What Triggers Eczema?

Hey there! Let’s talk about what triggers eczema, a bothersome skin condition that affects millions of people. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can be triggered by various factors that range from environmental to genetic. Understanding these triggers is crucial in managing and preventing flare-ups. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to explore the common culprits behind those itchy patches and learn how you can keep them at bay.

Genetic Factors

Family History

One of the main risk factors for developing eczema is having a family history of the condition. If one or both of your parents have eczema, there is a higher likelihood that you will also develop it. This can be attributed to the genetic components involved in the disease. While not everyone with a family history will develop eczema, it does increase the chances.

Atopic Dermatitis Gene

Researchers have identified specific genes that are associated with the development of eczema, known as atopic dermatitis genes. These genes play a role in the immune system’s response and the functioning of the skin barrier. If you have inherited these genes, your risk of developing eczema is higher. However, having these genes does not guarantee that you will definitely develop the condition.

Mutation of Filaggrin Gene

Another genetic factor that contributes to eczema is the mutation of the filaggrin gene. Filaggrin is a protein that helps maintain the integrity of the skin barrier. When this gene is mutated, it leads to a reduced production of filaggrin, resulting in a compromised skin barrier. This allows irritants and allergens to penetrate the skin more easily, triggering eczema symptoms.

Environmental Factors


Certain substances can irritate the skin and trigger eczema flare-ups. These irritants vary from person to person but commonly include harsh soaps, detergents, and cleaning products. The chemicals in these products can strip the skin of its natural oils, disrupt the skin barrier, and cause inflammation.


Allergens are substances that the immune system recognizes as harmful, leading to an allergic reaction. Common allergens for eczema include dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and certain foods. When exposed to these allergens, the immune system overreacts, causing inflammation and triggering eczema symptoms.


Changes in weather can have a significant impact on eczema. Dry and cold weather conditions can cause the skin to become dry and dehydrated, making it more susceptible to irritation and triggering eczema flare-ups. Similarly, excessive heat and humidity can lead to sweating, which can irritate the skin and worsen eczema symptoms.


Microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, can play a role in triggering eczema. Certain bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus, are commonly found on the skin of individuals with eczema. These infections can cause inflammation and worsen eczema symptoms. Additionally, viral infections, like the common cold, can also trigger flare-ups.


Humidity levels can significantly impact individuals with eczema. Low humidity can cause dryness and dehydration of the skin, leading to increased itching and irritation. On the other hand, high humidity can lead to excessive sweating, which can aggravate eczema symptoms. Finding a balance in humidity levels can help manage eczema and prevent flare-ups.

Immunological Factors

Dysfunctional Immune Response

In individuals with eczema, the immune system often tends to overreact to certain triggers, leading to inflammation and skin irritation. This dysfunctional immune response can be attributed to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The immune system mistakenly identifies harmless substances as threats, causing an allergic reaction and triggering eczema symptoms.

T-Cell Activation

T-cells are a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in the immune response. In eczema, there is an overactivation of T-cells, leading to increased production of inflammatory chemicals. This excessive activation contributes to the development of eczema symptoms, such as redness, itching, and inflammation.

Imbalance of Th1 and Th2 Cells

Th1 and Th2 cells are two different types of T-cells that regulate the immune response. In individuals with eczema, there is often an imbalance between these cells. The Th2 cells, responsible for allergic reactions, are overactive, while the Th1 cells, responsible for fighting infections, are underactive. This imbalance contributes to the inflammatory response and the development of eczema symptoms.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Response

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody produced by the immune system in response to an allergen. In individuals with eczema, there is often an elevated level of IgE antibodies in the blood. When exposed to an allergen, the IgE antibodies bind to the allergen, triggering the release of inflammatory chemicals, and leading to eczema symptoms.

Skin Barrier Dysfunction

Impaired Skin Barrier Function

The skin acts as a protective barrier, preventing irritants and allergens from entering the body. In individuals with eczema, the skin barrier becomes impaired, making it easier for irritants and allergens to penetrate the skin. This impaired barrier function allows for increased water loss, leading to dryness, itching, and inflammation.

Loss of Moisture

One of the key characteristics of eczema-prone skin is the loss of moisture. The impaired skin barrier prevents the skin from retaining moisture, causing it to become dry and dehydrated. This dryness further exacerbates eczema symptoms and can lead to increased itching and flaking.

