Temperatures are dropping and we’re getting closer and closer to facing that cold time of the year. And even though hot chocos and rainy Fridays spent under warm layers of blankets are something I will always be thankful for, the risk of getting skin rashes is also a common possibility.
Indeed, it’s no secret cold weather can take a toll on your body. As temperatures drop, so does the moisture content in your skin, and this can lead to a winter rash, especially on the face, which is often the part we expose to cold temperatures the most.
Even if you had a glowy and perfectly healthy skin for the rest of the year, you may still develop a winter rash during cold seasons. Actually, the condition is very common. If you live in cold climates I bet you have experienced it at least once!
Without treatment and lifestyle changes, your rash may last throughout the whole winter.
But we won’t give up on enjoying the winter, my soldiers!
Fortunately, I just finished writing one article you might want to read: here is everything you need to know on skin rashes and the various ways to keep your skin healthy and moisturized year-round.
What Is A Skin Rash & Its Symptoms
As we already mentioned, a winter rash is an area of skin that has become swollen, inflamed, or irritated – often caused by dry skin due to cold temperatures.
To sum it up briefly:
Cold temperatures = dry skin = prone to skin rash
In medical terminology, “skin rash” is a very general word used to indicate a whole lot of things to a whole lot of different people.
The term “Rash” can indeed have different meanings, ranging from connective tissue disease like lupus, to infections, to something very obvious and simple like getting some redness and irritation after using a new laundry detergent.
Some skin rashes occur right away, while others take some time to develop. Some tend to occur on the face while others flare up on the arms, legs, or torso. In other cases, it may even be widespread on your whole body.
Skin rashes can also include skin bumps that look like pimples or sores; blotchy, scaly or red skin; and itchy or burning skin.
Location, appearance, and color of a skin rash are all factors in determining the right diagnosis and the right treatment.
Briefly, here’s a quick list of symptoms that might help you spot a winter rash:
Possible Causes Of A Winter Rash
While a winter skin rash can be often attributed to internal issues like stress, this occurrence of red, dry patches on the face can also be due to environmental factors.
The outside factors that can often exacerbate this condition include:
- Seasonal changes
- Cold weather
- Excessive rubbing of the nose and cheeks
These causes make the patches more common in the colder weather, and the suggested remedy in most cases is to simply calm the inflammation on the skin by creating a barrier between the skin and the elements.
In other words, you might want to use more layers when going out or – like in the previously mentioned case in which the irritation was due to using a new laundry detergent – you might want to switch back to the old one.
Cold temperatures are still a huge factor to consider…
In normal conditions, your skin’s outer layer contains natural oils and dead skin cells that hold water inside your skin. This helps keep your skin soft, moisturized, and smooth. However, bitter cold temperatures can affect the condition of your skin.
Cold air, low humidity, and high winds outdoors (but turning up the heat and taking hot showers can do just the same!) strip your skin of some of its natural oils. This allows moisture to escape, leading to dry skin and potentially a winter rash.
But the sun can also surprisingly lead to skin rash…
Sunburns can lead to a winter rash. Yes, you read that correctly!
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be potent, even in winter. In fact, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, snow reflects up to 80 percent of UV light, which means can be hit by the same rays twice.
Woooh! I bet you’re shocked at this point!
UV rays are also more intense at higher altitudes. So if you live close to the mountains, possibilities are high that the sunlight is stronger there. This is also important to remember if you enjoy snowboarding, skiing, or other alpine sports.
Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen, both in cold and warm temperatures. Sunscreen will protect you from UV rays, but will also help your skin cope with cold temperatures. Indeed, it will serve as a barrier and prevent your skin from losing its natural oils.
Diagnosing A Winter Rash
In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a winter rash during a regular physical exam. They’ll review your symptoms and medical history to help determine the cause of your rash and prescribe treatment.
Here are a couple of scenarios you might take into consideration…
A. If you haven’t changed your soap or exposed your skin to chemicals recently, chances are your rash is due to cold temperatures and consequent dry skin;
B. If you’re moisturizing your skin regularly and limiting your exposure to extreme cold or hot temperatures, something else may be causing your rash – you might be experiencing an allergic reaction to a personal care product or medication.
C. You may have an infection or skin condition, such as eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis.
Treating a Winter Rash
Luckily, most treatments for a winter rash are inexpensive and don’t require a prescription.
Here’s A List Of Natural Remedies You Might Want To Try Out…
For Dry Skin:
- Apply some moisturizer several times a day, especially after bathing and hand washing. Moisturizers are often the first defense against a winter rash because they help lock moisture into your skin.
