Winter Skin Woes: Eczema, Psoriasis, and Rosacea
Winter weather is in full swing!
For most of us, this means trying to stay warm and cozy while battling dry skin.
But, for others, this time of year brings the additional challenge of combating flair ups of eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
And if you think these skin conditions get worse in the winter, no, you’re not crazy.
These conditions CAN actually worsen when the temperature drops!
A study published in Australian Skin Journal looked at 5,468 psoriasis patients and 9,301 acne patients and found that most office visits took place during colder weather.
Don’t worry, Beauty Mates!
I’m here to guide you through all your winter skincare woes and help you with some of my top tips for treating eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
Let’s save your skin this season!
What Is Eczema?
Do you battle eczema?
You’re not alone.
A recent study found that as many as 31.6 million Americans have symptoms of eczema and that it’s prevalent among 10.1% of adults!
When I was a kid, I used to get eczema a lot on my cheeks.
Now my youngest has eczema, too.
I’m super thankful that I can easily treat it most of the time, and it doesn’t seem to bother him!
Eczema, also referred to as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition that’s characterized by dry, red, rough, and itchy skin.
“It’s usually an itch that rashes rather than a rash that itches,” explains dermatologist Dr. Craig Austin.
This means eczema usually starts with an itch that turns into an inflamed rash.
According to the National Eczema Association, there are several different types of eczema, all of which cause itching and redness:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Dyshidrotic eczema
- Hand eczema
- Nummular eczema
- Stasis dermatitis
What Causes Eczema?
While experts don’t know the exact cause of eczema, there are a few different factors that may trigger symptoms.
- Genetics – Eczema is a condition that can run in the family. Your parents or siblings may be able to bond with you over pesky, itchy skin!
- Allergies – Your skin may be reacting to an allergy (such as dust mites, pollen, food, etc.). In response, your immune system goes into overdrive, causing your skin to flare up.
- Irritants – When your skin comes into contact with something that aggravates it, such as a strong soap or detergent, it can cause a reaction (AKA contact dermatitis).
- Climate – Unfortunately, all sorts of weather conditions can anger your eczema. This includes hot weather and high and low humidity.
- Stress – When we get stressed out, our bodies release cortisol, a stress hormone which causes inflammation (making conditions like eczema worse).
Why Is Eczema Worse in Winter?
Dry winter weather is famous for sucking moisture out of your skin.
When your skin is dry, its protective layer is compromised and becomes more vulnerable to damage, injury, and, yes, rashes.
Not to mention, if the holidays added extra stress to your life, your skin might be screaming in response!
How to Treat Eczema
Keeping skin moisturized will not only help relieve that annoying itching (aaahhh, so soothing!), it will also help restore skin’s protective barrier.
Follow some of these tips for keeping skin happy and moisturized:
- Apply lotion throughout the day. It’s a good idea to keep it stashed in a few places – around the house, in your car, in your purse – so you always have some handy.
- Use a gentle lotion that doesn’t contain alcohol, dyes, fragrances, or irritants.
- Always apply lotion after a bath or shower. You’ll really lock in moisture while your skin is still slightly damp!
- Consider using a humidifier during dry weather to maintain skin’s moisture.
Wash Up Gently
Make sure you’re treating your skin right during cleansing and bathing.
- Use mild soaps, cleansers, and shampoos without irritants, alcohol, dyes, or fragrances.
- Avoid scrubbing the skin too harshly while you’re sudsing up, or rubbing too roughly while you’re drying off. Be gentle with skin to keep it happy!
- Remember that hot showers can strip your skin’s moisture. Lower the temperature, take shorter showers, or make sure to always moisturize after bath time!
Put Those Claws Away
Constant scratching can damage and injure your skin, especially if you get your nails involved!
Try not to scratch (I know, it’s hard).
Consider keeping nails short or wearing soft gloves at night so you don’t break your skin.
Bonus: You can give your hands a restorative moisturizing treatment by applying a good lotion, then covering them with soft gloves to allow all that richness to sink in while you sleep!
Keep a Journal
A journal is a great way to detect any personal triggers that cause your eczema to flare up.
Take notes on foods, weather, allergens, soaps, and where you are in your cycle (hormones can affect eczema).
Look for patterns of things that could be aggravating skin.
Talk to Your Dermatologist
Whenever you’re dealing with a skin concern, it’s always a good idea to talk to a specialist.
Your dermatologist may be able to prescribe you a topical lotion to help with your eczema.
