This year, January 20 marks the beginning of Great Cold (大寒 dàhán), the 24th and last solar term in the Chinese lunar calendar, traditionally described as the onset of the coldest days of the year. So despite the winter temperatures being bearable over the past few days, we need to be ready for possible cold snaps that would bring chilly winds and further drop humidity.
Harsh winter weather may leave our bodies very dry, resulting in winter eczema or “winter itch”, a condition when the skin becomes too sensitive, flaky, or scaly due to loss of moisture. Our natural reaction is to scratch here and scratch there — but too much scratching might cause small wounds that can lead to skin infection.
Eczema flare-ups can also occur when the skin comes in contact with added chemicals in lotions or moisturizers, or if we are exposed to allergens like dust and pet dander, or even when we are stressed or sick.
Here are some tips to manage winter eczema, but don’t wait until the condition becomes worse before you see a dermatologist.
Drink a lot of water!
We tend to be less thirsty during cold days but our bodies need to be hydrated in and out. Eight glasses of water each day is the usual recommendation, but tea, coffee, and fruit juices also count!
In the shower
Use warm water instead of hot or bubble baths. Hot water makes the skin feel drier and itchier after showering, while soaps or bath products with added ingredients can irritate the skin. Opt for natural bath products and use moisturizers to lock moisture into your skin. Pat yourself dry and try not to rub your skin with a towel.
Do you have sensitive skin?
Moisturizers or lotions help maintain moisture, but ask your doctor for advice because local brands or imported products may have skin irritants that may further cause damage to your skin or may lead to future flare-ups. Petroleum jelly is also known to help heal cracked and dry skin.
Wardrobes and bedding
As we layer up this season, be aware that certain fabrics like wool and nylon can irritate the skin and heighten the chance for static zaps. Go for cotton for your layers and accessories like scarves, gloves, and socks. Also, use cotton-based or breathable fabrics in your bedding to reduce friction.
When in the office or at home…
Make sure that indoor areas have enough humidity because heating systems dry out the air. If you’re using a humidifier, consider adding distilled water instead of tap to ensure you’re breathing in clean air. Also, always clean the humidifier to remove any mold buildup.
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