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Stop Winter Eczema With These 6 Tips
Do you have dry, flaky, itchy skin during the winter? Your skin health doesn't have to suffer just because it is cold outside. Use the 6 steps outlined below to keep your skin hydrated and healthy throughout the winter season.
Eczema is a problem that can strike at any age, but according to Harvard Health, the condition becomes more common as people age. About 75 percent of people over the age of 64 have chronic dry skin due to the effects of sun exposure over time, thinner skin that cannot absorb moisture, and the reduction of oil-producing glands.
Women are more likely to have dry skin, due to hormonal drops after menopause. Hands, arms, legs, and the back are the most likely areas to have itchy, dry, and eczema-like patches as people age.
True eczema, which medical professionals believe is a form of autoimmune disorder, can strike at any age. Basically, the skin is overly sensitive and breaks out in itchy, dry patches from exposure to nearly anything.
If you suffer from eczema or simple dry skin due to aging, winter can have an excruciating effect on your skin. The dry heat from indoors combined with cold and wind from outdoors can cause eczema to flare and contribute to itchy, dry, cracking, and bleeding skin.
Although eczema can cause painful side effects in the winter, if you follow these 6 skin care tips, you can avoid painful eczema flare-ups during the winter.
According to The Mayo Clinic, there is little evidence that links water intake to the hydration of skin. Drinking water may not help your skin stay hydrated, but there are other methods you can take to ensure that your skin is well hydrated. Keeping your skin hydrated is particularly helpful for eczema sufferers, who are more likely to suffer the painful side effects of chronic dry skin.
What is the best way to moisturize the skin? There are hundreds of moisturizing products, but not all work as effectively. According to Web MD, the best moisturizers for eczema are oil-based, rather than water-based. In fact, you can moisturize the skin effectively with just oil, using a high quality olive oil or coconut oil that will add a protective barrier to your skin and lock in moisture. Other oil-based creams can also work well, including old-fashioned petroleum jelly and beeswax. Avoid using petroleum jelly on sensitive areas of the body, such as the face.
Apply the oil-based moisturizer twice daily to any trouble spots, and any time after you are exposed to dry winter air. You should also apply a moisturizing barrier after taking a bath or shower to prevent the skin from over-drying after the skin’s natural oils are stripped away by the soap that you use. You may want to switch to a non soap-based cleanser during the winter and limit showers to 10 minutes or less for minimal oil-stripping. Wash with tepid water, when possible, to avoid irritating the skin with heat.
Cold temperatures and indoor heating can cause the humidity in the air to drop. The less humid it is, the easier it is to fall prey to cracked, itchy skin. You can solve this issue by adding a humidifier to your home.
According to Center Point Energy, the ideal humidity range for humans is between 20 and 60 percent. However, extremely high humidity levels can damage your home in the winter if the outside humidity is drastically different. In temperatures over 20 degrees Fahrenheit, a humidity level between 30 and 50 percent is recommended.
For temperatures under 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the humidity level indoors should be no greater than 20 percent more than the outside humidity level. The drier it is outside, the drier it should be indoors. However, to protect your skin from winter dryness and itchiness, aim for the highest possible humidity level indoors (no greater than 60 percent).
Although moisturizing and keeping your skin hydrated in the winter is essential for preventing winter eczema, many ingredients in moisturizing creams are damaging to the skin and could make eczema worse. According to a 2013 study published in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, individuals with eczema do not respond to skin-care products the same way that someone without eczema does.
In fact, any chemicals classified as a “formaldehyde releaser” can be extremely irritating to individuals with eczema. In addition to formaldehyde releasers, there are also a few other common ingredients that can make eczema worse.
Avoid the following ingredients to ensure you are not damaging your skin while moisturizing:
Preservatives are ingredients that are added to moisturizers and skin-care products to make them last longer. They are designed to prevent mold, stabilize the mixture to prevent separation, and keep the cream smelling right until the expiration date. However, according to the Cadogan Clinic (a top dermatology clinic in the UK), preservatives can wreak havoc on eczema. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology study found that chemicals releasing formaldehyde into the skin caused the most damage in skin with eczema. The most irritating ingredients included: Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol.
Alcohol is also extremely irritating to eczema and can cause skin to dry, crack, and even bleed. Avoid any cream or cleanser with alcohol to protect the delicate layers of skin and retain as much moisture as possible.
A 2010 study from the University of Bath in the UK looked at the effects of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) on the skin. Researchers found that SLS irritated delicate skin, and made it more permeable. What does this mean for individuals with eczema? A permeable skin is more likely to lose moisture and require additional moisturizing protection. This could lead to itchy, dry, and flaky skin that is irritating and painful.
