by Dr. Harley Farmer, Ph.D
Time and time again, I've seen an interesting question pop up among those who experience eczema: what causes my eczema flare-ups?
While there are many potential reasons for an eczema flare-up (some are heavily debated!), one cause that appears most commonly is stress.
Interestingly, the usual sequence for an eczema flare-up is as follows:
1) A person becomes stressed, sometimes without even knowing they are
2) A patch of dry or flaky skin appears, often on their face
3) The person quickly seeks treatment, and is typically recommended a type of “eczema cream”
4) Eczema creams are quite the same as applying a moisturiser (since that is their intended use)
5) The flare-up is calmed for some time, only to return later!
Have you experienced this cycle before? Let's delve into some detail about how it happens, and how a mindset change just might be all you need.
What causes the flare-up?
It helps to know that real atopic eczema is a type of reaction your skin has against products that irritate it.
Therefore, if a person’s skin is prone to eczema, moisturisers and similar creams can further irritate patches of skin. In some cases, they even keep the irritation going (as we've discussed in a previous blog post).
As with a mosquito bite, your skin acts in an inflammatory way because blood rushes to the area in defence. So in reality, the redness you see happens in order to protect your skin from the irritant being applied to it.
That is then seen as an eczema flare-up – meaning something we worry about and then immediately react to. Typically, we react to these patches by applying a type of moisturiser due to the appearance of flaky patches.
What we sometimes forget is that many other things can cause red patches of skin. Some examples are: allergic reactions, infections, retained heat and burns (for example, from lots of time spent in the sun).
And of course, we mentioned stress – one of the most common modern-day causes.
Now that we know this, let's look at how we can treat this natural body response differently.
The body’s response to irritation
If these patches of dry, red, or flaky skin are not a true irritant response, they are not technically defined as atopic eczema.
Sounds confusing? You're not alone – that very concept leads to confusion.
It helps when you can EXplain eczema – the “EX'' there is not a typo, but rather a way to signify that we use the external sign as a clue.
The external “clue” here is the irritated patch or area of redness.
The pattern of response I described above is a common one. Being stressed, we see a red or dry patch and rush to apply a moisturiser, only to later see that same patch return to flaring up.
In many cases, I find this comes from a mindset of looking for an “external” fix. As many creams work more to moisturise skin rather than “cure” eczema, one might consider: what happens if we don't react this way?
And this isn't just about any specific ointment or cream, but rather what we call “topical” treatments – those that work only on the outside of us, usually applied to the skin in an area.
A different mindset for different results
What happens if we consider the trigger, or cause “internally'' of that flare-up? Perhaps we might not apply that cream, and perhaps the skin can heal itself over a similar amount of time.
When we've helped people EXplain eczema to themselves – that is, to understand this external viewpoint and shift their mindset – we've seen dramatically improved outcomes in their skin.
When people learn why the “cause of their flare-up” can be the products irritating their skin, they can typically shift their viewpoint.
Surprisingly, we then see the skin actually heal itself – without the irritation of further products!
In this situation, healing may still mean a number of flare-ups (depending on your own diagnosis' severity). However, it may mean that the flare-ups you do have:
1) Won’t become further irritated by adding a topical treatment
2) Won’t become dependent on a moisturising cream, and
3) Can be addressed by their trigger instead of their symptom.
For those really looking for an alternative, previously-proven solution to try, I recommend making a mindset change your next course of attack.
While it may take a few weeks for your skin to heal itself at first, you'll benefit through later years of drug-free treatment and worry-free skin!
In the EXeczema® program, you learn all the mechanics behind how to change your mindset and how that creates drug-free solutions. Interested in learning more?