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Eczema, what causes it?

Finding the cause is the first step to finding the solution.

A single underlying cause of eczema remains unknown, medical research is making progress in this area. Dr Koh Hong Yi (Registrar, Department of Dermatology at Singapore General Hospital) points to recent studies which found that, apart from lower amounts of oil in the skin, many eczema sufferers also have a protein mutation called filaggrin in their skin. This mutation makes the skin weaker.

Dr Koh goes on to say that healthy skin has sufficient amounts of a natural antimicrobial agent that keeps bacteria found naturally on the skin in check. On eczematous skin, however, low levels of this anti-microbial agent lead to high levels of bacteria.

Several other factors are associated with the occurrence of eczema. The factors vary from person to person and among the different types of the disorder.

Common factors

Some of the more common factors that contribute to eczema.

With no single cause, there are a number of internal and external factors that come into play concerning eczema. There is usually a combination of factors that vary from person-to-person. Some of these may be part of an initial onset, and other may cause eczema flare-ups.

  • Lower amounts of oil in the skin.
  • A protein mutation of the skin called filaggrin.
  • Other allergies such as asthma, hay fever, and food allergies (peanuts, eggs, cows’ milk, soya, and wheat are the main culprits).
  • Prolonged time in a room that is damp, has dust mites, pet fur, or mould.
  • Stress and emotional trauma.
  • Wearing certain fabrics (such as synthetics and wool) close to the skin.
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy or before a period.
  • The weather in terms of dry or dusty air, as well as air that is too hot or cold.
  • Using certain soaps, detergents, and harsh chemicals.

Eczema in the everyday

The environment

Growing up in an overly hygienic environment leads to a lack of exposure to many kinds of bacteria. When this happens, the skin is unable to build up its natural immunity. For instance, those who live in Singapore (where one in five people have eczema) are super clean, use anti-bacterial soap, wipes, etc.

Chemical cleansers

The most common skin irritants/allergens include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Propylene Glycol, and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. These chemicals are found in practically all commercial foams, baby wash, shampoos, liquid soap, facial cleansers, lotions, moisturisers, sunscreens, and cosmetics.

These chemicals that are actually harsh detergents. They are sold and marketed as skincare because they are cheap to produce and boost commercial profit margins at the expense of your money, skin, and overall health. Start by checking the ingredients list of your cleansers, creams, lotions, and other skincare products, and swap to natural and organic alternatives.