Increased Skin Permeability

In individuals with eczema, the skin becomes more permeable, meaning it allows substances to pass through more easily. This increased permeability allows irritants, allergens, and bacteria to penetrate the skin, triggering an inflammatory response and causing eczema symptoms to flare up.

Reduced Ceramide Levels

Ceramides are essential lipids that make up a significant portion of the skin barrier. In individuals with eczema, there is often a decrease in ceramide levels, resulting in a compromised skin barrier. This reduction in ceramides makes the skin more susceptible to moisture loss, irritants, and allergens, leading to eczema development and flare-ups.


Psychological Stress

When you experience high levels of psychological stress, it can have a negative impact on your eczema. Stress triggers the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can disrupt the immune system and worsen inflammation. Additionally, stress often leads to increased scratching, which can further damage the skin and exacerbate eczema symptoms.

Physical Stress

Physical stress, such as excessive scratching, harsh scrubbing, or wearing tight clothing, can put additional strain on the skin and trigger eczema flare-ups. These activities can damage the skin barrier, create micro-tears, and increase inflammation. It is important to treat your skin gently to avoid physical stress-induced eczema flare-ups.

Emotional Stress

Emotional stress, such as anxiety, depression, or significant life changes, can also impact eczema. Emotional stress affects the immune system and can lead to increased inflammation and a higher risk of eczema flare-ups. It is important to find healthy ways to manage emotional stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques or seeking support from loved ones.

Hormonal Changes


During puberty, the body undergoes significant hormonal changes, which can influence the development and severity of eczema. Many individuals experience an increase in eczema symptoms during this time, potentially due to hormonal fluctuations affecting the immune system and skin barrier function.

Menstrual Cycle

Hormonal changes that occur throughout the menstrual cycle can impact eczema symptoms in women. Some women with eczema may notice that their symptoms worsen in the days leading up to their period, possibly due to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. Hormonal contraceptives can also affect eczema symptoms in some women.


Pregnancy involves substantial hormonal shifts, which can have varying effects on eczema. While some women experience improvement in their eczema symptoms during pregnancy, others may notice flare-ups. The changes in immune function and hormonal balance during pregnancy can influence the development and severity of eczema.

Foods and Diet

Food Allergies

Certain foods can trigger allergic reactions in individuals with eczema. Common food allergens include cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts, and shellfish. If you have a food allergy, consuming these trigger foods can lead to eczema flare-ups. Identifying and avoiding your specific food allergens can help manage eczema symptoms.

Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk allergy is a common trigger for eczema in infants and young children. Proteins in cow’s milk can lead to an allergic reaction, resulting in skin inflammation and eczema flare-ups. For individuals with this allergy, eliminating cow’s milk and finding suitable substitutes is essential in managing eczema symptoms.


Egg allergy is another common food trigger for eczema. The proteins in eggs can stimulate an immune response, causing skin inflammation and exacerbating eczema symptoms. Avoiding foods containing eggs and reading food labels carefully can help prevent eczema flare-ups.

Wheat and Gluten

For some individuals with eczema, wheat and gluten can act as triggers. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation in certain individuals. If you suspect that wheat or gluten is triggering your eczema, it may be worth exploring a gluten-free diet and monitoring the effects on your symptoms.


Soy allergy can also contribute to eczema flare-ups in some individuals. Soy proteins can provoke an immune response, leading to inflammation and worsening of eczema symptoms. Identifying and avoiding soy-containing products can help manage eczema triggered by soy allergy.

Nuts and Seeds

Certain nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds, can trigger allergic reactions in individuals with eczema. Consumption of these allergenic foods can lead to skin inflammation and exacerbation of eczema symptoms. It is crucial to be aware of your specific nut or seed allergies and carefully check labels to avoid triggering foods.


Shellfish allergies are relatively common and can cause allergic reactions in individuals with eczema. The proteins in shellfish, such as shrimp, lobster, crab, and mollusks, can lead to skin inflammation and worsen eczema symptoms. Avoiding shellfish and being cautious when dining out can help prevent eczema flare-ups.

