Winter is here which can be great for warm nights by a fire, cozy clothing, and enjoying the great outdoors. But for those with eczema, it can also mean fighting off flare-ups. Going from cold outdoors to dry indoors often can irritate your skin leading to acute symptoms of eczema. Fortunately, we are here to help you reduce your risk of flare-ups this winter.
Eczema is a skin condition that affects millions of Americans. Often diagnosed in early childhood symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of eczema include dryness, itchiness, rashes, scaly patches, and blisters on your skin.
There are different types of eczema, but your dermatologist can help you determine which specific type you have.
Atopic dermatitis is a common type of eczema that can leave your skin dry, itchy, and irritated. Sometimes cracks or bumps filled with fluid may also occur and increase your risk of developing an infection. Symptoms can even become severe making it difficult to sleep and significantly impact daily life.
Why Can Eczema Worsen During Winter?
During the winter, the air outside can be cold and dry with low humidity levels both indoors and outdoors. Often, in the winter months, it can be difficult for your skin to stay hydrated on its own. These factors can make your skin dry and irritated leading to a flare-up.
Reduce Flare-Ups This Winters
Eczema affects each patient differently and may be triggered by various factors making it difficult to predict. However, we believe that the following tips can help to reduce your chance of flare-ups this winter.
Avoid Rapid Temperature Changes
Even people without eczema may experience dry or itchy skin during the winter early in the morning or towards the day. This is often due to the sudden changes in temperature such as when you enter a warm dry house after a cold day outside or vice versa.
For those with eczema, by avoiding dramatic temperatures you can reduce your risk of a flare-up. Keep rooms at constant, comfortable temperatures that are not too warm. Use layers of blankets instead of one thick layer so that you can throw off layers if you overheat.
If you are in the snow or get wet, be sure to change out of your wet clothes as soon as you get someplace dry. The cold and damp clothing can make your eczema worse and encourage fungal growth.
Be Mindful of Fragrances
Scented products such as soaps, detergents, lotions, body washes, cosmetics, and perfumes can irritate and dry out those with sensitive skin. If you have eczema-prone skin, it may be best to choose products that are fragrance-free or formulated for those with sensitive skin.
Consider Your Clothing
If you have eczema, it is important to consider your wardrobe choices during the winter. Wool, polyester, and some synthetics can cause your skin to become irritated. Instead opt for layers of cotton, silk, and cashmere.
By wearing multiple breathable layers instead of a single layer of clothing, you can stay comfortable inside and outside.
Remember to cover exposed areas including your hat, neck, chest, and hands when you go outside.
A humidifier can help restore moisture into the air and combat winter dryness. Place several humidifiers around your home so that your skin doesn’t get too dried out or irritated.
Be sure to clean out your humidifier every few days and change the water often to avoid bacterial or fungi growth and keep your air clean.
Moisturizing is important all year round, but during the winter you may find you may need to moisturize more often throughout the day or use “heavy” duty products such as ointments or thick creams compared to lotion. Keep travel-sized products in your car or bag so that you can reapply anytime you feel dry.
When shopping for moisturizers for your face and body, look for ingredients that will offer lasting hydration. Products with petroleum jelly, shea butter, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, squalene, and dimethicone can be hydrating products for patients with eczema. For itchiness, use a cream containing hydrocortisone. Always check with your dermatologist about which products are safe and appropriate for you and your children.
Don’t forget to protect your lips as well! Licking them may add temporary moisture but dries out your lips even further. Instead, use a balm!
Hot showers might seem like a good escape from the cold weather, but hot water can strip away your protective oils and cause further dryness and inflammation. Instead, bathe or shower in warm water. For children, limit bath time to under 10 minutes.
Remember to moisturize after patting yourself dry with a soft towel.
Light and gentle exfoliation can help to remove dead skin and allow for your moisturizer to penetrate better, but patients with eczema should be careful when exfoliating. Use gentle wash clothes as aggressive body scrubs and chemicals can irritate and further dry and harm your skin.
When To Visit Your Dermatologist
If you notice unusual changes in your skin, we always recommend scheduling an appointment with your dermatologist so that we can diagnose the cause and provide you with an appropriate treatment plan. Even though signs of itching, trouble sleeping, inflammation, and redness may be symptoms of eczema, they may also be symptoms of an underlying condition. With a professional diagnosis, we can get you on the road to healthy and clear skin once again with the right treatment and products.
For more information on eczema and how we can help you or to schedule an appointment, contact Sullivan Dermatology today.