Managing Rosacea During the Winter Months

Health Writer
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For many people with rosacea, symptoms worsen during the winter months. For some, symptoms only appear during the winter.

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by red cheeks, forehead and chin, often with swelling, bumps, and pimples. As the disease progresses, some people develop permanent redness across the center of their face. According to the National Rosacea Foundation, at least 16 million people in the United States have the disease and it is possible that there are several million more who are in remission.

Why do people experience more flares during the winter months?

Some of the common triggers for rosacea include cold, dry air, spicy food, caffeine, and sun. Reasons you might experience flares or a worsening of rosacea symptoms during the winter months include:

  • Being exposed to cold, dry air, and wind when outdoors
  • Warm, dry heat from indoor heating systems
  • Overheating when cooking or baking
  • Sitting by a warm fireplace
  • Drinking coffee or hot beverages
  • Stress caused by the holiday season, shorter days, and cold temperatures

One misconception is that because the sun is not as strong during the winter months as it is in the summer, you can forego sun protection. Not only is this not true, sun exposure during the winter months can still trigger a rosacea flare. If you live in a snowy area, the sun reflects off the snow, meaning you are exposed to UV rays from the sun itself and from the reflection. You can get a sunburn when shoveling or playing in the snow.

Rosacea is more common in women between the ages of 30 and 60, but older women might be more susceptible to flares caused by dry skin. According to a survey from the National Rosacea Society, the tendency for skin to become dry increases with age. Of the respondents, only six percent of those in their 30s reported dry skin. This increased with each decade of life, with 34 percent of those in their 70s indicating they had dry skin.

Reducing your risk of a flare

With so many possible triggers during the winter, it might seem nearly impossible to avoid a flare. There are, however, some practical steps you can take to reduce, if not eliminate, your chances of experiencing one.

  • Know your triggers. Keep a notebook of your activities as well as your food and drink consumption. Note when you experience a flare. This can help you determine what is most likely a trigger.

  • Minimize your exposure and time outdoors in the cold air. When you are outdoors, wear a scarf that you can easily pull up over your face or wear a ski mask to protect your face. Avoid scarves, hats and clothing made from wool and wool blends, as this can irritate skin.

  • Wear loose, layered clothing. This allows you to add or remove layers to help regulate your body temperature. When you are cool, add a layer; when indoors, remove layers.

  • Use sunscreen every day. Make putting on sunscreen part of your daily ritual. Some makeup includes sunscreen but this usually isn’t enough. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on your face each day and reapply every few hours. Keep in mind that UV rays are stronger at high altitudes.

  • When cooking or baking, take frequent breaks. Staying in a hot kitchen for several hours might trigger a flare. Instead, break your cooking or baking up into several days, or take a break for several minutes when you are feeling warm.

  • Use relaxation strategies to help you manage stress.
     *** ** Limit consumption of hot beverages.
    A steaming hot cup of hot chocolate or coffee can cause your face to flush, which can in turn trigger a flare.

  • Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages and spicy foods which are both common triggers.

  • Lower the temperature in your house by a few degrees.
     *** ** Use a humidifier at home and in your workplace.
     *** ** Apply a gentle cleanser,
    limiting washing your face to one to two times per day to avoid over-drying your skin. Look for low-foam, non-soap facial cleansers. If possible, use fragrance-free cleansers. After washing your face, allow your skin to air dry, then apply medication if prescribed and then a moisturizer.

  • Drink plenty of water to help hydrate your skin.
     *** ** Avoid sitting close to a fireplace.
    You want to spend as much time as possible in cool but comfortable temperatures to keep your body temperature regulated.

  • Use lukewarm water for bathing.

If you experience rosacea symptoms, make an appointment to talk to your dermatologist. He can help you in choosing the skin care products that would be best for your skin and prescribe a topical treatment for you to use on a daily basis. With proper treatment, the symptoms of rosacea — including dry skin, bumps and pimples — can disappear.

For more information on managing rosacea:

The Four Stages of Rosacea

The Complications of Rosacea

Can Probiotics Help Reduce Rosacea Symptoms?

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Rosacea

5 Ways Rosacea Affects Quality of Life