Eczema is, in part, a genetic condition. If your parents have eczema, you are far more likely to also develop an atopic skin condition (as well as hayfever and asthma.)
That said, can certain environmental factors also affect, even worsen, eczema? We take a look at what the world around us might be doing to our skin...
Surprisingly there are fewer studies than one would expect that monitor the correlation between air pollution and eczema, but the ones that have been carried out do show increased likelihood of eczema the higher the levels of pollution. Pollution is at its highest in densely-populated urban areas due to vehicle fumes and factory smoke. Research has also suggested that eczema rates are lower in rural environments compared to urban communities.
Hot temperatures can also cause an eczema flare-up. This is because the skin's surface tightens in hot temperatures, creating micro-fissures that then allow moisture to escape, drying the skin and providing an ideal environment for bacteria. This results in inflammation, reddening and that all-too-familiar itching sensation. This also goes for central heating whether at work or at home.
Your postcode, or address, determines what water you are supplied with. And it's bad news if you live in a hard-water area, as studies have shown a direct link with eczema (up to 87% increase for children in hard-water areas.) But why would water type make eczema worse? This part is less clear, although theories suggest that calcium carbonate might be to blame, the water's pH, or the chemicals used to treat the water at the filtration plants.
Our conclusion... Yes, the environment can make your eczema worse. But, because we can't all just move to a cold country with soft water, the best way to keep your eczema under control is to use skin care specifically formulated for the condition.