For all of winter’s much-anticipated seasonal joys, like hot chocolate by the fire, there’s always a downside. For many of us, it's dry, itchy skin. The cold outdoor climate and bursts of dry indoor heat often exacerbate dry skin conditions like eczema and put a damper on the season.
How to Best Treat Your Eczema
During the winter, eczema mainly stems from transepidermal water loss, or dehydration of skin cells, and a compromised skin barrier from lack of skin lipids. However, there are many different types of eczema, and a dermatologist can diagnose which specific type you are experiencing. The most well-known is atopic dermatitis, which experts refer to as “classic” eczema because it can make skin super dry, itchy, and inflamed. Atopic dermatitis can also present as small bumps filled with fluid which break when scratched—and lead to painful infections.
There is even a special type of eczema, called asteatotic eczema, during the cold winter months. Asteatotic eczema gives a fish scale-like appearance to the skin, particularly in lower legs, which makes it look rough and ashy. In more severe cases, people can have itchy, red areas where the skin surface is broken, giving the skin a cracked look similar to cracked porcelain.
The treatments for both types of eczema require gentle skin-care and frequent moisturization. However, atopic eczema appears year-round, and is usually genetic or exacerbated with environmental allergies. Asteatotic eczema, on the other hand, is more seasonal, and fall and winter are the most common times that people experience eczema flare-ups.
If you're experiencing eczema this winter, there’s still time to adapt your skin-care routine to manage the itching and pain.
Use a humidifier
Drier air means drier skin. Therefore, experts recommend adding moisture to the air with a humidifier in your bedroom. Choose a cool mist over warm mist for safety reasons.
Minimize long showers
Everybody enjoys a long, relaxing shower. But showering for too long—especially with hot water during the winter—strips the natural oils from your skin and causes it to dry it out even more. Instead, people with eczema should shower for less than five minutes and use lukewarm water. Additionally, a high mineral content in tap water can dry out the skin and make eczema worse.
Moisturize twice a day with a thick cream or ointment
Eczema is a sign of skin sensitivity, and that sensitivity often stems from damage to skin barrier, which then leads to increased exposure to environmental allergens, chemicals, and irritants. When the skin barrier is compromised, a host of cellular reactions—like the red, dry, and blotchy skin—can occur. Dermatologists agreed that you have to moisturize with a thick cream twice a day, as it takes at least four weeks of consistent application to manage the symptoms of eczema.
Gravitate towards natural fabrics
Cold weather usually means piling on the layers, but clothes that are made of synthetic fabrics can trigger eczema for people with sensitive skin. Check the labels of your favorite knits and look for 100% pure cold-weather fabrics like cotton, silk, and cashmere. Wool and polyester may keep you warm but can cause the skin to become irritated and red. A hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, and the brand makes other loungewear for adults and children with sensitive skin concerns. Sleeping on cotton sheets can also make a difference, noting that polyester blends can be irritating for people with eczema.
Look for moisture-retaining ingredients in your skin care
When shopping for facial moisturizers, look for hyaluronic acid, squalene, Dimethicone, and ceramides, as these hydrating ingredients hold moisture in the skin. Another surprising ingredient to look for is manuka honey, aloe vera, and coconut oil, as these are highly beneficial for hydrating skin!
Avoid known irritants in cleansers
The skin on our face can be more sensitive to chemicals and temperature changes because it is the most exposed part of our body. Therefore, when cleansing any facial patches of eczema, make sure your products contain the least amount of known irritants, such as added fragrances, preservatives, and surfactants.
All skin with eczema should be considered "sensitive skin" and you should be cautious about the ingredients in the products you use. Once that immune system is sensitized, any exposure to chemicals or an impaired barrier from over-drying of the skin will trigger the skin immune system to react, resulting in flare-ups.
Skip antioxidant gels, but do use antioxidant serums
While most summertime skin care products get swapped during the winter, you can continue to use your favorite serums all year long. People can still use their antioxidant serums during the winter but advises them to avoid antioxidant gels, which can sometimes be drying to patients with eczema. The reason? Gels are alcohol-based, which is better if you have oily or acne-prone skin, while most serums are oil-based. Although gels containing alcohol tend to be less greasy, they can be irritating to dry, sensitive skin. Apply a serum as a first layer in the morning, before using heavier products and moisturizers.
Light exfoliation is OK but don’t overdo it
Gentle exfoliation once or twice a week is important to care for dry skin, as it allows for better penetration of your moisturizer. For people with eczema-prone skin, she recommends a soft washcloth or honey-based sugar scrub for exfoliation. Avoid more aggressive body scrubs for exfoliation, as they can further irritate dry, cracked skin.
You should also avoid harsh peels or overuse of retinol treatment, as these are stronger exfoliants that can cause extra dryness during the winter and irritate eczema. Look for a gentle product that contains Vitamin E or aloe vera to help soothe the skin.
Oils are your friends
Products formulated with natural oils like argan or sunflower are recommended, as they contain fatty acids that keep skin hydrated. Coconut oil and cehami flower extract are two other excellent oils that are eczema and sensitive skin friendly!
Cut back on other sneaky irritants in your life
If you are taking short, lukewarm showers, using a humidifier, and coating your skin with nourishing creams, but still experience irritated skin, then you’ll need to look elsewhere in your environment to find out what’s wrong. Experts recommend eliminating perfumes, which have the potential to be irritating regardless if they’re made in a lab or are derived from a natural plant oil.
Choose laundry detergents wisely as well, opting for fragrance- and dye-free detergents. Avoid dry cleaning your clothes as much as possible, as chemicals used in the process can trigger eczema. And above all, make sure you have the right skin care products to truly help reduce your eczema! Shop the Wild Naturals store today!