Wait, What Is Eczema?
First of all, don’t worry- it’s not contagious. Eczema is a skin condition that occurs when your skin is exposed to some type of environmental trigger and your immune system goes into overdrive. This causes your skin cells to flare up, which results in scaly, itchy, rough patches of skin.
Doctors aren’t totally sure why some people get eczema but they do know it is often genetic. So if someone else in your family has it, you’re more likely to have it as well. They do know that your likelihood for eczema increases in colder climates and urban areas with higher levels of pollution. So, if you live in NYC in the wintertime like we do, your odds are increased.
What Triggers a Flare-Up?
Eczema flare-ups can occur for many reasons: wool clothes and other itchy fibers can trigger one, as can some types of perfumes, cosmetics, household cleaners, cigarette smoke, and other chemicals and ingredients. Emotional stress can also be a trigger.
One thing to note is that eczema is not an allergic reaction. But, it can be triggered by an allergic reaction, which occurs when your immune system goes into overdrive. Sometimes, this also leads your skin cells go to go haywire, and that is eczema.
If It Isn’t Dry Skin, Then Why Do I Get Eczema in the Winter?
A lot of eczema triggers are more prevalent in the winter. Cold weather, a dry climate, and wool clothes are all winter adjacent. And while eczema is not actually dry skin, drier skin is less protected against eczema triggers. When our skin is healthy and hydrated, it forms a barrier that protects you from allergens, bacteria, and various irritants. When your skin doesn't have enough moisture- as can happen in the winter- it isn’t able to protect you.
Keep Calm and Carry On
If you think you have an eczema flare-up and it's not going away, you should head to a doctor. They can evaluate you and if need be, prescribe a topical steroid cream to calm the skin inflammation.
There are also some big at home tips you can do. Make sure keep your skin hydrated to maintain your skin barrier: moisturize, invest in a humidifier, and even shower just a little bit less.
As your skin calms down, you can start to pay attention to what sets off your eczema. It may take some time to recognize your triggers. Regardless of how long it lasts, just remember that eczema is very common, and totally treatable.
On that note, take the time to focus on your mental health. Try out aromatherapy, take time to meditate, and do what you need to feel mentally calm. Even though it may sound crazy to focus on your mental health when you're dealing with a skin condition, they're actually totally connected. So stay hydrated and calm this winter and you'll clear your skin up in no time.