Here’s how stress can trigger eczema, plus some top tips to get you feeling fresh again.
What does the science say?
There’s def a direct link between stress and eczema breakouts. Studies have found that stress can screw with the top layer of your skin (aka the epidermis). This can make you more vulnerable to allergens, bacteria, and irritants, and all those things can cause a flare-up.
Stress might also make it harder for your skin to bounce back after a flare-up. This means your symptoms can last longer… which can increase your stress… which can cause more flare-ups… which can increase your stress… The vicious cycle of stress and scratching continues.
What else can trigger eczema?
Eczema isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of skin sitch. Symptoms and triggers can vary from person to person. Here are some common culprits.
Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs. According to a 2016 research review, cigarettes can spark a serious eczema flare-up, whether you’re actually smoking or just exposed to secondhand smoke. Some research, including a 2002 report, also suggests that smoking hookah can be a trigger.
There’s also a chance that e-cigarettes or vaping can trigger atopic dermatitis, but we need more research to know for sure.
2. Some chemicals
Folks with dry or sensitive skin should steer clear of chemicals that can cause an eczema flare-up. Ditch shampoos, conditioners, body washes, lotions, and perfumes that contain artificial fragrances or preservatives.
Pro tip: Wear latex-free gloves when using household cleaning chemicals like bleach or ammonia.
Allergic eczema happens when your skin makes contact with an allergen or irritant. Typical triggers include fragrances, preservatives, dyes, metals, and adhesives.
FYI: You might not notice any symptoms for a day or two after contact. This can make it hard to pinpoint the substances you’re sensitive to. Thankfully, an allergist can give you a patch test to help figure it out.
Is it more than stress?
A 2010 study found that chronic eczema can be set off by anxiety. So there’s a chance your eczema flare-ups are more about anxiety than stress. (And yes, there’s a difference between the two.)
Stress is usually the result of external factors like work, school, relationships, or life events. Anxiety is more persistent than stress and can be harder to manage without medication or professional therapy.
How to prevent stress-related eczema
The bad news? Eczema can be tough to deal with. The good news? There are lots of effective ways to prevent future flare-ups.
1. Chill out
Reducing your stress levels can help stave off scratch attacks and other annoying eczema symptoms. Here are some great ways to relax:
- Slay your sleep. A solid night’s rest can reduce stress. It also gives your body more time to heal and recover.
- Practice mindfulness. Research shows it can help ease symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain.
- Work it out. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on the daily. It’s a great stress reliever and can help increase your self-esteem.
- Try yoga. A regular yoga routine is a fab way to melt the stress away. If you’re new to #YogiLife, start slow with a 15-minute beginner session. You can work up to more advanced moves as you go.
- Meditate. It’s a great way to start and end your day on the right note. (BTW, a meditation app is a great way to kick your practice into gear.)
2. Show your skin some love
Sometimes your skin just needs a little extra TLC. Here’s how to pamper your eczema-prone skin like a pro:
- Moisturize. Stick to lotions and creams that were designed with sensitive skin in mind. Be sure to moisturize at least twice a day, even if you don’t currently have an outbreak.
- Take shorter showers. Long-term exposure to hot water can dry out your skin. So stick to short, cool showers or baths.
- Dry gently. After you shower, pat yourself dry with a clean, soft towel.
- Ditch the chemicals. Opt for hypoallergenic makeup and mild soaps to reduce your risk of a reaction.
- Talk with an expert. It’s essential to see your dermatologist regularly. They may recommend treatments like topical steroids, immunomodulators, phototherapy, biologics, or (in severe cases) systemic immunosuppressants.
Stress-induced eczema is a tricky beast because you can’t always avoid stress. But there are some great ways you can keep your stress (and skin) under control. Avoid your triggers, moisturize, and skip harsh products that can lead to a flare-up.
P.S. When in doubt, talk with a dermatologist.
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