Winter means cold, dry air, forced heat in your homes, lots of layers, and wool coats and sweaters. For me (and probably for some of you) it also includes a nosebleed or two at the beginning of the season and lots of long, hot showers. All of this drying, constricting, and irritating isn’t very good for your skin and can lead to dryness, itching, and even what is known as winter eczema. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that manifests with itchy skin and a rash and is believed to be triggered by both internal and external factors.
External factors that trigger eczema include the dry air, cosmetics, rough fabrics close to the skin, and even hot showers. Suggestions to manage external factors include using gentle skin cleansers, moisturize daily, cutting back on hot showers or baths, and keeping soft, breathable materials like cotton closer to skin. Dr. Shirley Madhere of Holistic Plastic Surgery also suggests “occasional colloidal oatmeal baths, castor oil massages, and moisturizing the body with shea butter.” Ahmet Altiner, M.D., F.A.A.D. of UWS Dermatology & Skin Care explains that “exercise promotes sweating and water loss. Although it is unlikely to cause eczema, in people who are prone to it, dehydration can exacerbate an atopic dermatitis flare.”
Externally, Michelle L. Butler CHHC, AADP, RYT suggests using “unprocessed (no bleaching, refining or deodorizing) organic virgin coconut oil… on the dry, cracked, peeling skin of eczema sufferers. Make sure to massage the oil deeply into the area. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are easily and quickly absorbed into the skin, and will provide instant relief.”
Dr. Shirley Madhere states that “internal causes are those that lead the immune system to react to various triggers such as food, hormonal imbalances, stress and anxiety.” Michelle L. Butler CHHC, AADP, RYT has found that nutrition can help fight eczema. “Gluten, dairy, and sugar exacerbate eczema. They are extremely inflammatory foods, and make your digestive and immune systems work overtime to try and process. And since the skin is our biggest elimination organ, you’ll see the internal disturbances on the external surfaces. Eating tons of fruits and vegetables with antioxidants will work to heal the skin and gut. Also, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado provide vitamin E to soothe skin. Coconut oil is the best to heal the gut and is extremely antimicrobial and detoxifying.”
Joy Supplee, MS, RD, CD, CLT of Custom Fit Nutrition, LLC uses a Mediator Release Test (MRT) on the blood “to determine what foods/food chemicals are triggers for them.” She then uses the Lifestyle Eating And Performance (LEAP) dietary protocol to help reduce or even clear up eczema.
Traditional treatment of eczema includes ultraviolet light therapy, steroids and anti-inflammatory medications. If you are prone to eczema or dry, itchy skin during the winter or all year long, you may want to try dietary changes in addition to these gentle and pure cleansers and products that you are using.
Have any of our readers had success with any of these methods? What other methods have helped you manage winter eczema?