6 Ways the Weather Messes With Your Skin
It’s no secret that weather changes can have not-so-great effects on the skin—after all, that’s why so many people tend to switch up their skincare routines on a seasonal basis. And people with conditions like eczema tend to be even less tolerant of environmental stressors and far more prone to weather-related skin afflictions because of their skin’s weakened outer protective layer (more on that later). Still, there are some effective ways to help manage and even prevent eczema flare-ups caused by the climate. Heading outdoors? Pack these skin tips and strategies.
The Issue: Extreme Heat Exacerbates Friction and the Risk for Heat Rash
When heat is intense (think upper 80s and 90s), it can quickly worsen eczema flare-ups due to factors like sweat and heat rashes, according to Adam Friedman, M.D., a dermatologist and associate faculty member at GW Medical in Washington, D.C. “Irritation of body folds is also common in those with eczema during the summer because people are outside playing in the hot weather much more often,” he adds. This constant skin-to-skin friction, combined with sweat that gets trapped underneath the skin, can lead to the skin getting raw, red, and chapped.
The Fix: Skip Peak Sun Hours
If you have eczema and are prone to sweating a lot, Dr. Friedman recommends being selective about the outside activities you partake in during the sweltering summer months—that, and if your schedule allows it, to try and stay inside during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) when it’s typically hottest out. Additionally, you can also use products that help prevent friction, such as Hiki’s Anti-Chafe Stick, as this can help to reduce the risk of body folds becoming raw and red. The chafe stick contains coconut oil, castor oil, rice bran extract, and soybean oil, all of which are calming and nourishing for the skin.
The Issue: Summer Sweat Is Irritating
Sweat is actually just a combination of water and salt, but as Dr. Friedman explains, when the water evaporates, the salt that’s left on the skin can be irritating—especially for those with conditions like eczema. This is because sodium chloride is an innately drying substance, so if your skin is already prone to dryness and irritation, well, the salt in your sweat can exacerbate it. On top of that, sweat coming into contact with the skin can cause pruritus, a.k.a. extreme itching.
The Fix: Stay Cool
If staying indoors isn’t an option and you know you’re going to be sweating, then Dr. Friedman highly suggests investing in some sweat-resistant clothing. The brand Neat, for instance, makes quality pieces with moisture-wicking technology that minimizes how much perspiration actually hits the skin. Another tip: Keep a cotton cloth (which is one of the coolest and most absorbent fabrics) nearby to remove sweat before it starts to really irritate the epidermis.
The Issue: Fall Temps Confuse Skin
When the weather is constantly flip-flopping back and forth between hot and cold—which happens frequently in the fall—it puts stress on the body, and subsequently the skin, says Dr. Friedman. “Extreme temperature changes can result in any type of skin flare-up, but especially in those with eczema because the barrier is compromised and it’s an inherently inflammatory disease,” he explains. Those with it typically do best in mild, humid climates where temperature swings are less severe (think: New Orleans, Houston, San Fransisco, and Portland, Oregon).
The Fix: Use Barrier-Strengthening Skincare Products
One of the best ways to keep the skin calm amid indecisive weather is to be diligent about using soothing and hydrating products that aid in barrier repair and moisture retention. Dr. Friedman recommends investing in a rich cream that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and shea butter, as they’re all humectants—meaning they help to hold moisture in the skin. This can result in fewer cracks and irritants getting in. Additionally, it’s key that you moisturize while the skin is still damp after showering to lock in that hydration. And don’t hesitate to reapply throughout the day if needed, as well as before you hit the sheets.
The Issue: Winter Weather Is Drying
The frigid humidity-free weather in the winter tends to wreak havoc on eczema because there’s so little moisture in the air. “The low humidity and wind, coupled with [indoor] heat being on, allows the skin barrier to get rigid, dry, and cracked,” explains Dr. Friedman. He says these cracks in the epidermis allow more irritants to get into the skin, which sends the immune system into a tizzy and makes eczema worse.
The Fix: Invest in a Humidifier
Since you’re spending so much time inside during the winter anyway, it only makes sense to get a humidifier to increase hydration in your home and help alleviate some of your eczema symptoms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you shouldn’t exceed humidity levels past 50%, as this can increase the risk of issues like mold and bacteria growth. Friedman recommends sleeping with a humidifier on as this can help to re-moisturize the skin while you snooze, which is when the skin is in repair mode.
The Issue: Pollen in the Spring Can Aggravate Skin
Pollen doesn’t just irritate our eyes and nose—it can do a number on the skin, too. This is especially true when it comes to conditions like eczema because—you guessed it—the barrier is weaker and allows more irritants to waltz in and irritate the skin. When pollen, including the tree, weed, and grass varieties, come into contact with the skin, it can create an itchy sensation, and even spark hives in someone who is super-allergic.
The Fix: Take an Antihistamine
“If you get the green light from your doctor, make sure to take an antihistamine, which can help relieve some of the itchy, allergic symptoms associated with eczema because it blocks histamine,” says board-certified dermatologist, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., of Mount Sinai Dermatology in New York City. If you’re highly allergic to the green mossy-like substance, you can also ask your physician for a prescription option that’s more potent than OTC medications. Otherwise, Dr. Zeichner says taking Zyrtec or Claritin daily should do the trick.
The Issue: Central Air Wicks Moisture From Skin
Whether it’s winter or summer, using central air in our homes can be super drying for the skin, as it devoids the environment of moisture and thereby makes it tougher for the skin to stay hydrated. It’s worth noting that those with healthy skin barriers likely wouldn’t ever think of this because A.C. doesn’t impact them in the same way and is usually just associated with cool, comfortable skin. “In both summer and winter, I see a lot of patients with eczema flare-ups as a result of the drying effects of central air,” says Dr. Zeichner. “It’s definitely an issue when the weather is in a place of extremes.”
The Fix: Keep Air in the Home Mild
Just because you have heat and/or air conditioning doesn't mean you have to go overboard. In the summer, try keeping your home cool—but not icy cold at 70 degrees—and in the winter, aim for comfortable, but not ultra-warm, around 75. Additionally, Dr. Zeichner recommends sticking to a diligent skincare routine enriched with hydrating ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help support the skin barrier and reduce the risk for flare-ups.
Repair Mode: Samaritan Health Services. "Is Getting Your 'Beauty Sleep' a Fairy Tale?" (2019.) https://www.samhealth.org/about-samaritan/news-search/2019/05/29/importance-of-sleep-to-your-appearance-and-skin