After months of summer sweating and sunburn, there’s a lot to love about winter.
Cosy knits and long-line winter coats. Not having to shave your legs or paint your toenails. Nights in curled up on the couch with the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Then there’s eczema. And dry skin. Two things no-one in the history of the world has ever expressed love for.
If you’re someone who suffers from eczema, you’ll know it’s a frustrating skin condition that’s as stubborn as it is irritating.
Characterised by scaly, red rashes that won’t stop itching, managing eczema in the dry, cooler months can be tricky. Let us dive deeper and get some answers.
So what is eczema?
Eczema, also known atopic eczema, atopic dermatitis and allergic eczema, is a common skin condition that affects both adults, and one in five children under the age of two, according to Health Direct.
Think of it like an annoying cycle – if you have eczema, your skin struggles to retain moisture leaving it dry and easily irritated. So your body releases chemicals which worsen the irritation and give you the urge to scratch.
You scratch, which only makes things worse. And so the cycle continues.
Equally frustrating is that it’s not known exactly what causes eczema. We do however know it can run in families and be accompanied by other allergic conditions like hay fever and asthma.
Why do eczema and dry skin get worse in winter?
Someone who is very familiar with the plight of eczema sufferers is TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist and Health Program Developer Nicky Muscillo.
We asked her to explain, in detail, exactly why your normally well-behaved eczema flares up in winter and what you can do about it.
Put simply, eczema and chilly winter days are not friends. Not even acquaintances. They're enemies.
Nicky explained this has everything to do with your skin's inability to retain moisture.
"Eczema and dry skin are conditions which occur when your skin cannot stay moist on its own," she told Mamamia. "This usually gets worse in winter due to the dryness of winter weather and the exposure to indoor heating which can dry out your skin further."
How to treat eczema flare-ups
The good news is there are actionable steps you can take to manage these winter flare-ups. Keyword - manage.
"Managing eczema can be tricky and your doctor or pharmacist can advise on the best treatment options but I do have a few tips that can help treat and avoid an eczema outbreak," Nicky said.
The approach is often three-pronged: skincare, lifestyle factors and medication.
Skincare for eczema
Nicky advised keeping the skin moist should be your number one priority.
She said you can do this by:
- Avoiding alkaline soaps and shampoos soaps as they can affect the skin’s naturally acidic mantle - use pH balanced cleansers and washes instead.
- Liberal and frequent use of moisturising agents to rehydrate the skin and relieve discomfort.
- Using pine tar or oatmeal-based products, and bath oils in the bath or shower may help relieve the tell-tale eczema itch.
Below are some great skincare options to consider in managing your eczema in winter. There are, however, many different options available and your TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist is ideally placed to advise on the best treatment option for your condition.
24 Daily Dry Skin Wash 1 litre, $12.99
Sudocrem Healing Cream 125g, $8.99
Lifestyle changes for eczema management
Nicky also suggested making some minor adjustments to your daily routine can have a significant, and often immediate impact on the severity of your eczema. She advised the following solutions:
- Wear 100 percent cotton or soft fabrics – avoid rough, scratchy fibres and tight clothing.
- Avoid wearing too many layers of clothing or bedding, and dress your bed with breathable materials such as cotton.
- As heat can cause your skin to dry out, swap hot showers or baths with short, lukewarm ones (hard to resist in winter, but worth it).
- Gently pat, not rub the skin dry with a soft towel.
- Apply a moisturiser straight after bathing or showering to ‘lock in’ the moisture.
- Avoid rapid changes of temperature and activities that raise a sweat.
- Keep your water intake up during winter.
- Identify and eliminate any triggers such as fragrance, temperature and fabrics and environmental allergens and irritants such as soap, pets, dust mites, grass and pollen.
Medical eczema treatment options
If your eczema is severe and you're not having much luck with skincare routines and lifestyle changes, Nicky said talking to your pharmacist, GP or dermatologist is the next step.
"You can talk to your pharmacist and GP about topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone that are to be applied as required at the first sign of inflammation to help treat eczema flare ups, and further medical grade treatment options," she said.
The main takeaway when it comes to eczema and winter is - yes, it will get worse in the cooler months, but there are steps you can take to manage the condition and get on with your life.
If you have any more questions, head into your local TerryWhite Chemmart for expert advice and a wide range of skin care products that can keep you alive and well throughout the cold, wintry months.
Does your eczema flare up in winter? What treatment options have you found helpful for you and your family?
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner TerryWhite Chemmart.
*Prices are based on prices listed on 17th May 2018. Prices are subject to change.
Because your health is our priority, we offer a number of different health services right here in the pharmacy. Our approachable and accessible pharmacists also provide professional assistance for many different health and wellbeing issues. TerryWhite Chemmart, helping to keep you Alive & Well.