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Causes - Eczema

It is likely that a mix of things cause your eczema.

Your genes

You may be born with a higher chance of getting atopic eczema, the main type of eczema. If any of your parents or siblings had this type of eczema, you are more likely to get it. This could be because of the genes you get from your parents.

Dry skin

People with eczema often have very dry skin. Their skin is not able to hold on to moisture.

This dryness may make your skin more likely to change colour and become itchy when things trigger it.

Eczema triggers

Different things may trigger or set off your eczema symptoms. Your GP will help you to try to find the triggers for your eczema symptoms.

Some common triggers are:

  • soaps and detergents, including shampoo, washing up liquid, bubble bath and soap-based shower gel - you can use a soap substitute on your skin
  • skin infections
  • house dust mites, pet fur, pollen and moulds - keep pets and smokers outdoors
  • certain materials worn next to the skin such as wool and rough or synthetic fabrics - wear soft, fine-weave clothing or natural materials such as cotton
  • cold and dry weather and dampness
  • hormonal changes such as before your period or during pregnancy

Your symptoms may get worse when:

  • the air is dry or dusty
  • you are feeling stressed
  • you are sweaty or too hot

Keep the rooms in your home cool if you know heat makes your eczema worse, especially the bedroom.


Patients with eczema are more likely to have certain allergies but these rarely cause eczema. It's important not to exclude food from your diet without advice.

Eczema is not infectious. You cannot pass it on through close contact.

Page last reviewed: 6 April 2023
Next review due: 6 April 2026