- Petroleum jelly also acts as a barrier to help seal moisture into your skin. If you don’t like the idea of using petroleum products, consider trying petroleum substitutes such as Waxelene or Un-Petroleum, which also prevent moisture loss.
- Apply natural oils – such as olive oil and coconut oil – to help soothe the irritated skin and replenish moisture.
- Ever heard of vegetable shortening? Don’t worry, I got you covered! It is a popular folk remedy for dry skin: its solid oil content helps restore moisture. Try slathering it on after bathing or before bed.
Soothing Itchy Skin:
- Bathing with milk may help soothe your itchy skin. Dip a clean washcloth into whole milk and dab it on the affected area of your body, or soak in a warm bath with milk added for about 10 minutes.
- Oatmeal soap and baths may also help soothe your skin. Purchase soap made with oatmeal, or add finely ground oats to a warm bath, and soak in it for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a colloidal oatmeal paste to reduce inflammation and irritation, but it should only be used three to five times a day.
- Topical cortisone creams – which are available with or without a prescription – may reduce your skin’s redness, itching, and inflammation. But be careful to follow the manufacturer’s directions or use as directed by your doctor.
- Vitamin E oil also provides relief and a protection.
Some Other General Advice:
- Avoid excessive touching of the red dry patches, as this can further irritate the condition. Scratching may cause your skin to crack and bleed. This gives bacteria the perfect opening and puts you at risk of infection!
- Maintain hydration for the skin, both topically and by drinking sufficient water.
Most winter rashes improve with lifestyle changes, home remedies, or over-the-counter (OTC) treatments. However, contact your doctor ASAP if you have a rash that isn’t responding to OTC treatments, is bleeding, or has severe symptoms.
How To Recognize If Some Professional Help Is Suggested Or Needed
As we already said, most rashes are relatively harmless and easy enough to take care of at home with some natural remedies. However, others can be more problematic. So how do you know when it’s needed you actually see your doctor for medical treatment? (But a checking visit won’t hurt you anyway!)
Isabella Jones, MD, a dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in McLean, Virginia, recommends seeking medical attention if any of the following symptoms are present:
- Fever, which can indicate the presence of an infection.
- Blisters or open sores on the skin, mouth, or genitalia.
- A rash that is extremely painful, is all over the body or spreading rapidly.
- A rash that has not improved with home care. Usually, if a rash has not improved within two weeks of starting home care, seeking medical care is recommended.
Contacting a dermatologist or primary care provider is never a bad idea, but it’s particularly recommended if home remedies aren’t giving any results or if you’re generally worried about the appearance of the rash.
How to Prevent a Winter Rash
How does that old saying go? Better safe than sorry. In the case of skin rashes – just like in most other medical scenarios – prevention is better than cure.
And considering that we already know the cold winter is about to kick in, let’s get prepared!
As you might have already guessed, the best way to prevent winter rash is to avoid low temperatures and dry air as much as you can.
But even if you spend the winter in an extremely cold climate, we have some tips that will get you covered…
- Invest in a humidifier to add moisture to the air around you. They’re available in all sizes: whole-house, single-room etc. You can find a great selection on Amazon!
- Bathe less often, lather up at little as possible, and avoid hot water. Consider bathing every other day during the winter, when your body may not sweat as much or get as dirty.
- Use natural, fragrance-free soaps made from glycerin, goat milk, shea butter, or olive oil.
- Protect your hands by wearing gloves every time you go outside in cold weather. You should also wear protective gloves when you wash dishes, immerse your hands in water for an extended period, or clean with chemical products.
- Try to wear clothes made from breathable natural fibers – such as cotton and hemp – to help reduce skin irritation and overheating.
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher whenever you spend time outdoors. It will prevent winter sunburns!
- Limit the time you spend in front of fires, which decrease humidity and expose your skin to intense heat.
The Takeaway/Last Thoughts
Here’s a quick list of facts you should try to remember from this article…
- Not only cold temperatures but also sunburns can cause skin rash – which is why it’s highly suggested to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher
- Apply moisturizer or other soothing products (check out the list above!) to help prevent your skin from losing its natural oils and dry up.
- Even though the homemade (and quite inexpensive) natural remedies mentioned can help your rash improve significantly and even heal completely if you’re not getting results in two weeks, your rash is getting even worse – or in case of any other doubt – contact your doctor ASAP!
- Prevention is better than cure, and above you can find a list of ways you can prevent your skin from getting a winter skin rash this year!
Related post: 13 Best Essential Oils For Skin Rash
Do you easily suffer from winter skin rashes? Have you ever tried any of the natural remedies mentioned above? Let me know all your experiences and suggestions in the comments section below!