Although winter is the perfect time to get cozy and enjoy the beauty of the season with twinkly fairy lights and season goodwill, many of us fantasise about the warmer days to come… This applies in particular to people suffering from eczema, as many of them experience that their skin condition gets worse in the colder, dryer months. For many it is a yearly question, why is it that these symptoms peak in winter and is there anything you can do to prepare your skin?
Eczema is a chronic, relapsing and remitting inflammatory skin condition and is associated with an abnormal skin barrier. The impaired skin barrier function leads to increased transepidermal water loss, which ultimately leads to the presence of eczematous lesions, patches of affected skin. The presentation of these lesions differs based on how long the person suffered with the condition for and their age, but most people with eczema experience small bumps, patches of dry scaly skin and severe itching.
Severity of eczema ranges from mild to severe and can be plagued with recurrent flare-ups. While every person with eczema has their own triggers, in many cases flare-ups can follow a seasonal pattern.
There are two types of seasonal patterns in patients with eczema, with some patients experiencing an aggravation during summer while others during winter. If your eczema deteriorates predominantly in winter, this is likely due to climatic factors such as low air humidity and cold temperatures, which cause increased dryness of the skin and sensation of itch. In addition, switching between harsh, windy conditions outside and dry, centrally heated environments inside may also be perceived as a possible trigger for a flare-up.
Help your skin win the battle
Due to the impaired skin barrier function, transepidermal water loss is a chronic issue that requires daily skin care. It’s important to continue your moisturizing routine all year round and not just during flare-ups! There are a lot of tips for improving your skin barrier function in last month’s article Shed Your Dry Summer Skin, but below are some additional tips for the eczematous skin:
+ “Soak and seal” method
Take a bath using lukewarm water for five to ten minutes. If you want, you can use a gentle cleanser without chemicals. Pat the skin lightly after bathing, allowing some moisture from the bath to remain on the surface and liberally apply moisturizer all over the body within 2 minutes. As the skin is still porous and open to products that are applied, the moisturizer will lock in the moisture from the bath. This will help keep the skin hydrated as well as restore the epidermal barrier.
+ A 100% plant extract serum, balm or cream-based moisturizer is often preferred over a lotion
Lotions often contain a high percentage of water that is absolutely fine for normal skin barriers. For eczema however, most lotions do not function well as moisturizers. Due to the impaired skin barrier, the water in the lotion evaporates quickly, leading to a paradoxical drying effect.
Some Nourished recommendations include:
+ Stay hydrated!
Try to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. This can include cups of herbal tea, as cold water may not be so appealing in cold weather… Keeping your body hydrated can help keep your skin hydrated.
+ Avoid abrupt changes in temperature
Wrap up well when going outside and try to choose natural fabrics. Some harsh fabrics, for example wool, may irritate your skin further. In addition, try to dress in layers as this allows you to respond to changing temperatures easily.
Discover more natural products for Sensitive Skin at Nourished.
For more information about sensitive skin conditions check out our article Sensitive vs Sensitised Skin. What is the difference?
This article was written by guest contributor Coco Dekkers. Coco lives in Amsterdam and is a 6th year medicine student with a special interest in Dermatology.