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Better winter skin

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

With cold temperatures out come the woolly jumpers and on goes the central heating.

But cold weather, low humidity and hot houses can play havoc with our skin.

We all need to protect it from drying out during the colder months - even more so if you have a particular skin condition.


Eczema is a common dry skin complaint. It affects 1 in 5 children in the UK and 1 in 12 adults. The skin is dry, scaly red and itchy.

Professor David Gawkrodger is a consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation.

"Generally dry skin conditions like eczema get worse in the cold and the rain; you get a lot of chapping in the wet and wind."

He says: "Use moisturisers frequently to protect your skin from the elements. Try not to let your clothes rub on your skin as it is abrasive and may make your eczema worse."

He advises using topical steroids regularly to treat flare-ups.

Matt Gass of the British Association of Dermatologists agrees you need to be vigilant with treatments, "Substitute soap with soap-free emollient washes when washing, and carrying moisturiser around with you at all times. There are a range of moisturisers, the greasier they are the more effective they will be, but in the end it comes down to what you are comfortable wearing."

Wool often irritates eczema so wear a light cotton layer underneath any winter jumpers.

Alternatively says Matt: "When looking for warm but comfortable clothes, try to opt for something softer and less abrasive, like a fleece fabric."


Psoriasis causes itchy, dry, and sometimes painful scales to appear on the skin. They most commonly build up on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. When you have psoriasis, your skin cells reproduce so quickly that there’s a build-up of skin cells.

Professor Gawkrodger says it can get worse in winter for a couple of reasons.

"Psoriasis is helped by ultraviolet light so if there’s not enough sunlight to your skin it could have an effect."

"Another factor that may play a role is a lack of Vitamin D. It has been implicated in a number of skin conditions," says Professor Gawkrodger.

"Sunlight provides us with vitamin D and in the winter you see a decrease in sunlight, there’s no specific research on this but it may be a possibility."

There’s less humidity in winter air so ensure you apply enough moisturiser. A good treatment is to soak in a warm bath, gently pat your skin dry - don’t rub - and then apply a moisturiser.


Rosacea causes small blood vessels in your face, scalp, neck, and ears to swell, making your skin look flushed.

It can be made worse by a range of different triggers and these vary from person to person.

Possible triggers include alcohol, spicy food, sunlight, stress, and high and low temperatures.

"For those whose rosacea intensifies in winter it is likely that the cold weather is responsible, though it is worth considering stress might be a contributing factor - particularly around the holiday season," according to Matt.

He advises: "Make sure you dress appropriately when going out in the cold. It is particularly important to cover your face, make use of hats, scarves and moisturisers to make sure that you don't leave your skin unprotected against the elements."

Also try to avoid a quick transition between indoor and outdoor heat. Fires and radiators can also be a trigger for rosacea.

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