Wintertime Tips for Dry Eczema Skin

Winter skin dryness can wreak havoc on eczema. You might be battling a double dose of low humidity air — cold, dry air outdoors and warm, dry air in your home and car — leading to much more evaporation of water off your skin, explained Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist and physician director of health care transformation at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. Just dashing indoors and out is tough on skin. "Our skin is sensitive to changes in temperature, moving from warm air to cool air to warm air," added Jason Reichenberg, MD, a dermatologist and vice chairman of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern-Austin. Plus, when it's snowing or raining, your skin is exposed to moist air outdoors and then dry air inside. To get relief from all of this, try these eczema skin winter tips.

Glove Up

Hand eczema can mean deep cracks, peeling, and blisters on your hands. To guard against this cold weather damage, protect your hands with a pair of gloves when you head outdoors. Dr. Benabio suggested wearing gloves every day in the winter to protect your hands from the environment and help them retain moisture. Another eczema winter skin tip is to skip wool gloves because they can be itchy and irritating for eczema-prone hands. Opt for a leather pair instead.

Let the Humidifier Hum

Many heating systems dry out the air indoors as they heat it, which in turn further dries out skin and exacerbates eczema, noted Dr. Reichenberg. To combat winter skin dryness and counter the dry air inside your home, try this simple cold weather tip for eczema: Run a humidifier. Consider using a humidifier in your bedroom at night and in any other rooms where you spend a lot of time.

Limit Bath Time

"Have a different bathing routine at different times of the year," suggested Reichenberg. Sticking to short, warm baths or showers during winter months is an invaluable eczema skin winter tip to keep eczema flares at bay. "If you know you usually flare in the winter, then plan ahead," he said. "Limit the duration of the shower or bath and avoid very hot showers or baths. They feel good but really dry up your skin by removing the oils from your skin that keep it hydrated."

Skip Harsh Soaps

Stick to gentle cleansers to help soothe winter skin and eczema. "In the summer, you may be able to tolerate harsh anti-bacterial soaps, but in the winter, you should switch to non-soap cleansers," Reichenberg said. Look for products labeled face cleanser or body bar and avoid anything with the word "soap." "Many 'natural' soap products are harsh on the skin," he said. Also, wash clothing and outdoor gear in fragrance-free detergent.

Strip Off Wet Clothes

If you've been out in the cold, soaking rain or enjoying a little fun in the snow, shimmy out of those wet clothes as soon as you get home to avoid irritating winter skin and eczema. "Wearing wet or damp clothes leads to excess evaporation, worsening dryness and eczema," said Benabio. Just before you change into something dry, while your skin is still damp, be sure to moisturize again to help soothe it.

Protect Against the Sun

Don't skip the sunscreen just because the temperature is low. Even on a cloudy day, as much as 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays can break through. "Also, snow is a great reflector of the sun, so if you are outside for long periods of time, you can get sunburned in the winter wonderland, too," said Reichenberg. Before you head outside, protect your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Take Care Inside and Out

To manage winter skin and eczema, aim for an overall healthy lifestyle. Benabio recommended getting plenty of sleep and getting stress under control to limit cortisol production. Cortisol is the stress hormone which can lead to excess inflammation that worsens eczema. Choose nutritious, healthy foods, particularly those high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, fish oil, and flaxseed. As he said, "They can all help your skin replace needed oils to keep skin protected and healthy."

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