central heating could cause an eczema flare up

Eczema: 5 causes of eczema that might be worsening your flare ups

Seeking solutions for your eczema-prone skin? Our Holland & Barrett nutritionist throws the spotlight on five causes of eczema.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a common skin condition causing daily frustration to around 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults1. There are lots of ways to treat the symptoms of eczema, with various creams available both over-the-counter and prescribed by your GP. But by understanding common causes of eczema, there are small things you can do at home to work alongside your eczema treatments.

But first, let’s talk a bit more about eczema and what it looks like.

What are the symptoms of eczema

From atopic eczema to contact dermatitis. Sebhorrhoeic to discoid. There are several types of eczema. They vary depending on severity of symptoms, triggers, your age, and what part of your body is affected. However, there are some common symptoms shared across most eczema types:
  • Reddened skin and inflammation
  • Dry, flaky patches
  • Cracked skin
  • Severe itching
  • Darker patches of skin
  • Rough or scaly patches of skin

What are the main causes of eczema?

It’s impossible to pinpoint one single cause of eczema. It’s not that simple. However, what we do understand is that eczema symptoms emerge due to an overactive response by your immune system to an irritant. Aggravation could be caused by anything – it‘s extremely individual. Genetic factors and environmental triggers may all link into this response. These fall into the following broad categories:


Your family history and genetics will play a role. In very simple terms, if your parents suffer with eczema, you’re more likely to as well. Also, eczema is often common in families with a history of asthma or other allergies.

Anything ‘drying’

Secondly, anything that can increase the dryness of the skin, is also likely to make eczema worse. For example, cold weather, central heating, some soaps and shampoos, and hard water.

Contact with irritating substances

Again, this can be many things. For example, the ingredients in some household products (soap, detergent, etc) can trigger a reaction. So can toiletries and cosmetics. In addition, contact with abrasive materials or course fabrics such as wool, can also cause or intensify itchiness.

Your health and well-being

When you’re feeling under the weather, or when you’re under stress, you may notice a deterioration in your eczema symptoms.

So, what exactly could be irritating your skin?

Keeping symptoms under control is important part of living with eczema. We asked Holland & Barrett nutritionist, Emily Rollason, to pick five common things that could be amplifying your discomfort.

#1 Food allergies or intolerances

If you eat a food you’re allergic or intolerant to, you may find it can also increase your eczema symptoms. Common food allergens associated with eczema include dairy products, eggs, wheat, soy, and nuts2. Allergies and eczema can be linked and consuming something you have an allergy to may exacerbate eczema.

#2 Topical products

Some products that you’re using at home could be sending your itching into overdrive. For example, shampoos, shower gels and detergents containing popular irritants such as SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and synthetic preservatives (such as methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone).

#3 Change in weather

It’s not only a drying, winter chill that can exacerbate dermatitis. For some people, it’s a sweaty response to sunshine that causes their eczema to worsen. Others find the transition between seasons the trickiest. Understanding the impact of the weather on your skin is an important factor in managing flare-ups.

#4 Clothing

Getting too hot and breaking into a sweat can cause extra irritation for eczema-prone skin. As a result, avoiding clothing made from synthetic materials (e.g. polyester and nylon) and wool can help reduce symptoms. In addition, very fibrous fabrics, rough seams, fastenings and lose threads can also amplify your itchiness.

#5 Environmental allergens

Seasonal pollen, dust mites, mould, dandruff and pet dander from cats and dogs. These are all examples of everyday materials that can cause allergic reactions, triggering eczema to flare up.

It’s personal

Eczema affects everyone differently. Some people may experience eczema symptoms only at specific times of the year. Others only on certain areas of your body. So, the most important thing to remember is that although there are many things that make eczema worse, not all of them will apply to you.

Last updated: 20 April 2020

Emily Rollason is a qualified Nutritional Therapist, achieving a Diploma from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. Working with Holland & Barrett for six years, Emily has valuable experience working on a one-to-one basis with clients with a variety of health concerns such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and aiding those looking to support certain dietary requirements, such as a vegan or vegetarian diet. Emily has a long history of working with customers to guide them on what products are best suited to help them with their ailments. Her particular interests in nutrition and wellness focus around digestive health, female health and allergies/ intolerances.
ConditionsEczemaSkin Health