Do the sun’s rays make you yell “hooray!” or “heck, nay”? If, like 31 million other folks in America, you have eczema, you might find that eczema and heat aren’t BFFs.
Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that leave skin itchy and angry. The exact cause of this dermal distress is unknown, but environmental factors like extreme temperatures can trigger eczema flare-ups.
If your eczema flares are making an unwelcome comeback in the summer, don’t despair. There are a bunch of at-home and prescription treatments that can ease eczema flares brought on by heat. Making some simple changes might help fix that itch.
Summer is meant to be good vibes all round, right? So what is it about heat that f*cks with your eczema so much? Well…
- Hot air dries out your skin.
- Heat triggers the urge to scratch.
- This combo can increase irritation.
Skin already sensitive from eczema? This can mean redness, flaking, and inflammation. Some other factors related to the hot weather add to summer eczema probs. And to think all you wanted was to keep your unbeaten volleyball streak going…
When it gets hot, you sweat. Sweat helps keep you cool, but it can aggravate eczema in a number of ways:
- In addition to water, sweat contains minerals like sodium (aka salt). When sweat dries, it leaves behind a salty layer that can be irritating. (Saltiness isn’t just annoying in the Twittersphere.)
- You also lose water when you sweat. Your skin and its supporting layers get drier and tighter.
- Sweat can attract bacteria and contribute to yeast infections, which add to the itch mix.
Sunburn isn’t a good look on anyone. But in eczema-prone skin, dehydration and soreness from sunburn can cause damage that requires treatment.
Some eczema treatments, like phototherapy, use UV light to reduce inflammation. However, this UV light exposure happens in a controlled environment, at a specific dose, for only a few minutes.
Sitting in the sun exposes you to levels of UV rays that aren’t helpful for your skin cells. Excessive UV light may decrease the production of collagen and elastin — the stuff that keeps your skin springy and soft. Docs don’t recommend spending a whole bunch of time in the sun if you have eczema.
As the outside temp ramps up, you switch on the fans and amp up the AC. Hooray for tech! *swishes hair for hairography selfie*
Ah, but now you’ve got cold, dry air swirling around your home. This could mean you’ll be dealing with the same problems that winter air can bring for peeps with eczema. (Seriously, can’t one season give you a break?) That lovely rush of air keeps you cool by shoving water drops off your skin — which makes your skin dry!
Skin doesn’t like sudden change. Bouncing between temperature extremes can make it unhappy, especially if your skin already throws temper tantrums.
Eczema may be partly caused by the immune system getting angry at the wrong stuff. And when summer’s in the air, so are the allergens. Pollen, dust, and insect bites can trigger a skin reaction.
Hot weather and high allergen count can cause other rashes.
- Eczema looks a little different from other rashes because of the dry, flaky skin.
- Blockage and inflammation of your sweat glands causes heat rash (aka miliaria). This rash consists of small bumps that raised and red but not scaly.
- Hives (aka urticaria) happen when your skin reacts to an irritant. They’re raised, swollen, round bumps, often pink or close in color to your skin tone.
If you’re short on Zoom quiz content, the Aussie government has a webpage called What’s That Rash?
How do you treat eczema in the heat? We’ve got your back.
Aloe vera gel has a cooling, soothing effect on the skin, and it might help soothe eczema symptoms. It isn’t greasy, so it doesn’t block your sweat glands.
In addition to breaking the itch-scratch cycle, it has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and wound-healing properties.
Ahhhh, that’s better!
Ceramide creams contain the building blocks your skin uses to stay strong and waterproof. A whole bunch of moisturizers contain ceramides for this reason.
Cica paste is gaining popularity in cosmetic skin care. This pale green paste is derived from the plant Centella asiatica.
In a 2017 study, a moisturizing product containing this plant’s extract showed promising results for keeping skin hydrated and maintaining its protective barrier. Cica-zig-ahh!
This is your reminder to drink more water! Water plus minerals (electrolytes) equals hydration.
