Taming Rosacea in The Winter

Winter weather can be a rosacea-triggering study in extremes: bitter cold winter wind outside, dry heat inside. It’s no wonder that your temperamental skin flares under these extremes, with rosacea triggers around every corner.

“We don’t know what causes rosacea,” explained Jenny Kim, MD, PhD, a dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology and clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and chief of dermatology for the Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “What we do know is that it usually occurs in fair-skinned persons, and usually something triggers it, like the cold or dryness, or spicy food or caffeine, or sun. A couple of those things happen more in the dry weather of winter.”

To calm rosacea in the winter, plan to take extra precautions as the chill sets in.

Strategies to Soothe Rosacea Skin When It's Cold

If you’re tired of itchy, irritated skin and the only pink you want on your cheeks is a healthy blush, these winter rosacea tips can help:

  • Stick with your medication plan. Rosacea can be managed with the help of prescription medications. Follow all your doctor's recommendations.
  • Avoid heat sources. It’s winter, so that's not a problem, you're thinking. You might not even realize how often you're exposed to irritating heat though. That blast of hot dry air keeping your home warm and the hot baths you enjoy can both be triggers.
  • Humidify. Inside and out, winter conditions can be drying. “Buy or turn on a central humidifier,” advised Benjamin Barankin, MD, a dermatologist and medical director of Toronto Dermatology Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “Also consider a cool mist humidifier for your home.”
  • Soothe your skin. “Check with your dermatologist about which products [to use],” said Dr. Barankin who, as a general rule, advised using mild cleansers and thicker moisturizers. Look for creams, not lotions.
  • Turn down the temp at the faucet. Use only lukewarm water to avoid aggravating your skin.
  • Guard against wind. Protect your skin against harsh winter winds with a scarf around your cheeks, nose, and mouth when you go outside. A ski mask could also provide enough coverage, if you can make it suit your wardrobe.
  • Manage stress. Anecdotally, stress seems to be a rosacea trigger for some people. Winter can be a stressful time, with the demands of winter holidays added to the battle with bad weather. Try relaxation techniques and stress-reducing strategies, such as shopping online or turning down some invitations.
  • Keep your cool. Despite the cold weather, it’s easy to get overheated when working out, shoveling snow, or even frantically baking for the neighborhood cookie exchange. Take breaks to cool down.
  • Cool off hot drinks. Cider, hot chocolate, or a peppermint latte may be yummy, but not for rosacea. Give those drinks a few seconds or more to cool down before sipping. Even that little surge of heat can be a trigger for some people.
  • Respect your triggers. Knowing your triggers and avoiding them will help keep you on track with rosacea control. “We try to figure out what is a triggering factor for the patient,” said Dr. Kim. Try keeping a small journal that can help you track what types of winter activities seem to be related to your symptom flares.
  • Wear sunblock. The winter sun can still burn, especially if it's bouncing off snow and ice onto your skin. Barankin advised choosing physical sunblocks, like zinc oxide, to protect your skin.

Although rosacea remains something of a mystery to dermatologists, you have a chance to play detective and track the clues to your own rosacea in the winter so you'll know when it’s best to turn down the heat, slather on the moisturizer, or both.

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