Seasonal Eczema: Weather Skin Tips for You

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

The skin is the biggest organ of the human body. It serves multiple functions, such as protecting our internal organs from an outside world filled with bacteria and viruses. The skin also helps prevent moisture loss and aids in regulating our body temperature. In addition, it acts as a protective barrier that absorbs UV radiation, and it manufactures vitamin D from sunlight. This process is most effective during the spring and summer months when sunshine is abundant.

Since it is constantly exposed to natural and artificial elements, certain aspects of the world can significantly affect the skin. These factors include various chemicals and the day-to-day climate.

Many individuals feel that their skin reaches its peak condition during the summer months even though the sun and heat can also have adverse effects on the health of their skin. While this may be the case, the winter months tend to be even harsher because of the skin’s exposure to cold and damp conditions.

Some forms of acne respond well to summer sun exposure, and even though tanning is a sign that the sun is already damaging your skin, it is still a look that many crave. It is also a sign that your body has had more than enough sunlight exposure to top off those vitamin D levels.

So sunlight can be good for skin conditions such as acne, but is sunlight good for eczema? Yes, some forms of eczema do respond well to decent doses of sunlight! But it is essential to keep in mind that other forms are more prevalent at different times of the year. This skin condition is associated with the various stresses and strains the different seasons place upon the skin.

Causes of seasonal eczema

Eczema is a condition that leaves the skin itchy and inflamed. There are various forms of eczema, including contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, nummular eczema, and status dermatitis. There are different triggers behind each variant. For example, the immune system’s overreaction to a common yeast that lives naturally on the skin is thought to be one of the causes of seborrheic dermatitis.

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Seasonal eczema is eczema brought on by certain conditions that reoccur annually, including the weather conditions that accompany autumn and winter. However, it is not only about the wind and rain, as many other factors caused by these elements also come into play. The overall winter climate is not ideal for eczema sufferers, and the colder months can cause extreme itching, redness, weeping, and other unpleasant symptoms.

Spending far more time indoors because of poor weather conditions and the overall environment means that you encounter greater exposure to controlled indoor heating systems that are not always kind to the skin. In addition, if you also consider how much you cover up in the winter months, then all these factors combined can create the perfect storm for chronic skin conditions such as eczema to develop.

Does heat make eczema worse?

Even though the sun’s healing powers can help alleviate eczema symptoms, it doesn’t change the fact that high temperatures can often also aggravate eczema. So, does heat make eczema worse? This depends on the individual, but the answer is yes because of the dry air associated with such conditions.

Sweating can also lead to itching and sore skin, especially if the sweat doesn't evaporate swiftly and adequately. In addition, constant sweating dries out the skin and releases a lot of salt onto the skin’s surface, which can also become an irritant over time.

A woman with heat-induced eczema

Heat-induced eczema is similar to prickly heat, which is a sore irritation of the skin that creates the sensation of prickly skin that needs to be scratched constantly. This makes the condition worse unless treatments are applied quickly — mainly in the form of soothing creams.

Hot sunny days also bring with them high pollen counts and hay fever. Unfortunately, some hay fever sufferers are susceptible to developing eczema, especially over the long term.

Rash from cold weather: Can it be eczema?

Although skin rashes are primarily associated with excess heat and humidity, such as those that form in the groin or armpit during potent summer weather, it is also possible to develop rashes during cold weather.

A rash from cold weather can be an unpleasant long-lasting experience, and some of the symptoms include redness, bumps, itching, and flaking.

A cold-weather skin rash can even quickly develop into a form of eczema.

Although other factors come into play, such as allergies and asthma, cold weather eczema can be diagnosed if it is as regular as clockwork and comes on strong whenever the temperature drops. Usually, skin reactions to cold weather can be eczema because the condition is often aggravated by extreme temperatures, artificial heating, and constantly covering up under layers of clothing that prevent the skin from breathing.

Humidity and eczema

Extreme humidity can do more harm than good for skin conditions, and it certainly exacerbates the symptoms of eczema. In addition, some forms of eczema are actually brought on by humidity because the skin struggles to cope in such an environment.

