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.”