The winter brings all sorts of problems for those with sensitive skin, and they’re mostly down to the colder, drier air at this time of year. In this article, we look at the problems this combination of low temperature and low humidity can cause for skin.
Drier air means drier skin, so any dry skin condition can be exacerbated as temperatures drop and the air loses humidity. Although some eczema sufferers find the heat and humidity of summer problematic, many people who live with a chronic skin condition find their skin flares up more easily because it’s so much drier and more fragile in cold weather.
Dry skin is more likely to get irritated and itchy, because a dehydrated top layer of skin isn’t as strong as one with sufficient moisture, and can let in external irritants as well as losing yet more moisture. This can result in inflammation and itchiness, even if there’s no other trigger present.
Here’s a list of potential skin problems that can occur in winter:
- Eczema, psoriasis and other chronic dry skin conditions can flare more often and more severely in drier, colder weather.
- Mucus membranes can dry up and not work so effectively to trap allergens, leaving people more vulnerable to dust particles and allergens, which can in turn result in skin flares.
- You’re more likely to get cracked lips, angular cheilitis, and dry skin around your eyes and nose as humidity drops.
- Dry skin can be more sensitive to ordinary household detergents and perfumed toiletries, so substances that you can cope with in summer become problematic in winter.
- Skin can react to being overheated in thicker clothes, particularly if they’re wool or nylon.
- Hands can get cracked and dry from frequent washing in hot water and then being left to dry in colder air.
- Exposed skin can suffer from windburn if you’re outside, as the cold wind sucks moisture from the epidermis, leaving it sensitive and sore.
- Some people suffer from cold urticaria in winter, when the drop in temperatures triggers a kind of allergic reaction causing hives on exposed skin.
- Rosacea flares can be triggered by cold winds.
- Central heating can cause hot but dry air: skin can lose moisture and then react to being overheated with itchiness and inflammation.
- As an additional seasonal skin issue, mould spores are released into the air in autumn, and can trigger flare ups of general dermatitis or chronic eczema.
- Long, hot, relaxing winter baths can also dry skin out seriously; prolonged contact with water is, surprisingly, dehydrating for skin, and can cause irritation - as can bubble baths!
- Indoor perfumes such as scented candles and diffusers can also cause irritation, especially if windows are closed and the indoor environment is dry.
What can you do to prevent or treat winter skin problems?
Follow these steps to keep skin moisturised and resilient, even in winter!
- Keep your skin moisturised throughout the day
- Swap to a richer, more intensive oil-based emollient rather than a cream
- Keep temperatures as low as is comfortable inside your house
- Invest in a humidifier
- Open windows and doors when you can to keep air circulating indoors
- Avoid your triggers: detergents, perfumes, soap, wool, nylon, etc
- Wear soft, thin layers that are easily taken off/put on
- Moisturise immediately after bathing to lock moisture in!
Recommended products for winter skin:
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.