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What Causes Eczema?

In a patient with eczema, a gene variation prevents the skin from providing the usual protections it would perform for itself, including retaining moisture and blocking out irritants, allergens or bacteria. With this protective barrier down, the skin is more readily exposed to irritants and bacteria. Children’s eczema can also be related to certain food allergies. One’s risk of developing eczema increases when there is a family history of the condition or a family history of allergies or asthma.

Environmental Factors That Can Affect Eczema

Environmental factors can trigger or exacerbate eczema. Many of these factors are common household products or foods and include irritants and allergens.

Irritants in the environment that can affect eczema include:

  • Shampoos
  • Disinfectants
  • Detergents
  • Soaps
  • Even some fresh juices, fruits and meats

Allergens in the environment that can affect eczema include:

  • Pet hair
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Dust mites

Some patients may also react to isothiazolinone, which is used as an antibacterial in baby wipes and other bathroom products, as well as a substance used in temporary tattoos.

How Soaps, Skin Creams and Other Cosmetics Affect Eczema

When your skin reacts to a soap, skin cream or cosmetic, it is not the product in a general sense that is causing the reaction, but a substance used inside that product that is affecting your eczema. For example, many shampoos and skin lotions use a substance called cocamidopropyl betaine as a thickener to make them more appealing to consumers. For this reason, many patients with eczema must look for soaps, skin creams and cosmetics that do not contain these eczema irritants. You can work in partnership with your dermatologist to identify which substances in these products irritate your eczema so that you can select the best options for your particular situation.

What Is the Difference Between Eczema and Psoriasis?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between eczema and psoriasis for some. Both present as red patchy areas on the skin, but psoriasis typically creates thicker and more irritated patches.While both are triggered by stress and infection, only eczema is triggered by environmental irritants, such as soap, detergents, allergens and foods.Psoriasis can be triggered by vaccination, medication and sunburn. Eczema also triggers much more intense itching in many patients, while psoriasis typically presents with a burning sensation.

Is There a Permanent Cure for Eczema?

There is no known cure for eczema at this time but medical science and dermatologists havedeveloped a wide variety of effective treatments. These treatments can control and alleviate the symptoms associated with eczema, making life with the skin condition much easier for patients.

Related Treatments

Anti-inflammatory Medication

We recommend consulting a specialist to help determine if Anti-Inflammatory Medications are the best treatment option for you. Learn More

Blue Light Therapy

Blue light is a popular therapy used for treating acne. Blue light kills off bacteria on the skin and in the oil glands that cause acne. Learn More


A corticosteroid works by suppressing the activity of the immune system and reducing the production of chemicals that create inflammation. Learn More


Cyclosporine is used in a number of conditions where the immune system behaves erratically. Learn More


Dupixent is a drug that when injected into the skin, works at blocking a specific protein known as an interleukin. Learn More

Immune System Suppressants

An immune system suppressant, such as Imuran or CellCept, steps in to address this by suppressing the activity of the immune system and reducing the production of chemicals that create inflammation. Learn More

Intralesional Injection

Intralesional injection is a process whereby a corticosteroid is injected directly into a skin lesion or irregular growth. Learn More

Light Therapy

Originally developed for Navy seals to help wounds heal quicker, light therapy has been shown to be highly therapeutic for skin. Learn More

Narrowband UVB

Narrowband UVB is a form of phototherapy widely used to treat skin diseases. Learn More


Neoral, also known as cyclosporine, is in the class of drugs known as immunosuppressants. Learn More

Oral and Topical Medications

Dermatologists are experts in bacterial, viral and fungal infections in the skin and have a deep knowledge of how to best use antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Learn More

Patch Testing TRUE-Test

The TRUE test, also known as patch testing, is a quick and easy way to check for and diagnose allergic contact dermatitis in patients. Learn More

PHAROS Excimer Laser

PHAROS laser treatment uses a carefully-focused beam of light that is delivered to the skin through a highly-sophisticated fiber optic device. Learn More


PUVA is a treatment for the skin that combines ultraviolet light and specific medications. Learn More

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