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No time of year is exempt from eczema worries. But one season, in particular, stands out: winter. Why is winter eczema such a problem?
In this article, we’ll explain why this season causes flare-ups and share effective tips for avoiding or dealing with them.
Table Of Contents
- What Is An Eczema Flare-Up?
- Winter Eczema — What’s The Cold Got To Do With It?
- 25 Tips For Preventing A Winter Flare-Up
- Winter Eczema — What About Your Baby?
What Is An Eczema Flare-Up?
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes red, itchy, and inflamed patches to appear on the skin. Symptoms tend to come and go, with periods of remission followed by flare-ups.
During a flare-up, your skin becomes irritated and the itchy patches return with a vengeance. They can disrupt your daily routine, affect your sleep, cause pain, and in severe cases, lead to infections.
Various triggers can cause an eczema flare-up, including stress, allergies, and weather changes. And speaking of weather, the extreme temperatures and dry air make winter one of the most challenging seasons for people with eczema.
Winter Eczema — What’s The Cold Got To Do With It?
When we think winter, we usually think cold. That’s true for many parts of the world with temperate climates.
But no matter what climate you live in, with eczema, it may be how you react to the cold and not the temperature itself that is the problem.
For example, cold air is typically much drier than warm air. Warm air molecules are much farther apart than colder, denser air, so they can contain more water vapor.
As the seasons change, a drop in humidity means your skin can dry out more quickly. Dry skin is known to aggravate eczema, as your skin may be unable to stay hydrated. In addition, when the weather turns cooler, we often turn on the heat inside our homes.
Heating cold air dries it further, and if that hot, dry air is blown around in a home heating system, it can rapidly dry out your skin and cause an eczema flare-up.
When we get chilled during the colder months, we also turn to hot baths or showers. But these can actually do more harm than good to your skin. Hot water can be drying and cause even more itching.
Also, the irritation from the hats, scarves, and mittens that keep you warm can cause winter eczema to react and flare.
Add less sun exposure to the list, and there’s even more evidence that winter wreaks havoc on your delicate skin barrier. What do we mean by this?
Less exposure to sunlight can mean a dip in the vitamin D3 your body makes. This vitamin can lessen eczema symptoms, and low vitamin D3 levels have been associated with more severe eczema outbreaks.
With all of these factors to consider, it’s pretty clear to see why colder weather can be such a challenge for those who suffer from winter eczema.
So what can you do about it? Here are 25 tips to help combat the winter weather.
25 Tips For Preventing A Winter Flare-Up
Below, you’ll find a mix of lifestyle changes, skincare tips, and home remedies to help you enjoy your winter without an eczema outbreak.
However, you may feel overwhelmed if you try to implement all of these tips at once. Start by trying a few that sound the most achievable, and see if they make a difference.
Then, as the winter progresses, you can incorporate more of them into your skincare routine as needed.
1) Moisturize Your Skin
As we mentioned above, dry skin is a direct path to an eczema flare-up. As we’ve seen, cold weather conditions exacerbate dryness. To help prevent winter eczema symptoms, use a moisturizing cream, like Bodewell Eczema Daily Calming Cream.
The colloidal oatmeal in this cream locks moisture into your skin and relieves itching and irritation. Some winter eczema sufferers get even better results moisturizing more than once a day in the harsh winter months.
2) Run A Humidifier In Your Home
Running a humidifier in the winter is one way to combat hot, dry air.
Most heating systems take dense, cold air that can’t hold much moisture and simply heat it further before blowing it around your home. That hotter air is now less dense and is capable of holding more water.
That’s where a humidifier comes in. It can add moisture to the now-receptive air and ease the drying pressure on your skin.
Note: If not properly maintained, humidifiers can become hosts for mold and bacteria — yet more triggers for eczema. Find the right settings and keep your humidifier clean.
3) Nix The Hot Baths
We mentioned this briefly already, but it’s worth noting again. Always use warm — not hot — water in the shower or bath. Also, ideally, you should aim for shorter baths or showers in winter to keep your skin from drying out.
When bathing, it’s also important to use gentle products that moisturize as they clean. Look for hydrating products that help lock in moisture and leave your skin feeling soft and smooth.
4) Go Scentless
Controlling winter eczema usually means finding out what triggers your outbreaks, and then trying to remove those triggers. In winter, it becomes even more important to prevent flare-ups.
Fragrances are an often overlooked trigger. Always read the labels to know what you’re putting on your skin. If fragrance is listed as an ingredient, it could be irritating.
Pay special attention to laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and, of course, perfumes or colognes.
5) Get Some Vitamin D
During cold months, you need all the allies you can muster to help relieve and prevent winter eczema. Earlier, we shared how low vitamin D3 levels can impact eczema severity.
