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Preparing Skin for Cold, Dry Weather

While it’s still warm outside for now, the cooler season will be here before you know it. This means a number of things, but for people who deal with skin conditions, it means an influx of dry air.

At the offices of Brian J. Williams, MD, PC, we’re cognizant of the way dryer air changes things for people who deal with eczema, psoriasis and other related skin conditions. These can lead to everything from rashes to significant flare-ups in these conditions, causing major discomfort and resulting side effects. It’s never too early to get started preparing for this season if you’ve dealt with these issues before, particularly in a dry climate like Utah. Let’s look at some basics here.

Danger Season for Eczema and Psoriasis

These two conditions, some of the most common skin conditions out there, are both at much higher risk of flare-ups during the winter. Some basics on each:

  • Eczema: Medically known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a genetic condition that leads to the skin struggling to retain water. This leads to what’s called a reduced barrier function. During dryer periods like the winter, less humidity in the air combines with this function to severely dry out skin in eczema sufferers. This can lead to cracks in the hands and fingertips, plus significant dryness and skin flakiness. Apart from moisturizer, which we’ll go over below, we recommend avoiding fragrances in areas like shampoo, conditioner and laundry items – these can exacerbate eczema. Likewise with wool and polyester, which scratch and irritate the skin.
  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis, which is characterized by scales and dry patches on the skin, can also flare up during the winter. This is due to both dryness and less UV light, which can also promote psoriasis symptoms. Aside from moisturizers, using shampoos designed for scaling and itching can be very helpful here.

Other Cool Weather Conditions

  • Winter itch: A condition that forms when combining dry air with heavy clothing that causes the wearer to sweat, irritating the pores in the process. It leads to bumps on the skin and will often take a prescription to get rid of.
  • Nummular dermatitis: Round, scaly patches on the legs. Prescriptions might be needed, but diligent skin care can prevent these.
  • Ichthyosis: Diamond-shaped scaly patches that cover virtually the entire leg surface. These can be treated with an alpha hydroxy acid cream.

Importance of Moisturization

The single most important component of the skin is water, but it always has to stay even – if there’s less moisture outside the skin, water will flow across it to help equalize things. This means that when the air is particularly dry, this loss of water will dry out the skin. This also compromises the barriers that the skin forms against negative agents like bacteria and viruses.

Luckily, moisturizer prevents a lot of this. Always use moisturizers with limited fragrance in the winter, as these can exacerbate skin issues. Make sure to moisturize all potential issue areas, not just the hands or face.

For more on preparing for the dry season if you have skin issues, or to learn about our eczema treatment, acne treatment or any of our other skin care services, speak to the staff at the offices of Brian J. Williams, MD, PC today.