Every year you undergo the hurried swap from cold brew to steamy lattes, windows down to heated seats, sandals to ski socks—but how often does your skin-care routine get included on that list?
It’s time to give your skin the same seasonal attention you give your rotating wardrobe and ever-changing coffee order. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans affected by eczema—the chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune system that results in irritation and itch—a seasonal approach to care is essential. Why? Because “environmental conditions, as well as seasonal activities … can have a significant impact on the condition of the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, FAAD.
It doesn’t take much to tailor your seasonal eczema care to your environment. Check out Dr. King’s recommendations to keep your eczema flare-ups at bay, whether you’re living through a polar vortex or a serious heat wave. And remember: If your symptoms persist despite these tips, consult your dermatologist for treatment options.
How to care for seasonal eczema in cold weather
The chilliest time of the year brings a cozy cast of characters: fuzzy socks, an array of balsam-fir candles, and a comforting crockpot lineup. It can also bring on dry skin and an eczema flare or two.
“Cold temperatures, low humidity, and brisk winds, along with dry heat from heaters, can really dry out our skin because more moisture is lost into the air from our skin in these conditions,” Dr. King says. While there’s no way to avoid adverse weather (if only) and no cure for eczema, there are plenty of simple strategies to help control your symptoms, she says.
First and foremost, moisturize. “Moisturizers are important during all seasons, but particularly when the environment is drier,” Dr. King says. Lather up multiple times each day with her hydration trifecta: humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, emollients like squalene and ceramides, and occlusives like mineral oil and beeswax. This combination helps bind water into your skin’s outermost layer, improve your skin’s texture and appearance, and form a protective barrier that blocks water loss and retains moisture.
Alongside a lotion lineup, Dr. King recommends rethinking your shower routine during the winter. “Long or frequent baths and showers, particularly in hot water, can dry out the skin because they remove protective oils naturally produced by the skin,” she says. “These oils form a protective barrier to help lock in moisture and protect us from harsh environmental conditions.” So aim for under eight minutes, no more than once a day, and cleanse with lukewarm water and gentle soaps.
Gentle applies to your laundry caddy, too—harsh soaps and detergents are formulated to remove oil, which can exacerbate drying effects. So check out your labels before doing your next load. And in the meantime, keep a humidifier running for consistent moisture in the air, all season long.
How to care for seasonal eczema in warm weather
Eczema care looks a little different during the toastiest days of the year—but it’s just as important as your winter routine. “Although winter flares are more common, many people experience summer flares too,” Dr. King says.
Increased humidity means your skin can maintain hydration a bit better, but your moisturizing habit shouldn’t shift much. Dr. King still recommends that combo of humectants, emollients, and occlusives, but you can try swapping the heavy stuff for lighter formulations, which are super effective when the weather’s warm.
You also don’t want to overdo it on the humidity, as too much moisture in the air can trigger sweat, which can also be drying to the skin. In fact, Dr. King says sweat and swimming pools are two of the biggest warm-weather triggers for eczema flares, since both can dry out your skin and cause irritation.
“Avoid hot and humid conditions” when possible, Dr. King says. “Wear light, breathable fabrics and/or sweat-wicking fabrics, and use a fan or air conditioning when needed.” Also, try to shower and moisturize immediately following a sweaty activity or pool time.
And everything in between
When temps are mild between extreme-weather seasons, it’s easy to forget about your established routines. Maintaining your seasonal eczema care during these transition times will set you up for softer, less irritated skin year-round.
As the snow melts and things start to bloom, humidity in the air increases. For happy and healthy skin all spring, begin to transition to lighter moisturizers and gentle exfoliants. “Exfoliation…removes the buildup of dead skin cells, so the skin can better absorb good, moisturizing ingredients,” Dr. King says. To avoid any skin-barrier damage, she recommends gentle formulations like low-strength chemical or minimally abrasive physical exfoliants in a moisturizing base, no more than once or twice a week.
And as summer turns to fall, “heavier moisturizers [become] more important,” Dr. King says. Use humectants, emollients, and occlusives more frequently, and pump your humidifier as you cozy up with the season’s first sips of pumpkin spice. No one’s judging if it’s barely Labor Day.