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What is a Winter Rash?

What is winter rash? If you’re staving off scaly, itchy, angry patches all winter long, you might have winter rash. Here’s how you can treat and prevent it.



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What is Winter Rash?

Types of Winter Rash: What Causes Winter Rash?

How to Treat Winter Rash

Trying to Get Your Winter Rash Under Control?


Does your skin get itchy and rashy when the weather outside is frightful? You’re not alone. As it turns out, icy roads and heaps of snow aren’t the only side effect of arctic storms.

But unlike the cold, you don’t have to tough out winter rash. There are ways to treat it.

What is winter rash? And what can you do to keep your skin clear? Here’s what you need to know before the first snow sets in.


What is Winter Rash?

A winter rash is an area of dry, irritated skin that may spread over the whole body or affect certain areas, usually your hands and arms. Symptoms vary from person to person, but they can include:

  • Dryness
  • Flaking
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Rough or scaly patches
  • Bumps or blisters
  • Thick or cracked skin
  • Inflammation

Depending on the person, your winter rash may include any combination of the above symptoms, and you may discover more symptoms as the rash worsens over time. But one way or another, winter rash is uncomfortable (even painful) and deeply unpleasant.

Types of Winter Rash: What Causes Winter Rash?

Part of the reason winter rash varies so much from person to person is that it’s not a single diagnosable problem. In reality, it’s a symptom of any of several skin conditions or skin sensitivities, all of which can worsen when the air gets bitterly cold and dry.

Some of the usual suspects include:

  • Eczema
  • Dermatitis
  • Rosacea
  • Cold urticaria (hives)
  • Psoriasis
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Bacterial infection
  • Viral infection
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Stress
  • Fatigue

Keep in mind that any of these conditions can co-occur and feed off of each other. For example, if you have eczema and you’re under more stress than usual, that will exacerbate the effects of winter rash on top of the effects of cold and dry weather.

Either way, any of these conditions are worsened by the combination of weather and lifestyle changes that happen when the weather gets cold. Winter air has far less humidity, and various lifestyle changes like hot showers and central heating leech moisture from the air while stripping your skin of its natural moisture and oils. Your skin also doesn’t like rapid changes (like coming in from the cold to a hot room) and the subsequent system shock weakens your skin.

How to Treat Winter Rash

Here’s the good news: winter rash is quite treatable.

The first step is to know what’s causing your winter rash. Chances are, if you have any underlying conditions like eczema or psoriasis, those are probably to blame. Either way, your skin dries out in winter, and for those with dry and sensitive skin, the effect will be even worse.

Once you know the cause, there are a few steps you can take to lessen the winter’s toll on your skin, regardless of what causes your rash. Here are a few to try.

Avoid Hot Baths

You may be tempted to warm up with a hot shower or a hot bath on a brisk winter day. Many people even rely on hot showers as a means of temporary relief from itchiness.

In reality, hot water is actually the worst thing you can do for your winter rash.

Hot water strips your skin of its natural moisture and oils, and in winter, when you’re already producing less oil than usual, that translates to serious skin irritation (and thus, winter rash). Instead, stick to lukewarm water, try not to linger too long, and moisturize your skin immediately after washing.

If you want to have a good soak without skin irritation, one option is an oatmeal bath. Just grind a cup of regular oats into a fine powder, test it with water, add it to a warm bath, and soak for ten minutes. If you’ve ground the oats enough, the water should turn into a milky-looking substance with a silky feel.

Gentle Cleansers with Heavy-Duty Moisturizers

Whether or not you add some oatmeal to your bath, there are two items to add to your winter skincare routine: gentle cleansers and heavy moisturizers.

Chances are, if you develop winter rash, you have sensitive skin. This means the cleanser you use in summer is likely way too strong for the winter months. Make the switch to an even gentler cleanser, preferably one formulated for sensitive skin.

Then, when you get out of the shower, don’t be shy about piling on moisturizers. The lightweight, oil-free moisturizer you used all summer isn’t going to cut it–reach for a thicker, heavy moisturizer that packs oils, preferably a moisturizer with ceramides in it.

Trying to Get Your Winter Rash Under Control?

What causes winter rash? In short, the unlucky combination of sensitive skin, cold weather, and unfriendly skincare habits. The good news is that you can manage it–and keep your skin clear all season long.

If you’re staving off winter rash, we offer a collection of products formulated for eczema and rash-prone skin. Check out our available options, add your new favorite winter skincare products, and say goodbye to winter rash.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise explicitly stated, the content on this blog, including all articles, videos, and other information, is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, health practice, or other institution.

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