When winter brings out the worst in your skin

And what to do about it

Summer brings one set of skincare challenges—primarily protecting the skin from sun damage. However, winter brings its own skincare challenges, all the result of excessive dryness. That’s because colder temperatures, central heating, and windy weather suck moisture from the skin, damaging it, and exacerbating chronic skin problems, including eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and winter rash.

Here are seven common winter skin problems and steps you can take to prevent or treat them. (The good news is that the remedies are all essentially the same: keep your skin hydrated!)

Eczema

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a condition that causes a dry, scaly, and itchy rash on the superficial layer of the skin. The rash can be so itchy that it interferes with sleep, as well as resulting in unsightly red, brown, or gray scaly patches, and small oozing sores that scab over if scratched. Although some people with skin allergies experience heightened eczema symptoms in summer—if, for example, they’re allergic to grass and spend time on the lawn—for most people, eczema is nearly always worse in winter due to low humidity, which causes the skin to dry out more.

If you experience eczema, here are nine simple steps for alleviating it:

Limit hot baths and showers because hot water strips oil from the skin. Instead, use warm water, limit your time in the bath, and consider showering less frequently. If you do want to indulge in a hot bath, try adding scented oil, or colloidal oatmeal, both of which help moisturize the skin. Afterwards, pat—rather than rub—yourself dry.

Use a gentle soap to avoid further skin irritation. Switch to moisturizing soaps that are fragrance, dye, and alcohol-free. (Alcohol further dries the skin.)

Moisturize after every hand-washing with a mild, unscented moisturizing lotion or cream.

Switch to a thicker moisturizer, applied at least twice daily, to resist drying and lock precious moisture into the skin. Creams may work better than lotions, and if your skin is itchy, try a cream containing hydrocortisone—after checking with your doctor to make sure this is OK for you. (Your physician may also prescribe something stronger to relieve your condition.)

Avoid ingredients, fibers, and other materials known to irritate your skin. Some skin is irritated by nylon, wool, or other relatively common materials. If you know this is true for you, avoid these materials. Stick to breathable cotton for your bed linens, as well.

Try a humidifier to replace the moisture that central heating systems tend to remove from the air. Change the water in your humidifier regularly (you might try using distilled or demineralized water) and clean the humidifier every three days. (Since the humidifier is blowing moisture into the air you’re breathing, you want to make sure it’s clean!)

Stay hydrated (eat your water!) Hydration begins within, with what you eat and drink! Patients, friends, and followers know that I recommend that you “eat your water” in water-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, not just drink it. This way, the moisture is released to your cells gradually, along with phytonutrients, anti-oxidants, protein, fiber, and all the other good things in food.

Take your vitamin D, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories in support of internal skincare. It’s good to take vitamin D throughout the winter, when our usual source—sunlight exposure—tends to be lower. In addition to boosting the immune system, at least one study shows that Vitamin D supplements can reduce winter eczema symptoms. I also advise my patients to supplement their diet with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Three of the best antioxidant supplements are beta-carotene and vitamins C and E. Powerful anti-inflammatories include omega-3s, curcumin, resveratrol, and ginger. Anti-inflammatories help to reduce and resist inflammation—including inflammation of the skin.

Slather on the sunscreen, which ISN’T just for summer! Harmful ultraviolet rays can penetrate even clouds and windowpanes, so don’t forget the sunscreen—especially if you are prone to eczema!

If these steps aren’t enough, see your dermatologist!

Rosacea

Rosacea is a fairly common skin condition that results in redness of the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. The bright coloration can also appear on the neck, head, ears, or chest and these areas may thicken and swell as a result. Nearly half of people with rosacea also develop redness, swelling, and pain in their eyes.

Unfortunately, rosacea, like eczema, can flare up in winter. (Some people may only experience it in winter, due to the increased dryness of the air.) While there is no cure, you can reduce its effects.

Prescription creams can help, in addition to the remedies listed above. See your dermatologist for these, as well as for a recommendation regarding:

IPL (intense pulse light) as a treatment. Some studies show that it can be very effective.

Winter Rash

One of the most common winter skin conditions is “winter rash,” which results in dry, itchy, red, flaky skin, usually on the hands and arms. Severe cases can include cracked skin on the palms or around the nails and the sides of the fingers. The cracked skin can become quite sore.

Here’s how to beat it:

Along with the steps recommended for eczema, keep your hands covered at all times when outside and

Use rubber gloves when cleaning or washing dishes.

Apply moisturizer after every hand-washing.

If these steps aren’t enough, see your dermatologist!

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the skin, resulting in various types of overgrowths: scales and plaques, hive-like bumps, or a powdery scaling of the scalp. Psoriasis symptoms are often worse in winter, due to the cold, dry air outside and the drying heating systems inside. Stress is also a psoriasis trigger, so in addition to the moisturizing and diet recommendations above:

Manage your stress through meditation, yoga, affirmations, a gratitude practice, or other methods that work for you. Stress management is a key element in reducing the body’s inflammatory response. Far from an indulgence, it is an essential part of physical, as well as emotional, healthcare.

See your doctor about topical hydrocortisone treatments or other anti-psoriasis medications.

UVB phototherapy can also be recommended for those with moderate to severe cases of psoriasis, those with plaque psoriasis, and those whose psoriasis is generally responsive to natural sunlight.

Sunburn & windburn

Even when temperatures are cold, the sun is still emitting as much UV radiation as when it’s warm out. That’s why it’s important to wear sunscreen year-round—whether you plan to be indoors or out. In addition, cold winter winds can also cause dry red patches on unprotected areas of the body, like the face, hands, and neck. So, in addition to the recommendations above:

Wear a scarf or balaclava, as well as gloves, when venturing out in cold, dry wind.

Dry, flaky scalp

Just as winter weather can dry your skin, it also dries your scalp. As before, limit hot showers, use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, moisturize your skin from the inside, wear a hat for sun and wind protection, and if you still need additional help:

Give yourself an at-home scalp treatment utilizing warm coconut oil, sugar (to exfoliate), and a few drops each of peppermint and tea tree oil. The peppermint oil stimulates circulation, and the tea tree oil is antifungal and antibacterial. Apply to the hair and scalp and let it penetrate for 20-30 minutes or longer, then shampoo.

Age spots & brown spots

The sun damage you may have incurred over the summer often becomes more prominent as your suntan fades. That’s when age spots, freckles, and other forms of hyperpigmentation become more visible, particularly on the face, chest and the back of the hands.

How to treat them:

There are a variety of skincare products that can lighten hyper-pigmented areas and return your skin to an even tone. Look for products that contain vitamin C, retinol, kojic acid, niacinamide, azelaic acid, mandelic acid, and/or arbutin. For more information on each of these ingredients, click here.

See your dermatologist or aesthetician about a chemical peel or light therapy treatment.

Prevent additional sun damage by faithful application of sunscreen!

Winter can be a wonderful time of year—if nothing else, it’s one of the reasons we so love and appreciate summer!

#ModernWellness #ConqueringCulturalStress

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider, who should also be consulted with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

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