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What Triggers Eczema Flare-ups?

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 12, 2021

What Triggers Eczema Flare-ups?

Just when you thought your eczema was giving you a break, the symptoms flare up again. What triggers eczema flare-ups? Find out here.

What is an eczema flare-up?

Before we discuss the best practices to prevent eczema outbreaks, let’s first define an eczema flare-up.

Eczema is the most common type of dermatitis, the general term we use for skin inflammation. The classic symptoms of eczema include:

  • Itching, which often worsens the other symptoms
  • Redness of the affected area
  • A grainy appearance due to the blisters that develop under the skin
  • Oozing when the blisters burst and crusting when the blisters dry out
  • Discolored skin (white patches)
  • Rough, leathery skin due to scratching

These symptoms may go away for a while and then return or “flare up” due to some trigger factors.

what triggers eczema flare-ups

What triggers eczema flare-ups?

As of now, there’s no known cure for eczema; treatment primarily focuses on reducing the symptoms, especially itching, since it worsens the inflammation and increases healing time. Mild to moderate eczema typically responds well to over-the-counter creams.

Once the symptoms clear, the best way to prevent eczema outbreaks is to eliminate or limit exposure to potential triggers. Here are some of the most common triggers that spark eczema symptoms:


A scented product that comes in contact with skin sometimes triggers eczema flare-ups because they contain irritants that cause dryness, itchiness, or redness.

For skincare products, such as soap or body wash, opt for the scent-free and hypoallergenic variety. Experts strongly advise against the use of bubble baths as they can lead to major flare-ups. Likewise, use fragrant-free laundry detergents.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis Flare-Ups?

 Chemicals in cleaning agents

If you notice that your flare-ups occur after cleaning the house, the chemicals in your cleaning agents may be the culprit. To prevent eczema outbreaks, try looking for milder cleaning products or use gloves when cleaning.

Hot, steamy showers

As much as possible, avoid hot, steamy showers because they cause skin dryness that often sparks eczema symptoms.

During showers, make sure that the water is just lukewarm, not hot. Pat your skin gently until it’s damp (don’t rub) and then apply a moisturizing lotion, preferably one approved by your doctor.

Dry, cold air

Did you know that staying in an air-conditioned room for a long time sometimes triggers eczema flare-ups?

Air-conditioned rooms have dry, cold air, which is a common eczema trigger. To remedy the situation, adjust your AC temperature to ensure that it’s not too low and use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.


If you want to prevent eczema breakouts, avoid activities that cause too much sweating. Sweat can make the skin itchy, and when you scratch your skin, eczema symptoms may spark.

Reduce your time outdoors, especially when it’s hot. If you sweat a lot while working out, try to lower the intensity of your physical activity. You can also exercise early in the morning when it’s not yet too hot or turn on a fan as you work out.


Don’t forget to check the fabrics of your blankets, bedsheets, and clothes. According to experts, some materials, such as wool and polyester, can serve as triggers of eczema flare-ups. Instead of wool and other synthetic fabrics, consider using cotton.


The types of foods that trigger eczema vary from person to person.

If you notice that you suffer from flare-ups after consuming dairy products, it’s best to stay away from them for a while and see if your symptoms improve. If your symptoms clear up, try reintroducing dairy into your diet, but do it slowly. Once you notice that the symptoms are returning, dairy might be your food trigger.

The other foods that can cause flare-ups are red meat, sugar, gluten, and refined carbohydrates.

Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety release cortisol, a hormone that, when produced in excess, can cause inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation sometimes triggers eczema flare-ups.

Consider performing relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga.


Allergies may result in flare-ups. So, as much as possible, limit exposure to your known allergens, whether it be pollen, dust, pet dander, or food.

The Best Treatment and Home Remedies for Eczema

Key Takeaways

What triggers eczema flare-ups vary from patient to patient. Sometimes, it’s just one factor; at times, it’s a combination of triggers. As a general rule, avoid things that irritate your skin and reduce stress and anxiety.

Learn more about Eczema and Dermatitis here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Elfred Landas, MD

General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 12, 2021

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