About approximately two years ago, I experienced my initial cold-weather rash: There were vibrant red patches of skin surrounding my chin region that no quantity of moisturizer could moisturize. It felt as though the vitality had been extracted from my skin, and I was petrified of venturing outdoors into the brutal cold air once more until I gained control over it. Consequently, I stayed indoors, generously applying oils and creams to my face repeatedly every half an hour.
In the meantime, I resolved to conduct some research in the hopes of ascertaining the true nature of my skin issue so that I could ensure I never had to endure this dry, uneven condition again. I stumbled upon a blog post written by skin-care specialist and renowned esthetician Renée Rouleau that featured someone exhibiting similar symptoms. Rouleau’s diagnosis? Something she referred to as “winter rash,” which she elucidated as typically being the consequence of a compromised skin barrier.
However, what can potentially harm the skin barrier in the first place? And is this so-called “winter rash” a legitimately recognized medical condition or a knowledgeable speculation? Keep reading for expert guidance regarding cold-weather rash, including how to identify it, treat it, and ideally prevent it even during the most frigid months.
Cold Weather Rash, Elucidated
Although not an official medical condition, a cold-weather rash can appear as red, coarse, dehydrated, and uneven skin. It essentially represents what occurs when your skin barrier becomes compromised during the cold, severe climate of winter. When the barrier is compromised, whether due to freezing temperatures or a plethora of other factors (think: excessive exfoliation or utilizing a space heater at home), moisture can escape more easily, rendering your skin more susceptible to irritation. Winter rashes can emerge anywhere on your body, but they commonly affect your face or hands.
Causes of Cold Weather Rash
Cold weather rashes can originate directly from an irritant or manifest as symptomatic effects of a larger problem, but the answer might not be readily apparent. “It is not always feasible to identify the triggers for these [skin rashes], but employing unsuitable products can commonly act as a trigger,” Rouleau informs Shape. Such a scenario is particularly true if you employ harsh chemical exfoliants during winter, as the combination of wind, dry air, and potent products can push your skin beyond its limits and provoke a rash, she explains.
Furthermore, a winter rash could simply function as a symptom of a broader medical condition, such as perioral dermatitis, a condition that culminates in a red, bumpy rash often accompanied by a burning sensation or stinging, as stated by Rouleau. “Perioral dermatitis has a tendency to emerge near orifices – specifically in proximity to the mouth, nose, and occasionally the eyes – and is characterized by small red bumps and scaly red skin, most commonly found beneath the corners of the mouth,” elucidates Hadley King, M.D., a certified dermatologist based in New York City.
It can be a single instance or can ignite intermittently every few years. Or, for certain individuals, it may ignite during specific seasons,” she clarifies.
Similarly, a frigid climate rash can also be an aggravation (or outbreak) of dermatitis — which typically involves crimson, irritating patches of dermis — and psoriasis, which is frequently characterized by elevated, thick, flaky dermis, remarks Dr. King. The point is: You may discover it challenging to get to the underlying cause of your winter rash without visiting your skin specialist, she remarks. The positive news? Often, you can commence treating a frigid climate rash at the initial indication of symptoms.
If you suspect you have a winter face rash, the initial thing you should do is reduce your skin-care routine and adhere to merely the fundamentals, such as a mild cleanser and moisturizer containing hydrating humectants (like hyaluronic acid), emollients, and occlusives, says Dr. King.
Products That Assist With a Cold Weather Rash
Think you could be contending with a frigid climate rash yourself? Here are the products to utilize and those to abstain from if you commence developing crimson, bumpy patches of dermis.
Whenever you encounter rashes during winter, the key is to keep your dermis moisturized to reinstate its moisture barricade. And that’s precisely what I did two winters ago when my dermis seemingly went on strike: Several times a day for a total of three days, I applied a few drops of Maharindee The Change Maker Serum (Available at maharindee.com) and then slathered my face in Iope Derma Repair Cica Cream (Available at Amazon). But while this regimen worked for me, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for healing your dermis since everyone is distinct, emphasizes Rouleau.
“If you were reapplying an oil often and it seemed to have helped you, then continue that,” says Rouleau, nodding to my routine. “Oils do help deliver lipids to the dermis which is needed for barricade repair,” she elucidates. Rouleau has her own Pro Remedy Oil (Available at reneerouleau.com), which assists in mending dry, parched dermis in need of some substantial moisture due to retinol reactions, dermatitis, or perioral dermatitis.
Dr. King advises Cetaphil for a mild cleanser (Available at Target) and the Jojoba Company’s face oil (Available at thejojobacompany.com).
The second option is composed of pure, unrefined jojoba oil that supplies the skin with vitamins D and E, as well as omega fatty acids, all of which assist in the recovery of the moisture barrier. If you are dealing with a rash caused by cold weather, Dr. King recommends solely utilizing a cleanser, oil, and moisturizer, and nothing more.
Products to Avoid When Experiencing a Cold Weather Rash
When you have a cold weather rash, “temporarily discontinue any active components that could be irritating the skin and interfering with the skin barrier, such as retinoids, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and benzoyl peroxide,” suggests Dr. King. Also, stay away from products with sulfates, as these can be “extremely drying and irritating,” notes Rouleau.
You should also avoid any products that have a strong scent, whether that’s a perfume or essential oil, says Rouleau. “If it smells strong, it means it has a high percentage of fragrance, which could worsen a rash,” she explains. (If you’re sensitive to fragrance, using a product with fragrance can cause allergic contact dermatitis — another cause of red, itchy skin — making your winter rash symptoms even worse.)
As for when the cold weather rash will go away? “It’s difficult to determine a timeline for a facial rash, especially if you are unsure of the cause since the culprit may still be triggering a rash response,” says Rouleau. “But generally, a facial rash can last anywhere from a day to a week. Using anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and barrier-repairing products can help treat the winter rash and return the skin to its normal, healthy state,” she advises. From there, you can typically begin to ease back into your regular routine.
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