Is winter eczema spoiling your seasonal fun? Winter is a time of hot cocoa, sledding, warm fires, and fun with friends and family. But for people with eczema, it’s also often a season of flare-ups.
Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, flaking rashes; red, sensitive skin; severe itching; bumps; and cracks in the skin. The effects of eczema are uncomfortable and often painful. If you find these symptoms worsening in the winter, you’re not alone.
By understanding why winter eczema develops and how to treat it, you can get back to enjoying winter fun.
Why Does Eczema Get Worse in Cold Weather?
It’s well-established that eczema in cold weather can cause flare-ups — but why? Winter air is colder and drier, which triggers dry skin and can cause more frequent flares in people with eczema.
While the air is drier in general, running the heat during cool months dries out the air in your home even more. This lack of moisture content in the air, and therefore your skin, is the biggest cause of winter eczema. However, eczema in fall and winter can also be triggered by:
- Environmental allergens
- Stress levels
- Skincare products
How to Manage Eczema in Winter
We all have unique skin, which means everyone will respond differently to eczema treatments. However, general recommendations to help prevent an eczema winter rash include:
1. Avoid Overdressing
Protecting your skin from the dry air during the winter months is crucial. While wearing gloves and long sleeves and pants is wise, you also want to avoid overdressing.
Because increased body temperature is a common trigger for atopic dermatitis, overheating as a result of too many warm clothes can worsen eczema symptoms. Instead of heavy, thick clothing options, try dressing in layers that you can easily remove if you get hot throughout the day.
2. Skip Scratchy, Synthetic Materials
Before you cuddle up in a cozy sweater, make sure you check the label! Some fabrics can trigger eczema symptoms. Common culprits that create itchy skin include wool, polyester, nylon, and fleece. Instead of these scratchy materials, look for clothes made of soothing, breathable fabrics such as cotton and cashmere.
3. Adjust Your Shower Routine
After a full day in the cold weather, it can be tempting to enjoy a long, hot shower. However, steamy showers and hot baths strip the skin of its natural oils and dry it out. During the winter and year-round, shower with lukewarm water for no longer than 10 minutes, if possible.
Many topical hygiene products used in the shower also contain ingredients that can exacerbate eczema. Harsh soaps, fragrances, dyes, parabens, and sulfates are on the list of skincare ingredients to avoid if you have eczema. These are common ingredients found in face washes, body washes, makeup removers, shampoos, conditioners, and more. Opt for minimally formulated products that are fragrance-free.
4. Sleep With a Humidifier
Because dry air is the biggest reason for winter eczema, using a humidifier in your home can help alleviate eczema symptoms. Indoor heating during cold months significantly reduces the water content in the air. Humidifiers reverse this by increasing the water content in the air, making it less dry. Just be sure to keep your humidifier clean! Mold and bacteria can build up in these machines, and distributing them into the air can worsen eczema.
5. Nourish Your Skin’s Natural Barrier
If you have eczema-prone skin, your stratum corneum, or skin barrier, isn’t as strong and can easily lose moisture. Applying a moisturizer with humectant and occlusive ingredients helps to restore your skin’s protective barrier.
Occlusives create a protective film over the top of the skin that prevents water loss. Commonly used occlusives include petrolatum, mineral oil, waxes, and silicones. Humectants nourish the skin barrier by drawing moisture to the surface of the skin in order to keep it hydrated. Commonly used humectants include glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
6. Visit Your Primary Healthcare Provider
If your winter eczema rash isn’t calming down with at-home treatment, it may be time to check in with your primary healthcare provider or a board-certified dermatologist. When left untreated, the itch and discomfort of eczema can interfere with your sleep, work, school, or social life.
While some people can manage flare-ups with at-home treatment for eczema, more severe eczema can require the attention of a healthcare provider. For persistent symptoms, contact your primary care provider or a board-certified dermatologist. They will be able to assess your skin and symptoms to help create a personalized treatment plan, with prescriptions if needed.
A Special Note on Caring for Eczema-Prone Hands in Winter
All types of eczema can become exacerbated by winter conditions, but dyshidrotic eczema, which occurs on the hands, is especially likely to get worse during winter. Hands are often more exposed to cold, dry air than other parts of our body. And when you do wear gloves, your hands may be more likely to sweat. Finally, increased hand washing during cold and flu season can further strip the skin barrier of essential moisture. If you know that you tend to get winter eczema on your hands, make sure to give them extra TLC when the weather turns cold.
Nourish Your Skin This Winter with Gladskin
Cold weather doesn’t need to equal dry, itchy skin - especially when you have smart ingredients on your side. Gladskin’s clinically proven Eczema Cream contains Micreobalance®, our patented protein that restores bacterial balance to the skin microbiome. Our Eczema Cram also contains occlusive and humectant ingredients, so it's ultra-moisturizing without being greasy.
New to Gladskin? Discover more tips on how to manage eczema all year long at our blog, learn more about the science behind our groundbreaking Eczema Cream, or take our skin quiz!