What Is Psoriasis?
Approximately 7.5 million people in Australia have psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes red, itchy, flaky patches on the skin called plaques.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, different types of psoriasis include:
- Plaque (also called psoriasis vulgaris)
- Inverse (also called flexural psoriasis or intertriginous psoriasis)
- Erythrodermic (also called exfoliative psoriasis)
What Causes Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is the result of an overactive immune system.
It causes inflammation and sets off a reaction in which your skin produces too many cells.
The new cells are pushed to the skin’s surface, but your skin can’t shed the old cells fast enough to accommodate this overproduction of new cells.
The result is a traffic jam of piled up cells that makes skin red, itchy, and flaky.
There are a few factors that cause and trigger psoriasis flare-ups:
- Genetics – Psoriasis can be inherited. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
- Medications – Certain medications can trigger skin irritation as a side effect.
- Stress – Stress can cause inflammation in the body which, you guessed it, also means inflammation in your skin.
- Infection – Anything that makes your immune system work hard (such as illness or infection) may set off a reaction that can anger skin.
Why Is Psoriasis Worse in Winter?
As with many skin conditions, the cold, dry air of winter doesn’t really help.
It’s also been suggested that some people find that their psoriasis and skin responds well to sun exposure, and we typically get less time in the sun during chilly, gray winter days.
Your psoriasis may also be triggered if you get sick during cold and flu season since your immune system is fighting off the bug.
How to Treat Psoriasis
There are a variety of medications, topical lotions, and treatments available to combat psoriasis.
One treatment, phototherapy, involves exposing skin to ultraviolet light (this is done in a doctor’s office under professional supervision).
If you have psoriasis, talk to your dermatologist to find a course of treatment that’s best for your skin.
In the meantime, here are a few other helpful tips to keep skin happy:
- Moisturize on the regular to help skin heal.
- Avoid dyes, perfumes, or harsh products that will irritate skin.
- Reduce stress by practicing calm breathing, going for a walk, or having a laugh-fest with your bestie.
- If you do seek the sun, make sure to apply SPF to protect skin and avoid further damage. Look for a mineral sunscreen, which will be gentler on skin than a chemical one.
What Is Rosacea?
According to the National Rosacea Sociey, 41% of rosacea patients said they had avoided face-to-face contact because of the condition.
While skin concerns can make us self-conscious, we shouldn’t let them rule how we live.
Ladies, we should be out there celebrating and shaking things up, no matter what skin we’re in!
Rosacea is characterized by redness on the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin (it can also appear on the neck, chest, and scalp) that looks like a blush or flush that doesn’t go away.
It can produce red, blotchy areas, the appearance of blood vessels, bumps, or acne on the surface of the skin.
Left untreated over time, it can also cause thickening of the skin tissue (usually around the nose) and eye irritation.
What Causes Rosacea?
The exact cause is unknown, but it’s suggested that factors such as genetics and defects in the immune system and facial blood vessels could all play a possible role.
There are also a few rosacea triggers:
- Sun – The National Rosacea Society estimates that the sun and sun damage is the top-ranked trigger for people with rosacea.
- Stress – Stress was the second trigger, affecting 79% of people.
- Heat – Pretty much anything that causes your face to flush, like hot weather or exercise, can cause rosacea to appear.
- Diet – Alcohol and spicy foods can also cause the face to flush.
Why Is Rosacea Worse in Winter?
Winter weather can leave you with more than just rosy cheeks from walking out in the cold.
Frosty weather and the wind can trigger rosacea, as can warm indoor temperatures from heaters and all that holiday baking!
Plus, stress from the holidays can really do a number on your skin, too.
How to Treat Rosacea
There are many treatments available to tackle rosacea including topical ointments, medications, and laser treatments.
Have a chat with your dermatologist to find the best course of action for your rosacea!
Here are some other steps you can take:
- Avoid products that contain irritants, including fragrances, alcohol, and triggering ingredients like menthol, peppermint, and eucalyptus.
- Wear SPF every day, even on cloudy days! Again, look for a broad spectrum mineral formula rather than a chemical one.
- Use a gentle moisturizer regularly to soothe irritated skin. There are even moisturizers formulated to help treat rosacea!
- Use color-correcting makeup to balance your complexion. Yellow and green tinted concealers and powders help neutralize redness and ruddiness.
- Protect your face from harsh winter air with a scarf.
- Keep your cool when you’re indoors, both temp-wise and stress-wise, to keep skin calm.