Since vitamin D may play a role in reducing the effects of eczema, you may want to consider taking vitamin D supplements to help get you through the darker months of the year or consume foods known to be rich in it, such as salmon, tuna, fortified milk, or egg yolks.
6) Avoid Irritating Cleaning Products
Anything that irritates your skin shoots to the top of the “avoid like the plague” list. Aggressive cleaning products are on that list. Harsh detergents, soaps, hand sanitizers, and household cleaners — including anything with bleach — can lead to a flare-up.
To keep your house and your skin clean but irritation-free, choose products that are gentle and effective. If you do need to handle a chemical-based product, protect your skin with gloves, and then wash your hands to ensure there’s no residue left.
7) Keep Your Skin Covered
Winter winds can chill you to the bone in milliseconds and almost instantly dry your skin. So when you’re out and about in winter, cover up as much of your skin as you can to keep it protected.
Depending on the weather, consider wearing:
- A jacket
- Gloves or mittens
- A hat
- A scarf that you can wrap around your neck and lower face
- Long pants
But be careful what type of fabric you cover your body with.
8) Take A Look At Your Wardrobe
Scrutinize anything that is going to be up against your skin. Lots of effective winter insulators can also be super-effective irritants: itchy wool sweaters, scarves, and gloves. The solution is to dress in layers.
Make sure the bottom layer closest to your skin is a soft, seamless fabric, such as cotton. Adding layers on top of this serves two purposes. It can help you avoid direct contact with an irritating insulator, and it can keep your skin dry. But isn’t dry skin at the root of the problem?
Yes and no. Dried-out skin — skin that’s lost its natural moisture — is an eczema no-no. But sweaty skin can also induce an eczema flare-up.
Keep your skin from becoming excessively wet by using layers. Feeling a bit warm? Remove a layer. Got a chill? Put it back on.
9) Watch What You Eat
Many eczema sufferers can trace flare-ups to certain foods. Typical culprits include milk, eggs, and shellfish, but you may have your own personal triggers on top of these.
Find the foods that give you trouble and avoid them whenever possible to keep your winter eczema away.
You’ll also want to consume plenty of skin-healthy foods, such as:
- Fish like salmon, tuna, and trout that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Nuts and seeds that contain vitamin E
- Avocados which are high in healthy fats and skin nourishing vitamins
- Leafy greens that give you lots of antioxidants
- Colorful fruits like berries and oranges which are packed with vitamins and minerals
- High-quality, lean protein like chicken, turkey or tofu that provide important nutrients for healthy skin
In addition to eating a healthy diet, get into the habit of drinking lots of water. You need to stay hydrated to keep your skin supple.
Unfortunately, we tend to drink less water in winter since it’s colder and we don’t feel as dehydrated. Set reminders on your phone or keep a reusable water bottle nearby throughout the day to increase your intake.
10) Wash Your Hands Carefully
Winter is cold and flu season; washing your hands can keep illness-causing germs at bay. But for those with eczema, hand washing can also lead to dry, cracked skin.
To prevent this, use lukewarm water and a mild soap or gentle cleanser when washing. Then, after you dry, apply a moisturizer to lock in hydration.
A tube of Eczema Daily Calming Cream On-the-Go can help keep your hands soft no matter where your winter adventures take you.
11) Don’t Sit Too Close To The Fireplace
The flames of a cozy fireplace may feel great on a cold winter night, but sitting too close to them can dry out your skin.
To avoid this, choose a spot at least 3 to 4 feet away from the fireplace and enjoy the ambiance from a distance. In addition, try to limit your exposure to about 30 minutes at a time. This gives your skin a break and can prevent it from drying out.
Note: Fireplaces aren’t the only heat source that draws the moisture out of your skin. Space heaters and furnace vents have the same effect. Be mindful of your surroundings, and leave a little space between you and any heaters.
12) Wear Sunscreen
While you might not automatically think about applying sunscreen this time of year, it’s still important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
Snow is highly reflective, which means it can bounce the sun’s UV rays back at you. This increases your risk of skin damage, even on overcast days.
Apply a mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to stay safe. For best results, use it daily before heading outside.
13) Stop Licking Your Lips
When your lips get dry, you might be tempted to lick them to provide moisture. Unfortunately, this can actually make the problem worse.
Saliva evaporates quickly, leaving your lips even drier than before. And if you have eczema on your lips or face, your tongue can unintentionally trigger a flare-up.
Instead of licking them, use a gentle lip balm with moisturizing ingredients, like shea butter, to keep them hydrated and protected from the elements.
14) Remove Wet Clothing ASAP
If you’re out in the elements enjoying some winter fun, your clothes might get wet. To keep these damp layers from drying out your skin, remove them as soon as possible and switch to something dry.
