Do Heat and Humidity Make Eczema Worse? 5 Tips for Seasonal Eczema

Fact checked by Megan Soliman MD, MSc
Board-certified internal medicine physician

The summer’s heat can be a challenge for those living with eczema. If you notice your eczema getting worse after spending too long in the sun on hot, humid days, you’re not alone. Read on to find out what causes itchy skin in the heat and how to prevent seasonal eczema flare-ups.

Causes of seasonal eczema

Eczema affects everyone differently. If you have eczema, you may already know your triggers.

Along with common causes like dry skin, stress, and household irritants (which can affect you all year round), seasonal eczema triggers include:

  • Extreme cold or hot temperatures
  • Sudden changes in temperature
  • Dry air
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sunburn
  • Seasonal allergens like pollen, dust, and mold

Eczema-prone skin is sensitive, so it’s more susceptible to changes in the environment and temperature.

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In summer, spending a lot of time in the sun, salt water, or chlorinated pool water can cause eczema flare-ups.

So keep an eye on your symptoms if you’re planning a day on the beach. You can even start an eczema diary to help identify your triggers and manage flare-ups in the future.

Does heat make eczema worse?

While heat brings eczema relief for some people, it can make it worse for others. Hot, dry weather can dry out the skin, weakening the skin’s protective barrier, making it more susceptible to irritants.

Hot weather also causes us to sweat more — it’s how the body regulates its temperature and keeps us cool. But excessive sweating can further dehydrate and irritate the eczema-prone skin: when the sweat evaporates, it leaves a salty residue on the skin that causes irritation.

A woman having itchy heat-induced eczema

Spending a lot of time in the sun can also aggravate your eczema. Sunburns damage the already weak skin barrier and cause dryness and inflammation. According to a 2015 study, people with eczema, in general, have trouble regulating body temperature in the heat. This can lead to itching, skin redness, and inflammation.

Humidity and eczema

Eczema is usually associated with dry air, as it draws moisture from your skin. But hot, humid weather can also aggravate your symptoms! On muggy days you often have a layer of sweat on your skin.

The salt from your sweat can irritate the skin and cause heat rash and itchy eczema flare-ups.

You may have the urge to shower more often on hot, humid days, too, but excessive washing can further damage your skin’s protective barrier. So, when you do hop in the shower, make sure to moisturize afterward.

Best ways to prevent eczema in the heat

Heat-induced eczema can put a damper on your summer. But you can still enjoy summer picnics and family days out on the beach! Just follow these simple steps to take control of your eczema and manage seasonal flares:

1. Stay dry

Staying cool and trying to minimize sweating is the first step to managing eczema in the heat. Stick to the shade when outside and move to an air-conditioned room when the temperature goes up. Avoid intense exercise and quickly change out of sweaty clothes. Opt for breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics and loose fitting garments to allow for air circulation.

Download WeatherWell to predict how the weather will affect your skin!

2. Rinse off after swimming

When it’s hot, it’s hard to resist the urge to jump into a pool or sea to freshen up, but salt and chlorine can irritate sensitive, eczema-prone skin. Make sure to rinse your skin after a swim and reapply your moisturizer and sunscreen. If you’re not sure that there will be showers available, bring a spray bottle with clean water with you to rinse yourself with.

3. Wear sunscreen

Wearing a broad-spectrum SPF every day is the best way to protect your skin from sun damage that can make eczema worse. Opt for mineral sunscreen if you have eczema, since some chemical sunscreens can irritate sensitive skin. Look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the ingredient list: they help to shield your skin from UV rays.

Applying hand cream to soothe seasonal eczema

4. Moisturize your skin

Keeping your skin moisturized can help manage your eczema. When it comes to eczema-friendly moisturizers, the fewer ingredients the better. Use a fragrance-free lotion every day, especially after showering. It'll help to lock the moisture in and restore the skin’s protective barrier. Opt for heavier creams and ointments if your skin is very dry.

5. Drink enough water

Water is the best way to quench your thirst in the heat. It helps your body to regulate its core temperature to avoid overheating and keeps your skin healthy. Be sure to have your water bottle with you when you leave the house and take regular sips throughout the day. Certain fruits and vegetables like strawberries, watermelon, and cucumber can also help keep you cool and hydrated in the heat.

Key takeaways

Heat and humidity can sometimes bring relief to people with eczema, but they can also make it worse. Sunburn and excessive sweating can dry out and irritate your sensitive, eczema-prone skin. You may notice your symptoms worsen after a day on the beach or by the pool, since salt water and chlorine can also cause irritation.

But a few simple things can help you soothe the itch and keep your seasonal eczema under control. Wear a broad-spectrum mineral SPF when out in the sun, rinse off after a swim, and moisturize your skin every day to have an eczema-free summer.

February 1, 2023