Why does it seem like all the advantages of childhood—e.g., not paying rent or cooking dinner—go away as you age, but the pesky disadvantages—e.g., eczema—come back to haunt you? In fact, one of the peak times to get adults with eczema is in your 50s. You can get it for the first time as you’re simultaneously tackling things like wrinkles, or you may have had childhood eczema and have it return as an adult. You may face mild or severe eczema.
If you’re not familiar with eczema, it can look like areas of thicker or darker skin that can be flaky, red, itchy, and irritated. Eczema can develop anywhere in the body. For adults, it’s more common to have eczema around the eyes.
Although eczema is often referred to as dermatitis, the terms mean slightly different things. Eczema is a form of dermatitis, more specifically, called atopic dermatitis. However, not all types of dermatitis are eczema, and not all types of eczema are dermatitis. Your dermatologist can help you make the distinction.
If you’re one of the many adults with eczema, here’s everything you need to know about the condition.
Symptoms of Eczema in Adults
The symptoms of eczema can vary based on the type of eczema you have, your particular skin type, and what triggered eczema, but most types of eczema cause itchy, dry, and sensitive skin. Your skin may also look rough or scaly or appear tough or leathery. In certain types of eczema, the affected areas of skin may appear swollen or even ooze. Eczema is often uncomfortable, distressing, painful for some, and leads to skin infections.
Types of Adult Eczema
Seven different types of eczema can affect both adults and children, and it’s possible to have more than one type at the same time. The seven different types are:
1. Atopic Dermatitis
The most common type of eczema in which the immune system triggers inflammation, causing rashes and leaving the skin red and itchy.
2. Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis can occur when you use a skincare product or even a clothing material your body reacts with. It typically goes away when the offending product is no longer used.
3. Dyshidrotic Eczema
Appearing on the toes, feet, and hands, dyshidrotic eczema is more common in those with a family history of it and consists of small blisters that itch.
Characterized by itchy patches of skin, this type of eczema is most commonly triggered by exposure to tight wool or synthetic fabrics (think polyester), dry skin, and stress.
5. Nummular Eczema
Also characterized by itchy patches of skin, nummular eczema can be the result of a reaction to an allergen or irritant as well as dry skin.
6. Seborrheic Dermatitis
If you’ve ever had a dry, flaky or itchy scalp, you may have had seborrheic dermatitis. This type of eczema is caused by a reaction to the natural yeast on the skin in areas with many oil-producing glands, typically the scalp or eyebrows and the back and nose.
7. Stasis Dermatitis
This particular type of eczema happens due to poor circulation in the legs, causing discolored, scaly, itchy, or dry skin.
To determine which type you have and what adult eczema treatment could work for you, it’s essential to consult with an experienced dermatologist. Since eczema can be triggered by diet, you may also opt to have bloodwork and a food sensitivity panel done by your physician.
What Could Trigger Eczema After 40?
In some adults with eczema, a combination of things can trigger the condition instead of a particular trigger. Eczema isn’t contagious, but there could be an underlying factor that causes your immune system to respond to something, causing inflammation and eczema symptoms.
There can also be different triggers for the different types of eczema. For example, since seborrheic dermatitis is a reaction to yeast, it won’t have the same triggers as contact dermatitis. It is usually a reaction to a skincare product or allergen.
Some of the most common triggers of eczema in adults are:
A Compromised Skin Barrier
Your skin’s barrier helps protect the surface of your skin from becoming too dry or damaged. If your skin barrier is compromised, you are more likely to develop eczema or experience an eczema flare-up.
While dairy is a major cause of eczema, everyone is unique, and you could be reacting to gluten, soy, corn, or other food. Making an appointment with your doctor to get a food sensitivity and allergen panel can help identify any reactions.
It’s possible that hormone changes in the body, such as pregnancy and menopause, could influence eczema, although the link here isn’t clear.
These can include anything from cleaning products such as dish soap to laundry detergent, body wash, shampoo, and fragrances, which can trigger specific individuals’ eczema.
Although the link between stress and eczema isn’t clear, stress can likely impact the immune system, activating its response to certain skin irritants or allergens.
Working with a healthcare provider can assist you to uncover some of the triggers of your eczema so you can find the best adult eczema treatment that works for you.
Ingredients to Help Adults With Eczema
Although identifying underlying triggers is an important part of adult eczema treatment, some skincare ingredients can help adults with eczema. These include anti-inflammatory, soothing ingredients, including:
- Aloe vera
- Colloidal oatmeal
If you have eczema, avoiding harsh skincare ingredients such as fragrances, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and preservatives can benefit you. Anything that will strip your skin barrier may trigger eczema or make existing eczema worse.
Do You Know Your Skin Type?
If you don’t know your skin type yet, find out with this free quiz! Knowing your skin type is essential to choosing the right ingredients to help combat eczema. Are you one of the millions of adults with eczema? You’re not alone. Finding your triggers and choosing the right products can help keep your skin healthy!