After a long hot summer many of us are relieved when the temperature starts to drop and winter approaches. Winter brings with it brisk, cold air, low humidity and dry winds. These conditions lead to our skin feeling dry and itchy.
People with eczema struggle to keep there skin moist and pliable through out summer so the winter conditions can just heighten their struggle and worsen their eczema.
“Your skin has to be oily to be healthy,” says Ben Willems of Asheville Healing Arts integrative health and herbal clinic. “It needs to be pliable. If it’s not, then infections can get in.”
Dry skin is itchy and irritable, less pliable and prone to cracking which in turn may lead to infection. Full body moisturising is often necessary for the eczema sufferer to prevent the skin drying out further.
Test For Dryness
To the naked eye your skin may appear normal and moist. It may not be until severe dryness has set in that the signs become evident. By then the skin is irritable and reversing the effects and remoisturising are more complex.
A simple test to see if your skin is dry is to gently pinch it. If the skin smoothes back down it is moist and in good condition. If it remains pinched or becomes red it may be dry and require extra moisturising. Or it may be that the moisturiser you are using is ineffective for your skin.
The hands, elbows, legs and feet are most susceptible to dryness. They need to be moisturised regularly especially in winter.
What To Do
We know the dry winter conditions dry the skin and exacerbate eczema. There is little we can do to change the weather so it is the care of our skin we need to change.
- Reduce shower time. Prolonged exposure to water will strip the skin of its natural oils increasing dryness.
- Reduce water temperature. Hot water will irritate the skin increasing itchiness. Short showers in warm water are best.
- Moisturise immediately after showering whilst the skin is still damp the moisture can be locked in rather than evaporating.
- Use a sun block even in winter. The winter sun is still harsh and damaging.
- Protect your lips which are particularly prone to drying and chapping in the cold winter breeze and harsh winter sun. Use a 30+ SPF lip balm regularly.
- Protect your hands, the most susceptible area of all. Wear gloves (choose cotton over wool) to protect from the cold air and moisturise regularly especially after washing or exposure to water.
- Use a barrier cream like Vaseline or Sooth-It Balm to lock in moisture and protect the skin. If you find them too messy or greasy select a moisturiser that is fragrance free as perfumed lotions can dry out and irritate skin.
- Use a humidifier. Cold outside air means windows are closed and heaters are turned up, causing the air inside our homes to become very dry. More than one humidifier may be needed to really make a difference and reduce the symptoms of eczema. Remember that humidifiers can become a breeding ground for mould and bacteria if not cleaned properly.
- Drink water. Dry skin needs to be moisturised from the inside also. If the body is dehydrated (even just a little) it will show in the skin as the skin cells do not receive enough hydration.