How to look after eczema as the temperature drops

If you have eczema, you’ll already know just how much the weather can affect your skin.

For those who don’t have experience with it, eczema is a condition that affects one in five children and one in five adults.

It varies from person to person, but essentially means that the skin doesn’t produce the same fats and oils and may not retain water as easily.

Symptoms include dry, itchy, and flaky skin, or in severe cases it may cause weeping and bleeding. During the colder months, this can become even worse/

LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist Pareena tells  ‘Eczema and psoriasis can flare-up in winter because of rapid changes in temperature, which can make the skin feel itchy. The low humidity, caused by colder weather and drying central heating, can also suck moisture out of the skin.’

Others may find their eczema is exacerbated by scratchy fabrics (such as hats, gloves, and jumpers), by dust and damp as we spend more time indoors, or in certain areas where noses are blown, for example.

Thankfully there are lots of easy ways you can make Winter with eczema easier and lessen your symptoms.

Dermatologist Dr Mary Sommerlad takes us through her tips:

Avoid polluted areas

Dr Mary says: ‘A study in China found that on days where there is high pollution, individuals with inflammatory conditions such as eczema and psoriasis found their symptoms to become worse. Therefore if you live in a highly polluted area such as in a city or town you might have more eczema flare-ups.’

This may be easier said than done if you live in a high-pollution area, but is something worth thinking about if you can get out of the city for periods of time.

Ensure skin maintains good microbiome

‘I expect that in the near future we’ll see a greater focus on the role of microbiomes in skin health,’ says Dr Mary.

‘Microbiomes are microorganisms that not only living with the body but also on the skin and within skin cells which includes good and bad bacteria.

‘There’s emerging evidence that our skin needs good bacteria on it to thrive, however we can deplete our natural good bacteria by over-cleansing and frequent use of antibiotics.

‘If we deplete the good bacteria in our skin cells, it will disrupt the skin barrier, which can lead to skin inflammation and can aggravate inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and acne.’

Keeping your skin clean is important, but using harsh astringents too often doesn’t give our change the skin to recuperate.

For the face, consider switching to an oil or cream cleanser, and for the body opt for a shower cream or gel with added emollients – resisting the urge to wash too often (more than daily) or in very hot water, which can dry out skin.

You can find these shower products from the likes of Aveeno, La Roche Posay, Aderma, Doublebase, and Dermol.

Moisturise up to four times a day

‘Mosturisation top to toe is the number one thing people with eczema should do,’ says Dr Mary.

‘It’s important to moisturise the whole body, not just where the flare-ups are, as this will help reduce flare-ups elsewhere.

‘Individuals with eczema should be using around 500grams – 1kg of emollient a week and should be moisturising two to four times a day where possible on their arms, legs, face, stomach and back.’

Dr Mary recommends Cetraben cream, which can be regularly applied on skin and is specifically designed for inflammatory conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

She adds: ‘Look for specialist cleansers and washes for sensitive and eczema prone skin such as Cetraben Daily Cleansing Cream which acts as a two in one moisturiser and wash.

‘You can also use your daily cream or ointment based moisturiser as your in shower cleanser; it can cleans the skin as it traps any surface dirt but does not dry it out.’

Know your triggers

Eczema is an extremely unique condition for every person, with different people finding that different things cause flare-ups.

‘Your flare-ups could be stress related, it could be to fur, particular materials such as wool or even to dairy,’ says Dr Mary.

‘Avoiding these where possible will help you manage your condition. Finding out your triggers can be via a process of elimination or keeping a diary.’

Note down everything from your washing powder to your eating habits to your clothes, alongside how your symptoms are at that time.

Avoid topical steroids for periods of time

‘You should only ever use topical steroids under the advice of your GP or dermatologist and you shouldn’t be using them for long periods of time, there should be another way of managing your condition,’ says Dr Mary.

Most steroids should only be used for weeks at a time, as some people experience worse flare-ups when coming off after overuse.

Speaking to a dermatologist is a good next step for those who find they’re relying on topical steroids or want to find a new solution.

Be aware of perfumed products

Even so-called ‘natural’ fragrances such as tea tree oil can be irritating to eczema-prone skin.

Your skin diary should be helpful in eliminating your specific triggers, but in general opting for fragrance-free can give you more control over symptoms.

Dr Mary adds: ‘Avoid using “fake” cosmetics or things bought on the internet that seem “too-good-to-be- true” – often they contain ingredients that are of inferior quality and may even be harmful.’

Seek mental support

The toll eczema can take on a person isn’t just physical. Along with the pain and itching, many also experience sleep problems, self-esteem issues, and other mental health problems related to the condition.

As stress can also be a trigger for flare-ups, it’s imperative to minimise this if possible.

Dr Mary advises: ‘Join reputable eczema support groups such as the National Eczema Society. Introduce mindfulness into your daily routine. Let your teachers or boss at work now you have eczema and leave information for them to read through so they can understand your challenges.’

Your GP and dermatologist can signpost you to extra support if you need it.

Avoid scratchy fabrics

Pharmacist Pareena Patel says: ‘Winter clothing (like jumpers and tights) is often made with wool which can scratch and irritate sensitive skin. 

‘Try opting for cotton clothing instead or wearing layers of cotton or silk under woollen garments.’

If you experience eczema on your face, you might also be finding that your mask is making things itchier. Again, go for cotton masks where possible, and wash after each use with a gentle detergent that you know won’t irritate your skin.

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