). Link
- What does hypo-allergenic mean? (2019). Link
- Atopic eczema. (2019). Link
- Eczema causes and triggers. (n.d.). Link