Winter Skin Flare-Ups: What’s Normal + What’s Not

Even with the relatively mild winters in San Diego, the cooler temperatures, rain, and increased use of central heating can cause skin to lose moisture, making it dry, irritated, and itchy. This is commonly referred to as “winter rash” and can sometimes trigger other skin ailments in people prone to them. Here are some things to know:


A winter rash usually appears on the hands, arms, or legs, but for some people it may be more widespread than that. Itching is usually the symptom people notice most, but flaking, swelling, redness, and bumps may also appear.

Some Skin Conditions Get Worse

If you have psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, or rosacea, these skin conditions commonly get worse in winter months, and you are more at-risk for winter rashes. It’s important to make sure you are continuing your usual prescribed treatments, and consult your doctor if the flare-ups don’t seem to improve or get worse.

How to Prevent or Treat Winter Rash

  • Keep skin warm and use moisturizer several times a day. Generously apply your favorite non-irritating lotion, or get creative with kitchen items like coconut oil or vegetable shortening
  • Avoid skin products that have any harsh ingredients like fragrances, alcohol, or chemicals
  • Wear sunscreen—UV rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, which can then put you at risk of dry skin
  • Avoid extremely hot baths or showers
  • Bundle up when going outside to keep body temperature as steady as possible
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your house
  • Go easy on the central heat—it can have a drying effect on skin, so use sparingly only as needed
  • Drink lots of water; staying hydrated helps regulate your skin
  • Don’t scratch! Breaking the skin may leave you vulnerable to a bacteria infection

When to See a Doctor

Luckily, winter rashes are usually nothing more than an uncomfortable inconvenience. However, if you have been vigilantly moisturizing and your skin seems to be getting worse, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or dermatologist just to be sure it’s not caused by something else, such as an allergic reaction to food, chemicals, or topical creams.

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