During the winter, individuals with eczema should avoid products with SLS to ensure their skin locks in the maximum amount of moisture. SLS is a detergent found in many cosmetic products due to its foaming effects. It is particularly common in items like shampoo, body washes, and other lather-producing skin care items.
Chronic sun exposure can lead to excessively dry skin. The skin has a drying effect on the skin. Although sun exposure is healthy for the body, too much sun exposure, particularly during the winter, can be bad for the skin and cause eczema to worsen. According to Harvard Health, excessive sun exposure is one of the contributing factors to eczema flare-ups. The best way to stop the sun from drying out the skin is by using sunscreen.
Sunscreen is particularly important to use at high altitudes, because UV rays are stronger at higher altitudes. Use a sunscreen that does not contain any of the irritating chemicals that can make eczema worse, or the benefits of sunscreen will be lessened. A sunscreen with a high SPF will provide the most benefits. Look for a sunscreen that can block both UVA and UVB rays.
Did you know that heat can contribute to eczema? Trapping hot, moist air near the skin can make eczema worse. You can help prevent eczema from flaring up due to heat by airing out the skin and cooling off.
Avoid sweating indoors by wearing multiple layers that can be removed once indoors. Dry off completely before wearing winter gear. Pay special attention to the hands to prevent heat from getting trapped inside gloves while outdoors. Try wearing breathable fabrics, such as natural fibers on your hands to minimize hand sweating.
Did you know that what you eat can help minimize winter eczema? There are a few minerals and herbs that can fight against eczema at any time of year, but are particularly effective during the winter when eczema symptoms tend to worsen. If you suffer from dry winter skin and eczema, consider adding the following herbs and minerals to your diet to clear your skin from the inside out:
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for many of the body’s functions. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in many foods, but are particularly concentrated in seafood products and fatty fish. Fish oil supplements, or flaxseed oil, also have high concentrations of omega-3 oils. According to a 1989 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids was able to reduce scaling, itchiness, and the severity of eczema symptoms in the study participants.
Just like omega-3 fatty acids, other fatty acids are also beneficial in fighting eczema symptoms. According to a 2000 review of numerous studies on fatty acids published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, gamma linolenic acid is highly beneficial in fighting eczema symptoms. According to the review, GLA is particularly beneficial for infant and adult eczema symptoms. Other studies have shown that a deficiency in fatty acids during the first three months of life can predict a life-long battle with eczema. Researchers hypothesize that a deficiency in fatty acids like GLA may contribute to eczema symptoms at any age.
Antioxidants can have a beneficial effect on eczema symptoms. According to a 1998 study published in the journal Life Sciences, olive leaf extract contains an antioxidant known as oleuropein that is particularly helpful in fighting allergy-related eczema. In the study, oleuropein was shown to have a beneficial effect on reducing the effects of allergy-related eczema symptoms in mice.
Hylaronic acid is an acid found naturally in the body, particularly in the eyes and joints. Supplementing with hylaronic acid could provide hydrating benefits to eczema patients when taken internally. Externally, hylaronic acid has been shown to reduce eczema symptoms. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology looked at the effects of a cream containing hyaluronic acid on participants with eczema. For four weeks, patients applied either a cream containing hyaluronic acid or a cream containing ceramide. By the second week of the study, patients applying the hyaluronic acid cream showed significantly greater improvement in eczema symptoms.
Biocell collagen II is a type of collagen that has been shown to benefit the skin in multiple ways. The supplement boosts the natural collagen levels in the body, which keep the skin plump and also fight signs of aging, such as wrinkles. A 2010 study from The Journal of Dermatology looked at other effects of biocell collagen. The researchers found that biocell collagen stimulates the biosynthesis of hyaluronic acid, which can reduce eczema symptoms, as outlined in the study above.
Web MD states that B vitamins are essential for skin health. B vitamins are used to protect the skin from common irritants, and also are responsible for giving the skin a healthy glow and keeping it moisturized. A lack of B vitamins can lead to itchy, dry skin. Many B vitamins also contain antioxidants, which provide numerous benefits to the skin, including fighting the signs of aging and skin cancer.
You don’t have to fight dry, itchy, and flaky skin all winter. Eczema sufferers do not have to dread the coldest months of the year. If you follow the six tips outlined above, you will find that your eczema remains manageable throughout the winter season. For best results, use all of the above tips to maintain health, hydrated skin until spring arrives.
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