During extreme humidity, the skin tends to remain damp. This dampness can result in the blocking of pores and the development of red, sore, and extremely itchy skin. If you factor in how hard it is for the body to remain hydrated during humid weather conditions, then this can also affect overall skin health.

Skin is not designed to be constantly damp, as this encourages the clogging of pores with oils that can become rancid. This also prevents the shedding of dead skin and the rejuvenation of the skin with new cells. Layers of dead skin tend to become itchy, sore, and flaky and lead to eczema. All of this because of an interruption in the natural processes the skin goes through to renew itself! Furthermore, humidity is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and fungal infections, both of which can cause allergic reactions that can lead to various forms of eczema.

What’s the best climate for eczema?

Finding the best climate for eczema sufferers depends on the individual and various hard questions. These include “Does heat make eczema worse?” and “Is the sun good for eczema?”

Heat can aggravate and alleviate various forms of eczema. For example, if you suffer from cold-related eczema, heat can provide relief. In addition, heat is usually associated with sunlight, which positively affects certain skin conditions.

However, you do not want to get sunburnt or expose your skin to intense heat and humidity regularly. This is because both place immense stress on the skin, and the constant exposure can aggravate your skin conditions and make them worse.

While you cannot control the weather, you can manage your home and workplace climate.

Try to ensure there is plenty of fresh air mixing with the stagnant air to prevent the development of harmful air conditions. Furthermore, keep a fresh air supply constant to not stifle the room and your skin if rooms need heating.

How to prevent seasonal eczema

If you notice a pattern in your eczema flare-ups and can pinpoint them to a particular season, then you can use this to your advantage and take steps to prevent eczema from taking hold. Whether it’s an eczema rash from the heat or cold weather, you can stock up on over-the-counter or natural remedies to prevent eczema from taking control.

Prevention is better than treatment, and keeping warm in cold conditions and cool in the heat is a great starting point if you are affected by temperature extremes. Limit the time you allow your skin to experience these extremes, as well.

A man applying hand cream to improve seasonal eczema

It is advisable to take regular cool baths or showers using eczema-friendly skin products in hot conditions. Wearing light clothing can also help to keep you cool, and cotton garments are best.

In cold conditions, take warm baths and showers, moisturize regularly, and wear non-itchy clothing that forms enough layers to keep you warm but not hot. Furthermore, don’t overheat indoor spaces because letting yourself and your skin breathe is essential.

Is sunlight good for eczema?

Certain forms of eczema can respond well to sunlight therapy. Some dermatologists prescribe ultraviolet light therapy, which is also known as phototherapy. Special goggles are worn during treatment to protect the eyes, and positive results can be seen after one or two months.

Does a humidifier help with eczema?

An eczema humidifier restores moisture to the air and, by doing so, creates a kinder environment for your skin. It is not a standalone treatment for eczema but instead compliments other therapies such as light therapy and moisturizing.

Seasonal eczema treatment

The treatment for seasonal eczema is highly dependent on what season creates a spike in your symptoms. However, knowing the seasonal trigger can help to prevent an escalation in your skin condition. Appropriate action should then be taken to lessen the effects and duration of attacks.

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If summer heat and humidity are your triggers, then it is all about letting the skin breathe and keeping the body and skin cool. It is vital to have any medication such as ointments and creams handy rather than just relying on temperature control alone.

If you use natural or conventional medications, then these should be applied as directed to the affected area. Even if this is not a cure, it can prevent eczema patches from becoming open sores and spreading to other places.

Cotton clothing is by far the most gentle on the skin, and it is a breathable material as well. It is important to prevent excessive sweating by wearing such clothing, and, even in the winter, layers of cotton clothing can help keep your skin warm instead of hot. Cotton is preferable to materials such as wool that could create an allergic reaction.

Final thoughts

Eczema is a complex medical condition with no one-size-fits-all trigger or treatment. Various factors can cause eczema flare-ups, including food allergies, stress, environmental allergens, and even chemical additives in cleaning products. The natural hazards of the varying seasons also pose potential risk factors. Keep yourself stress-free, active, and healthy to help give yourself a fighting chance of beating seasonal weather-related eczema attacks.

August 11, 2022