Avoid These 6 Common Eczema Triggers During The Holidays

Older man and woman sitting close together on couch under a blanket reading a book

By Angela Ballard, RN

Published On: Dec 7, 2020

Last Updated On: Nov 15, 2023

Holidays might be the most wonderful time of year, but for someone with eczema they might also be a time of allergies and flare-ups. To help you have an itch-free holiday season, we spoke with two leading dermatologists about common holiday staples that can cause eczema to flare. Here are 6 common eczema triggers to avoid this holiday season and tips to minimize flares. 

1. Holiday decorations

If you get itchy as soon as the decorating begins, you’re not alone. Seasonal decorations, everything from wreaths to tinsels can aggravate sensitivities to dust, pollen and mold. Touching the decorations can also cause a reaction. 

One way to avoid these triggers is to wear gloves or long sleeves when you are decorating. Also, when you pull your decorations out of storage be mindful of any dust or mold that could have accumulated over the year. And when the holidays are over, pack away your decorations in specialized containers that keep dust and dust mites out.

2. Real Christmas trees

Whether it’s a balsam fir or a Scotch pine, real christmas trees can trigger eczema flares. Many popular types of Christmas trees have a substance called colophony or rosin that occurs in the sap. This substance can cause flares on the hands, face, eyelids and other exposed areas.

If you’re going to handle or decorate a tree and you have eczema, Dr. JiaDe (Jeff) Yu, a board-certified dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, recommended wearing long sleeves and gloves to protect your skin from this potential allergic reaction from the tree. 

3. Poinsettias

Poinsettias are a classic holiday flower that pop up all over the place. While these are festive flowers, “you should not touch poinsettias if you have an allergy to latex,” said Dr. Yu. The sap from poinsettias resembles that of natural rubber latex and may trigger your allergy.

4. Scented candles and essential oil diffusers

If fragrance is a trigger for you, avoid commercial products such as candles, potpourri, essential oil diffusers, air fresheners and perfumes.

“Fragrances in scented candles are often triggers of allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis as well,” said Dr. Yu. “These tend to manifest in exposed areas such as the face, neck and hands.”

5. Ugly holiday sweaters

’Tis the season for ugly sweater parties. Before you put on your new favorite tacky sweater, be mindful of the fabric the sweater is made of. Avoid irritating woolens and select clothing that is comfortable, especially for children, said Dr. Kanwaljit Brar, a pediatric allergy specialist at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. If that sweater from your favorite auntie is a must-wear, be sure to layer it with a 100% cotton undershirt.

6. Festive outfits

Similarly, when you get dressed up for holiday photos or in your “fancy” holiday clothes, pay attention to the fabric type. Pure cotton or satin fabrics are better than blended fabrics. Avoid products labeled as “wrinkle free,” “shrink-resistant,” or “stain resistant,” as these can contain resins known to trigger eczema and allergic contact dermatitis. Another way to avoid flares is to wear cotton leggings under dresses rather than synthetic tights.

Stay consistent during the holidays 

Jam-packed holiday schedules can cause a deviation from your normal skincare regimen, potentially leading to a flare. “Try to stick to your [skincare] routine that has worked for you in the past and don’t try a bunch of new [products] at once,” said Dr. Yu. This will help you maintain consistent skincare even during the busy holiday season.

“Enjoy the holidays, be safe, and try not to let eczema fears detract from this special time,” said Dr. Brar.

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