Winter skin conditions are problematic for many, especially those with eczema and psoriasis. The cold, dry air robs the skin of moisture, and shorter days can cause flare-ups and plaques to worsen due to less time in the sun. While many people enjoy hitting the ski slopes or pick-up games of pond hockey in winter, the colder weather brings with it seasonally dry and itchy skin.
Some common symptoms related to winter skin include windburn and chafing, cracked lips and fingertips, and annoying dry skin and dandruff. Dry skin in winter is one of the biggest complaints. Have you noticed your skin turns white and flakey when you have an itch? Or you can’t seem to drink enough water? And how about those wrinkles and red spots that seem to pop up overnight.
There are steps you can take to prevent the weathered, leathered look of many seasoned snow skiers or simply help manage pesky winter skin conditions.
Chronic skin conditions
Experts believe exposure to ultraviolet light slows the rapid growth of skin cells that triggers psoriasis. Less sun, coupled with the lack of humidity outdoors and forced air indoors, often aggravates psoriasis flare-ups in winter.
Eczema sufferers also tend to experience more outbreaks during the cold weather months. Skin has a tough time retaining moisture, plus layering on clothing, taking hot baths, or using heavy blankets may contribute to itchy, red skin.
- Make sure to regularly moisturize your skin using dermatologist recommended products.
- Skip hot baths and showers.
- Reduce how often you shower and limit the time you’re in the shower.
- Add moisturizing products to the water.
- Use gentle cleansers that are free of fragrance, dye, and harsh chemicals.
- Pat yourself dry to avoid aggravating plaques, raw or scaly skin, and red patches.
- Use a thicker moisturizer right after showering.
- Avoid scratchy materials such as wool and nylon, which can irritate skin.
- Wear breathable fabrics like cotton and make sure bed linens are made from breathable fabrics.
- Stay hydrated to help keep your skin hydrated.
- Take vitamin D supplements or try to get outside for 30 minutes a day and soak up some sunshine.
- Talk to your dermatologist about phototherapy and other treatment options.
- Avoid or limit alcohol, smoking, and food triggers.
- Boost your immunity by eating a healthy diet, scheduling regular exercise, following a good sleep routine, and managing stress.
If you work outside year-round, your skin is exposed to harmful UV rays and prolonged cold weather, and harsh wind. Even when it’s cloudy, the sun’s rays can still penetrate your skin. Rosy cheeks, frostbite, dry chapped lips, and even cracked skin on your fingers can result.
- Apply sunscreen with 30 SPF to exposed areas before you leave for work.
- Try to cover as much of your body as you can, including wearing a hat, gloves, or face mask.
- Avoid products with chemicals and known irritants.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- Go indoors for regular breaks.
Some people love winter and the sports that come with plentiful snowfall. If you live in the mountains or in a colder climate, you’ve likely taken up a winter activity to help fend off the winter blues. Downhill skiing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking, and ice skating are great ways to enjoy the outdoors, but they also expose your skin to the elements.
- Wash your face at night and let natural oils replenish as you sleep.
- Apply sunscreen before you head outdoors and throughout the day, especially in high elevations.
- For low-key routines, use a moisturizer with an SPF 30 that is good for sports, absorbs rather than cakes on the skin, and is sweatproof.
- Be mindful of altitude, wind, temperature, and snow conditions and dress accordingly.
- Besides a good hat and gloves, wear a scarf, neck gaiter or multiclava, face mask, goggles, and helmet to stay warm and protect against frostbite or windburn.
- Don’t over-wash your skin to help it stay hydrated.
- Carry lip balm with SPF in your pocket or gear and apply it regularly.
Maybe you’re training for an early spring marathon or trying to get a daily dose of Vitamin D. Taking your exercise outdoors offers a number of health benefits, but winter’s harsh conditions can pose problems for your skin.
- Wash your face before and after exercise to reduce the risk of acne, sweat, and environmental pollutants.
- Use a light moisturizer with SPF on your face, arms, and other exposed areas.
- Keep your hair off your face and your head and ears warm by wearing a light hat.
- Use a gentle exfoliator to clean pores and remove dead skin cells.
At-home care for winter skin conditions
If you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad or work from home, you may not spend much time outside. But that doesn’t mean you won’t escape winter skin problems.
- Use a humidifier to keep moisture in the air.
- Take shorter baths and showers.
- Opt for warm rather than hot water, which dries the skin and can exacerbate eczema and other skin conditions.
- Use a gentler facial cleanser and exfoliator to prevent stripping moisture.
- Switch to a body wash with glycerin or dimethicone, which can help to draw water to skin.
- For breakouts, use products with ceramides and glycerin to repair and protect skin’s moisture barrier.
- Switch to a thicker face moisturizer and body cream or ointment to combat dry winter skin conditions, but avoid heavily fragranced products.
- Apply moisturizers immediately after a shower, when skin is still damp, and in the evening or before bed.
- Try nourishing body oils such as coconut oil and argan oil, tea tree oil, rose oil, rosehip oil for the face.
- Deter dandruff by gently shampooing daily and adding in an exfoliating treatment once a week if flakes won’t go away.
- Once or twice a week, use a hair mask to treat your hair to extra moisture and prevent split ends.
- Fend off fine lines around your eyes with a nightly eye cream.
- Reduce the times you shave your legs, which removes a superficial layer of skin and use a shave gel and razor made for dry or sensitive skin.
- Stock up on hand cream and lip balm to keep at work, in the car, and in your purse.
- Vaseline was a bathroom staple long before expensive beauty products. Keep a jar on hand for excessive dryness, especially on your lips or chafing under your nose.
- Make time for exercise since sweat helps release toxic chemicals and clear pores.
- Drink a glass of water every hour to stay hydrated.
- Don’t go out in the cold with damp skin.
- Treat yourself with an at-home or professional facial.
Don’t let winter skin get you down. Add in some extra time for your skin care routine and switch to gentler products. Read more here on how to choose the best products for your skin. Remember to moisturize often, drink water, and wear your sunscreen.
APDerm offers a full line of products, along with medical, cosmetic, and surgical procedures that can give your skin a youthful, healthy glow this winter. Contact APDerm today if you are concerned about winter skin conditions or to schedule a consultation for cosmetic services.