How long will eczema last? For most sufferers, the answer is that eczema is a complicated and chronic condition that will need management over a lifetime.
Of course, eczema can vary immensely from person to person and from flare to flare, so it’s very hard to put a definite time scale on it! Let’s look at what’s involved.
How long does childhood eczema last?
For children, it’s a slightly different situation than for adults. Eczema is much more common in babies and children than older people, even though it varies in severity from child to child. Eczema often develops in babyhood, with many babies starting to show the first signs of the condition at around 2-3 months old.
In severe cases of childhood eczema, flares can be near constant until an effective emollient is found and whatever is irritating their skin is identified and removed. Some babies have sore skin for months or even years, which can be extremely distressing for them and their families.
The good news is that childhood eczema is usually outgrown by the time children go to school or get into their teenage years; the condition only persists into adulthood in about half of eczema-prone children.
How long does adult-onset eczema last?
It’s possible – though not common - for people to develop eczema for the very first time once they’re already adults. This can coincide with midlife hormonal changes, new medications, relocating to a new climate, or being sensitised by something they’ve come into contact with. In that case, it might be a shorter-term situation that resolves with good skincare or by modifying the environment, but it usually means that sufferers will have to take extra care of their sensitive skin in the future.
How long can a flare-up last?
For the most part, it depends on the type of eczema you have; contact dermatitis on the hand might not take as long as a bad case of venous eczema to clear up, for example. Generally, a flare in reaction to a specific trigger can take 2 to 3 weeks to calm down and completely heal, but how the eczema is managed over time will play a large role in how it manifests, how severe it is, and how long it lasts.
Calming a flare usually depends on both internal and external factors.
If skin is reacting to something that it has come into contact with (contact dermatitis), a flare is likely to last at least as long as it takes to narrow down the culprit and remove it! It could just be a matter of switching to a to a more natural and irritant-free soap and shampoo, or taking out the earrings that are irritating your skin. Perhaps the fabrics you’re wearing aren’t agreeing with your skin, or you’re using a particular washing powder that’s the problem. If you can work out what’s going on and act, you can make your skin more comfortable fairly quickly.
However, if it’s a stress-related flare-up, it could take longer to identify and change what’s going on. You could be having a bad day, a bad week, or a bad month; you could have ongoing financial issues or other long-term health problems that make it very hard to feel positive. In that case, you might not be able to eliminate stress, but it might be possible to manage it with some stress-busting techniques.
Some eczema sufferers find it useful to keep a diary tracking what might be causing their flare-ups and how long they last; this can help work out what’s going on and what makes things better or worse.
The regenerative skin cycle usually takes around 27 days, so a flare-up could take a month to calm down and return to totally clear skin. But if skin is particularly scratched, damaged or inflamed, it may take longer to heal, and flare-ups could pile up on top of flare-ups, without there being a break in between
That’s because skin can struggle to start healing with the endless cycle of itching and scratching. Inflammation triggers the release of substances into the blood that cause an urge to itch; itching is relieved by scratching which can further damage the protective skin barrier, losing moisture and allowing more irritants into the bloodstream. This causes an interminable cycle of itching, scratching, damaging the skin, and more itchiness.
Breaking the itch-scratch cycle is key to getting on top of your eczema and allowing your skin sufficient time to heal; the most effective way of doing that is by:
- keeping skin hydrated with frequent applications of an effective emollient
- keeping skin nourished and resilient
- identifying and avoiding further triggers
In the long run
The short but frustrating answer is that everyone’s skin is different, and will respond differently both to triggers and to management techniques! Knowing your own skin and keeping it moisturised and protected between flare-ups is a great way of managing eczema; the better condition it’s in, more resilient it will be against triggers.
Resilient skin means fewer flares, shorter flares, and less severe reactions.
Recommended products for eczema-prone skin:
Skin Salvation balm with beeswax, hemp & chamomile (from £7.99 for 30ml)
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream with shea butter, hemp & calendula (from £13.99 for 100ml)
Balmonds Bath & Body Oil with lavender, hemp & chamomile (£12.99 for 200ml)
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.