You may need to bring extra clothes with you so you can change mid-day if needed. Your skin will thank you.
15) Stay Healthy
Being sick can exacerbate your eczema symptoms and bring on a flare-up. It’s important to keep yourself healthy during the winter months.
Avoid sharing personal items, like towels and utensils, that can spread germs. Practice social distancing in crowded places, and wash your hands regularly (following the tips above.)
Adopting a holistic approach to your health can also help you boost your immune system. So, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet.
If you get sick, focus on staying hydrated and giving your body the rest it needs to heal. Continue using moisturizing products to minimize your chances of eczema returning. And if needed, get medical attention.
16) Keep The Dust Away
Dust and other indoor allergens can cause your eczema to return. As you spend more time indoors during the winter months, keeping your living space clean is essential.
Dust and vacuum regularly, especially the rooms you spend the most time in. You’ll also want to change your sheets weekly.
17) Stock Up On Skincare Products
Some areas get snowed in during the winter. If you live in one of those places, stock up on essential skincare products before the winter months hit.
Each fall, buy extra of each product you use, including Eczema Daily Calming Cream from Bodewell. That way, you won’t have to worry about running out if deliveries get delayed due to the weather.
18) Schedule Time For Self-Care
When you get stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which can worsen your eczema symptoms. Unfortunately, winter tends to be busy and stressful with the holidays, family gatherings, and travel.
That’s why it’s so important to prioritize self-care during this season.
Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to decrease stress levels. Make time for activities that bring you joy and help you unwind. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your skin.
19) Wash New Clothes And Bedding Before Use
New clothes or bedding may contain harsh chemicals or dyes that can irritate your eczema and cause a flare-up. Make sure to wash them before use to remove any potential irritants.
20) Take A Bleach Bath
Some research shows that bleach bath therapy can help reduce the severity of eczema symptoms. It helps remove bacteria on the skin.
If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, add a half-cup of regular bleach to a full tub of bathwater while the water is running. Then soak for 5 minutes and rinse off. Remember to apply moisturizer when you’re out.
21) Run An Air Purifier
During the winter, most people stay inside more to avoid the cold air. However, indoor air can be just as polluted as the fresh air outside, if not more so. This is especially true if you have a lot of dust, pet dander, or other allergens in your home.
Investing in an air purifier can help improve your indoor air quality. It removes pollutants from the air, creating a cleaner, healthier environment.
22) Make Colloidal Oatmeal
If you have oats and a blender, you can easily make colloidal oatmeal to help soothe dry, itchy skin. Simply blend uncooked oats in a blender until they're finely powdered. Then, add some of this powder to your bath and soak for a few minutes before rinsing off.
The oatmeal creates a protective barrier on your skin, locking in moisture. It also contains properties that can help reduce itchiness and redness.
23) Avoid Scrubbing
Rough scrubbing can damage your skin’s barrier and lead to irritation and flare-ups. Instead, treat your skin gently.
- Wash it with a soft washcloth
- Pat yourself dry with a soft towel
- Avoid using harsh exfoliants or scrubs
24) Use A Cool Compress
If an eczema flare-up occurs, a cool compress can help provide relief. Wet a clean cloth with cool water, wring out the extra water, and place it on the affected area.
Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then remove it. You can repeat as needed throughout the day.
25) Consult An Expert
Following the tips above should help, but sometimes your best efforts may not be enough. If you’re faithfully avoiding all of your triggers and still experience a very bad flare-up that just won’t quit, see your doctor. Prescription therapies may be the answer.
Winter Eczema — What About Your Baby?
Many eczema cases first appear in childhood, sometimes even in infants. This can be especially scary for you, the parent.
The good news is that even though your little one’s skin may be extra sensitive — their immune system is still developing, as is their skin — many of the same basic principles apply. For instance, find any potential irritants and remove them.
This could be clothing, bedding, cleaning products, and the like. Also, examine your baby’s environment. If it’s too dry for you, it will be for your baby. If it’s cold outside but burning up in the nursery, chances are you’ll have a sweaty baby primed for eczema irritation.
Just like adults, babies should only be bathed in warm water — never hot. In addition, keep their clothes cotton or some other natural, nonirritating fiber. And, if things get really uncomfortable for your little one, see your pediatrician for help.
Establishing A Good Winter Eczema Routine
Harsh, cold weather can be challenging for winter eczema, so be prepared.
Keep your skin hydrated with soothing products, like our Eczema Daily Calming Cream. And bathe with warm water and gentle products.
In addition, stay hydrated from the inside out, eat right, and dress to keep your skin protected but comfortable. With the right habits and products, you can experience better skin days and fewer winter eczema flare-ups!