Irritants and Chemicals

Soaps and Detergents

Harsh soaps and detergents can strip the skin of its natural oils, disrupt the skin barrier, and cause skin irritation. Some ingredients, such as fragrances and preservatives, can act as irritants and trigger eczema flare-ups. Opting for gentle, fragrance-free soaps and detergents can help minimize skin irritation.

Shampoos and Hair Products

Similar to soaps and detergents, certain shampoos and hair products can contain ingredients that irritate the skin and trigger eczema. Chemicals like sulfates and fragrances can be particularly problematic. Choosing mild, hypoallergenic shampoos and hair products can help reduce the risk of eczema flare-ups on the scalp and hairline.

Perfumes and Fragrances

Perfumes and fragrances found in various products, such as perfumes, lotions, and air fresheners, can be strong irritants for individuals with eczema. These chemicals can cause skin itching, redness, and inflammation. Opting for fragrance-free or hypoallergenic alternatives can help reduce the risk of triggering eczema.


Certain cosmetics, including foundation, blush, and eye makeup, may contain ingredients that can irritate the skin and exacerbate eczema symptoms. Fragrances, preservatives, and certain pigments can act as triggers. Choosing hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic cosmetics can be beneficial for individuals with eczema.

Cleaning Products

Household cleaning products, such as bleach, disinfectants, and surface cleaners, often contain harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin and trigger eczema flare-ups. When using these products, it is advisable to wear gloves to minimize direct contact with the skin and ensure proper ventilation to reduce exposure to fumes.

Fabrics and Clothing

Certain fabrics, especially synthetic ones like polyester and nylon, can cause skin irritation and worsen eczema symptoms. Rough or stiff materials and tight clothing can also contribute to skin friction and exacerbate itching. Opting for breathable, soft fabrics, such as cotton or bamboo, and loose-fitting clothing can help reduce skin irritation.


Certain metals, such as nickel and cobalt, found in jewelry or clothing accessories, can cause allergic reactions and trigger eczema flare-ups. Direct contact with these metals can result in skin redness, itching, and inflammation. Choosing hypoallergenic jewelry or coating metal accessories can help prevent metal-induced eczema.


Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, are commonly associated with eczema. These infections occur when bacteria penetrate the compromised skin barrier, leading to inflammation and worsened eczema symptoms. Treatment with antibiotics may be necessary to control bacterial infections and manage eczema flare-ups.

Viral Infections

Viral infections, such as the common cold or herpes simplex virus, can trigger eczema flare-ups. Viruses can disrupt the immune system and lead to inflammation in the skin, exacerbating eczema symptoms. Prevention and timely treatment of viral infections can help minimize the impact on eczema.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections, such as ringworm or candidiasis, can also contribute to eczema symptoms. These infections occur when fungi, including dermatophytes or yeast, invade the skin’s compromised barrier. It is important to promptly identify and treat fungal infections to control inflammation and prevent eczema flare-ups.


Topical Corticosteroids

Although topical corticosteroids are commonly used to treat eczema, prolonged and excessive use can lead to side effects, such as skin thinning and increased susceptibility to infections. It is crucial to use prescribed corticosteroids as directed by your healthcare provider and gradually taper off their usage to avoid rebound effects.


While antibiotics are frequently used to treat bacterial infections associated with eczema, they can also disrupt the natural balance of bacteria on the skin. This disruption can lead to dysbiosis and potential aggravation of eczema symptoms. Antibiotics should be used judiciously and only when necessary to prevent adverse effects.

Antifungal Medications

Antifungal medications are prescribed to treat fungal infections associated with eczema. However, these medications can sometimes cause skin irritation and sensitivity reactions. It is essential to follow the recommended usage instructions and consult with a healthcare provider if any adverse skin reactions occur.

Underlying Health Conditions

Certain underlying health conditions, such as asthma or allergic rhinitis, can be associated with eczema. Managing these conditions effectively can help prevent eczema flare-ups. Close collaboration with healthcare professionals can ensure appropriate management of underlying health conditions and improve eczema outcomes.

Understanding the various factors that can trigger eczema is essential in managing and preventing flare-ups. By identifying your individual triggers and implementing strategies to minimize exposure, you can effectively manage and control your eczema symptoms. Remember, it is essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized eczema management plan that best suits your needs.