Excema tends to get worse in colder months. Here are nine treatments for all skin types.
Ah, the joys of winter! It’s time for holiday cheer, crackling fireplaces, and crisp, fresh snow. But, for some, the season brings less welcome things — winter dermatitis!
Yes, eczema can be a nuisance year-round, but for some peeps, the cold weather, dry air, and indoor heating of winter can aggravate their skin and trigger worsening symptoms.
Keep reading for the nine best winter eczema treatments.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a condition that causes dry, itchy skin rashes. You may notice patches of dry, red to brownish-gray skin or small, fluid-filled bumps that scab over. Your skin may also become raw and painful from scratching and can become infected. Eczema may affect the hands, face, lips, or elsewhere. You may find it’s worse in the areas you sweat the most.
There’s no cure for eczema, but treatments can help control uncomfortable symptoms. Often, eczema follows a pattern of flare-ups when symptoms become worse and remissions when symptoms improve.
In some folks, winter is a flare-up trigger. The low humidity of winter air combined with indoor heating can dry out the skin, and when combined with falling temperatures and windy weather, seasonal eczema can be particularly uncomfortable. You may also find that wearing warm clothing and taking hot baths send your eczema into overdrive.
If seasonal eczema is getting you down, keep reading for treatments that can help control your symptoms all winter.
- Be gentle
- Use a humidifier
- Drink lots of water
- Minimize abrupt temperature changes
- Take vitamin D supplements
- Go natural
- Take an oatmeal bath
- Eat prebiotics and probiotics
Yep, moisturizing is a cornerstone for folks with eczema, and it’s especially vital in winter. So even if you have a fave moisturizer that does wonders in summer, you may need to switch things up in winter.
Look for thick and creamy products, as they are formulated to be more occlusive, forming a barrier on your skin to lock in moisture. Try ones approved by the National Eczema Association, as these guys know their shit!
2. Be gentle
The changing winter temperatures can be a nasty surprise for your skin, making it more sensitive. As a result, you could find that your usual skincare products begin to irritate your skin and cause problems.
Choose soaps and detergents without harsh chemicals or fragrances, and opt for nonscented skincare products wherever possible to reduce irritation. It’s also wise to avoid excessive scrubbing when washing your hands and body, which strips away precious oils. That said, gentle exfoliating may help.
3. Use a humidifier
Being toastie warm and tucked-up inside can be an absolute pleasure in winter, but it can wreak havoc on your eczema. That’s because indoor heating pumps out hot, dry air that dries your skin quickly.
So run a humidifier to add moisture to your home environment, and you may find that your seasonal eczema improves. Just keep an eye out for any signs of mold or mildew in the unit, and empty and clean it regularly to avoid health risks.
4. Drink lots of water
Drinking plenty of water is another way to keep seasonal eczema symptoms at bay. It helps to keep the skin hydrated from within, which in turn can reduce itchiness.
Aim for eight glasses of water daily — even more if you’re active. If water isn’t your thing, try some hot chocolate, herbal teas, or flavored seltzers (no, not the alcoholic kind, sorry). Sadly, mulled wine, eggnog, and snowballs don’t make the cut. So, balance them out with a booze-free alternative whenever you can.
5. Minimize abrupt temperature changes
Slogging down the street in a blizzard only to step inside into the warmth of your house — or bar — can shock your skin. Likewise, going from a freezing bedroom into a scorching shower or bath is a dramatic temperature change that can aggravate seasonal eczema.
If you live somewhere cold, it’s tricky to avoid temperature extremes, but these rapid-fire shifts can worsen dry, cracked skin. So you need to be savvy with your seasonal wardrobe and wrap up well when outside — or inside! — to stop your hands, feet, and the rest from getting too cold.
Aim to transition slowly between temperatures and avoid jumping into red-hot showers or baths, no matter how inviting they may be when you get in from the cold.
6. Take vitamin D supplements
When exposed to the sun, your skin makes its very own vitamin D, but sunlight is in short supply during winter, and you may be left in short supply. You need vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth and to regulate inflammation, immune function, and skin repair.
Adding a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine in winter may improve eczema flare-ups. According to a 2014 study, daily vitamin D supplementation can reduce winter eczema symptoms. A later review from 2016 confirmed that vitamin D supplements are a promising tool in the fight against seasonal eczema.
If you’re lucky and the sun comes out, you can get outside and enjoy it, then go for it! Just remember to slather on that sunscreen as sunburn will dry out your skin and could worsen eczema symptoms.
7. Go natural
Although there’s not a tremendous amount of research, some natural eczema remedies may be worth a try if you find that seasonal eczema is giving you jip.
The National Eczema Association suggests using sunflower seed oil or coconut oil on the skin to soothe symptoms of eczema and send dryness on its merry way. Coconut oil also has antibacterial properties that may help prevent skin infections, while sunflower oil helps reduce itching, rashes, and blisters and improve skin barrier function.
8. Take an oatmeal bath
Oats aren’t just a delicious (or gross?!) breakfast food. You can also turn them into a soothing bath, a welcome winter eczema treatment.
To make an oaty soak, grind 1 cup of oats in a blender or food processor until the mixture’s a fine powder. People in the know call this colloidal oatmeal. Pop the power into cheesecloth, a clean sock, or a pair of nylons, and tie it up. Then immerse the cloth bag in a lukewarm bath and swish it around until the water turns milky.
Or, you can pour the oaty powder into the water and mix well. Enjoy a soak for 15 to 20 minutes in the silky-feeling water, and rinse off with clean water when you’re finished.
9. Eat prebiotics and probiotics
Prebiotics are fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. They’re a carbohydrate that doesn’t get broken down in the stomach and intestine. Instead, it reaches the large bowel intact, providing a feast for your gut bacteria — a good thing if you have seasonal eczema. Good sources of prebiotics include asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, shallots, oats, and bananas.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria and live yeasts that help balance the bacteria in your digestive system and keep you healthy. You’ll find these bacterial superheroes in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and miso. Or, if you prefer, you can pop a probiotic supplement.
Healthy intestinal bacteria may reduce skin irritation and inflammation and soothe seasonal eczema. How? Well, your skin and your gut are connected. So when the balance of bacteria in your gut is out of whack, you may have an eczema flare-up.
If your eczema worsens in winter, don’t fret. Seasonal eczema can be managed with the right treatments. Keeping your skin hydrated and nourished is essential, so slather on that cream or ointment regularly throughout the day. Try a humidifier indoors to temper the dry air, and don’t forget to drink enough water.
To tackle seasonal eczema from the inside out, consider taking a vitamin D supplement and eating plenty of pre and probiotics. Also, why not throw an oatmeal bath into the mix to ease itchy, dry skin?
With the proper care and attention, seasonal eczema doesn’t have to disrupt your winter fun. You can still enjoy the festive season, snowflakes (not skin flakes!), and all!