Cold weather can play havoc with your skin, but with the right self-care and products, you can help to protect against sore, dry and itchy skin this winter.
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Many people find that their psoriasis flares up in cold weather, particularly on the elbows and knees. Apply moisturiser at least twice a day (Vaseline is a good choice) and massage it in well. Even if your psoriasis is currently in remission, it's important to regularly moisturise to prevent flare-ups in winter.
While you want to wrap up warm in colder weather, avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes as the friction can make the condition worse. It's better to wear a cotton layer next to the body, as woollen garments can irritate the skin.
Many people find that getting more sunlight can help but it's best to avoid sunbeds. If you feel that your prescribed creams aren't working, talk to your GP about getting referred to a local NHS dermatologist for UVB light treatment at hospital.
Ichthyosis is another dry skin condition that can flare up in cold weather. People with the genetic skin condition have 'fish-like' dry scales on the skin – some are born with the condition but others find it develops as they get older, when the skin produces less oil.
It often begins on the legs – as these are furthest away from the heart and are often the first area to be affected by poor circulation problems. Standing for long periods and varicose veins can make matters worse, as both slow the drainage of blood back to the heart, which affects the skin.
Avoid scented soaps and detergents and opt for skin-sensitive brands and pH neutral soaps. Apply moisturiser two or three times a day and cut down on the amount of baths you have (baths tend to be more drying than showers) and make sure not to have the water too hot.
See your pharmacist or GP if you're troubled by dry skin or eczema on the legs. Left untreated, it can cause infection/cellulitis and even lead to leg ulcers.
Eczema can be caused by a variety of things, from irritants in harsh soaps to an allergic reaction to chemicals and perfumes. Cold weather dries out the skin and can make matters worse – so it's important to moisturise the affected area well (three or four times a day), in addition to applying any prescribed steroid ointments/creams. If the creams aren't working, speak to your GP about trying a stronger steroid oinment. You may need to use a stronger cream just over the winter months.
General skin itching
As we get older, the skin becomes drier and more sensitive to irritants, while the nerves themselves can become hypersensitive. Add to that the effect of certain medications (such as those taken for kidney or thyroid problems) and the result can be itchy skin – which may or may not come with a rash.
If applying petroleum jelly to the affected area three to four times a day doesn't solve the problem, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. There are a number of things you can buy over-the-counter to soothe the skin, such as calamine and camphor solutions. Taking an antihistamine may also help to reduce the itch.