Whether you like winter or not, there's no denying that it comes with its own pros and cons. Dry and itchy skin is one of the most common problems that people face in winter, especially older people. Low humidity levels, cold air and indoor heating are some of the factors that can de-moisturize your skin and cause your skin to become dry. Not only does this make your skin less radiant than normal, but it can also cause itching and pain on your face, hands and feet.
While dry skin could be nothing more than the effects of cold weather, it may also be a symptom of something more serious, like eczema or psoriasis, that may require the attention of a doctor. "Is it psoriasis or eczema on my skin?" is often the question on your mind when you have dry winter skin, and in this article, we'll try to understand what these conditions are and if you are affected by them.
What Causes Dry Skin in Winter?
Our skin barrier acts as a shield of lipids and dead skin cells, protecting our body from harmful toxins. When this skin barrier is harmed in any way, the skin becomes irritated and dry. We know moisture is essential for healthy skin because our skin barrier performs well in the presence of adequate moisture. During winter, the low humidity levels and heating systems result in a decrease in the moisture levels, which can cause dry skin.
Common Dry Skin Symptoms
Medically known as xerosis, dry skin can be identified easily through its symptoms. Common symptoms of dry skin are:
- Rough texture
- Raw skin
- Cracked skin
- Stinging sensation
- Burning sensation
These symptoms of dry skin vary in severity and also look different depending on the area that's affected.
Dry Winter Skin and Its Relation to Eczema & Psoriasis
Skin problems are rampant during the winter, as our skin endures harsh weather and the dry, indoor heat. But is there any relation between dry winter skin and skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis? Can dry skin lead to eczema?
Unfortunately, a lot of people are afflicted with dry skin in the winter, and they take it as something that is completely normal, and truth be told while dry winter skin is somewhat a natural phenomenon, one should still be cautious when affected by it as it can be signalling a more serious skin condition.
The reason for said caution is that there is a flare-up in eczema and psoriasis during winter, as dry skin is one of the common triggers of these skin conditions. Those with dry winter skin may just apply moisturizers and be done with it, but individuals affected with eczema or psoriasis will need to do more. Therefore, it is important to know the difference so that you know when to seek medical help.
Eczema, medically known as atopic dermatitis, is a common chronic condition of the skin. Mostly prevalent in children, it affects about 10-20% of children, while 1-3% of adults are also affected worldwide. It is known for intense itching, inflammation and redness of the skin and mostly occurs on the feet, hands, face, elbows and knees.
Several types of eczema are known, including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema and nummular eczema. All of these different types of eczema can be identified with symptoms like itching, redness, scaly or crusty skin, and thick or cracked skin. These symptoms can vary from person to person.
Causes of Eczema
Although the cause of eczema is not precisely understood, it is theorized to be caused due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors.
People with eczema often have a family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever. Eczema can also be triggered due to:
- Dry skin
- Hormonal changes
- Weather changes
- Irritants or allergens
Treatment Options for Eczema
While there is no definite cure for eczema, there are certain options one can take that help manage the painful symptoms of the condition. These options include moisturizing creams and topical medications to help keep the skin moisturized and provide relief for inflammation and itching. Other options include the use of light therapy and the use of antihistamines that can relieve symptoms. You can also adopt lifestyle changes to avoid skin problems and live a comfortable life.
Psoriasis is another very common chronic skin condition that has been affecting millions around the world. It is caused due to the rapid buildup of excess skin cells and affects about 2-3% of the world. It is identified with distinct red, scaly patches on the skin and can cause irritation and pain. Psoriasis mostly occurs on the scalp, knees, elbows, or lower back.
Psoriasis has several types; plaque, guttate, inverse, and pustular psoriasis. All of these different types have their own distinct symptoms, but some common psoriasis symptoms include the following:
- Scaly patches on the skin
- Burning sensation
- Dry skin
- Thick, pitted nails
- Joint stiffness
Causes of Psoriasis
Like eczema, the exact cause of psoriasis is something that we do not fully understand. But it has been observed to be prevalent among those who have a family history of psoriasis. There are other factors as well that can affect or trigger psoriasis, including:
- Skin cuts or burns
- Stress hormones
- Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
- Alcohol use
- Skin infections
Treatment Options for Psoriasis
Unfortunately, no cure has been found for psoriasis yet, but there are numerous treatment methods and products that can alleviate the symptoms of this condition. Some treatment options include the use of topical medications to help with inflammation, moisturizing creams for hydration and biologics that target your immune system. Like all other treatments, lifestyle also plays an important role in containing psoriasis symptoms.
Tips for Managing Dry Winter Skin, Eczema, and Psoriasis
Winter can be tough on your skin, especially if you are prone to dryness, eczema, or psoriasis. The cold air outside and the dry heat indoors can strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving it feeling tight, itchy, and irritated. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage these conditions and keep your skin healthy and comfortable throughout the winter.
General Tips for Managing Dry Winter Skin:
Use a humidifier: Adding moisture to the air can help prevent your skin from drying out, so consider investing in a humidifier for your home or office.
Moisturize regularly: Apply a rich, emollient moisturizer to your skin at least twice a day, paying extra attention to dry areas like your hands, feet, elbows, and knees.
Wear protective clothing: When you go outside, wear gloves, scarves, and hats to protect your skin from the cold, wind, and snow.
Avoid hot showers and baths: Hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils, so try to keep your showers and baths warm instead of hot. Also, limit your time in the water to 10 minutes or less.
Specific Tips for Managing Eczema and Psoriasis:
Eczema and psoriasis are both chronic skin conditions that can worsen in the winter. Here are some specific tips for managing these conditions:
Keep your skin hydrated: Use a heavy, fragrance-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated, and apply it immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.
Use medicated creams: If your eczema or psoriasis flares up, use a medicated cream or ointment prescribed by your dermatologist to help calm inflammation and reduce itching.
Avoid irritants: Harsh soaps, detergents, and cleaning products can irritate eczema and psoriasis, so choose gentle, non-irritating products instead.
In conclusion, managing dry winter skin, eczema, and psoriasis requires a consistent skincare routine, avoiding irritants and choosing the right products for your skin type. Don't hesitate to seek advice from a dermatologist if you're struggling with any of these conditions. By following these tips and being mindful of your skin's needs, you can keep your skin healthy and comfortable throughout the winter season.
Disclaimer: This information is meant to be used for educational purposes. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.
As with any medical information on health, it is always best to check with your personal physician, who knows your medical history best since they are more qualified to give you the best recommendation. Our information, advice or recommendation is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have.