Hydrated skin is happy skin, and the best way to keep it that way is to drink water. Water also helps your body feel cooler. 🎼 I’m pickin’ up good hydration… 🎤
It’s more than just a nice-smelling oil. Some research suggests jojoba oil can work to repair the skin barrier and calm inflammation. It’s already used in many over-the-counter bath and body products.
Relaxation and mindfulness
If you’re feeling hot and bothered by summer eczema, relaxation is far from your thoughts.
But studies suggest that learning to chill can calm not only the mind but also the body. Stress produces cortisol, which increases inflammation. A 2018 study on mindfulness-based cognitive hypnotherapy found that mindful methods were used as a remedy for many skin disorders.
You can use antihistamine tablets to treat the itch of an eczema flare-up. But they’re not recommended as a long-term solution, and they don’t qualify as a treatment for eczema — just temporary relief.
If you aren’t using one yet, talk with your doctor about whether you should use a corticosteroid for your summer eczema flare-ups.
Emollients are creams that help protect and hydrate skin. Many people use emollients as part of their regular eczema treatment.
But there are many different kinds with different benefits. If you’re looking for something to treat summer eczema, ask a healthcare professional if a certain emollient will suit your skin better in the sunny season.
Immune system suppressants
A possible cause of eczema is your immune system attacking the wrong stuff (i.e., your skin). Docs prescribe biologics like cyclosporine, dupilumab (Dupixent), and methotrexate to help the immune system chill the heck out.
A healthcare pro can advise you on whether these can help with your summer eczema flares.
Topical calcineurin inhibitors
Calcineurin inhibitors like crisaborole (Eucrisa) are medications that help soothe the immune system by blocking a chemical that causes flare-ups. They can be used to both treat and prevent eczema flares.
They work especially well for folks with eczema in delicate areas like the eyelids, where topical steroids aren’t a great choice.
Oral and intramuscular steroids have a short-term role in relief for severe eczema flares. They quickly reduce redness and irritation.
A healthcare pro will decide if this is the best treatment for your summer eczema, but they’ll generally recommend other treatment options first.
A humidifier puts moisture back into the air. Since dry air can aggravate eczema, you can see why some people think a humidifier might help.
But there’s no scientific evidence that humidifiers can help people with eczema. And allergy-causing dust mites and bacteria also love to live in warm, moist places.
So although very dry air can make eczema worse, combating this with a humidifier isn’t recommended unless you live in a particularly dry or cold place.
You know what’s better than beating summer eczema? Not experiencing flare-ups in the first place. Here are the best ways to reduce the risk of itchy carnage:
- Accessorize, darling! Sunglasses (check their UV spec), wide-brimmed hats, bandanas, sarongs — keep the rays at bay while looking great.
- Protect yourself! Choose a high-SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen. If you have eczema in the summer, both eczema and the treatment can leave your skin needing greater UV defense. Picking the right sunscreen for sensitive skin can be tricky, but we’ve done the legwork so you don’t have to.
- Keep it loose. Wear loose-fitting clothes to give your skin fresh (air) flows. Pick natural fibers like cotton and bamboo over synthetic options. When indoors, especially while exercising, try to leave skin uncovered.
- Balneotherapy. Thermal water has been used to treat skin since ancient times, and some research backs up its benefits. You can buy thermal water spray in a can. It’s a little pricey, but it can provide sweet relief for heat eczema on a hot night.
The summer heat can cause eczema flare-ups. Sweating, dryness, allergens, and sun exposure can serve up a cocktail of potential triggers for your skin. Eczema makes your skin drier and flakier than prickly heat or hives.
Home remedies like aloe vera, jojoba oil, and relaxation might help you reduce the intensity of flares. Your doc might also prescribe treatments for harsher symptoms.
You can reduce your risk of eczema flares in hot weather by stocking up on accessories that keep the sun at arm’s length (and help you look dope at the same time) and getting your sunscreen on. Stick to loose-fitting clothes and consider balneotherapy if you’ve got the budget.