Winter is here and while that means snowball fights and hot cocoa, it also means cold temperatures and dry air. Unfortunately, these conditions can lead to dry, cracked, or chapped skin- particularly on one of the most exposed parts of your body: your hands.
Known as a winter rash, this uncomfortable skin condition is characterized by itchy bumps and redness that can be downright painful. The good news is, winter rashes are easily preventable and treatable! And you've come to the right place to learn all about this winter-rashy wonderland!
So grab a seat by the fire, start toasting some marshmallows, and read on to learn all you need to know about preventing and treating those winter rashes on your hands!
What is a winter rash?
When winter rolls around, many people seem to get a couple of nasty rashes on their hands. It’s not just the cold weather either — these rashes often show up in dry, warmer weather also.
While it’s not exactly clear what causes the irritated skin of a hand rash such as this, some people think that it’s caused by trapped moisture evaporating from your skin in the cold air, leaving it red and itchy. Others think that it’s related to the presence of nickel in cosmetics or jewelry. There are many other theories as well.
The bottom line is anyone can get a winter rash, and it's not uncommon at all for people to have itchiness and small scaling of the skin on their hands in the wintertime.
Luckily, this type of skin rash doesn’t stay around for long; but it can be very uncomfortable while it’s there.
What are winter rash symptoms?
While no rash is fun, a winter rash is especially unpleasant.
The more common symptoms of winter rash include:
- Itching - Itching is usually the first symptom to show up. It's one of the most frustrating symptoms because it's hard to resist the urge to scratch your skin when you have an itchy rash. And the more you scratch, the more irritated your skin gets.
- Redness - Redness of the skin is another common symptom. This can range from a slight flush to intense reddening and inflammation of the area. This is caused by the body’s attempt to heal the skin, which leads to swelling and irritation.
- Chapped skin - Chapping is another sign of irritation, caused by dry air or overuse of soaps and cleansers. Winter rashes often cause the skin to feel tight and cracked as a result of this chapping. The lips are especially vulnerable to this type of chapping in cold temperatures.
- Flakes of dry skin - Flakes of dry skin are often a sign that the condition is worsening. This usually happens when the skin has become so dry that it starts to crack and peel off. Also known as "scales," these flakes of skin can be uncomfortable and are definitely unsightly.
- Small bumps or blisters - In more severe cases, tiny bumps or blisters may appear on the skin. These are often itchy and can be painful if they burst. These bumps are actually a sign that the skin is trying to heal itself, but they can be very uncomfortable.
What causes a winter rash on hands?
The most likely cause of winter rashes is a combination of factors. The most prevalent factor being that your skin likely becomes dry, causing scaly patches. This would be exacerbated if you have an allergy to nickel or if you use products that contain it, like cosmetics and jewelry.
Another possible cause is also moisture and natural oils evaporating from your skin. When the air is so dry that it can’t hold any moisture, the low humidity will draw the moisture from your skin. This leads to chapping and cracking of the skin surface of the hands, face and anywhere else that the skin's exposure level is high.
Finally, some people are prone to developing rashes in cold weather because of their immune system. People with certain conditions such as eczema and dermatitis may be more sensitive to changes in temperature, leading to a winter rash and itchy skin.
Regardless of the reason, a winter rash is never fun. So, let’s take a look at how we can prevent and treat them.
How do I prevent a winter rash?
The best remedy for a winter rash is to take steps to prevent it in the first place. Once you have a rash, it’s very difficult to get rid of it quickly, though it will eventually go away on its own.
The best way to prevent winter rash is to keep your skin hydrated. Moisture is key. It's the dry air in winter more than the cold itself that can cause winter rashes. Keeping your skin hydrated will help prevent itching and flaking of the skin.
This means drinking plenty of water and using moisturizers on your hands throughout the day. Moisturizing skin care products help bolster the skin barrier, keeping natural oils and dead skin cells in check. It’s also important to avoid harsh soaps and cleaners, as these can further dry out the skin.
Another way to treat and prevent winter rash and keep your skin hydrated is to wear gloves. This will keep moisture in and the cold out, making sure your skin stays healthy all winter. Gloves also keep you warm!
A humidifier is also a great way to keep your skin moist. This will add moisture to the air, ensuring that your skin stays hydrated even in dry winter conditions. Keeping one running in your room at night as you sleep can be a good habit to get into.
If you have cold urticaria (a condition that causes your skin to break out in hives when exposed to cold temperatures), take steps to avoid exposure to cold temperatures as best you can. Wear warm clothing, use a heating pad, and take warm baths or showers.
Finally, if you have any allergies or sensitivities to certain chemicals like nickel, it’s important to be aware of what jewelry and products you are using on your hands and make sure that they don’t contain any of these substances. A rash may disappear completely if those are indeed triggers which are then removed.
How to treat a winter rash
If you're dealing with a winter rash, there are a few things you can do to find relief. Many of the treatments are similar in nature and purpose to the preventative steps.
Again, a major key here is moisture. Help your skin retain its natural moisture by using a humidifier in your home, and be sure to use a moisturizer throughout the day. You can also apply cool compresses or cold creams to soothe and reduce inflammation.
It’s also important to avoid scratching, as this will only make the rash worse. If you find yourself unable to resist itching, try rubbing a spoon on the area – it’s said that this helps relieve the itching sensation.
You should also avoid scrubbing your skin when you're cleansing it, as this can further irritate already sensitive skin. Instead, opt for a gentle cleanser and use your hands to apply it in a circular motion.
One of the fastest, longest lasting and most effective treatments for winter rash itch relief is Dermeleve® anti-itch cream. Dermeleve® starts working instantly and can last up to 6 hours. It helps to reduce inflammation, itching and redness caused by winter rash.
Dermeleve® contains natural ingredients like shea butter, which promote moisture retention and protect the skin from further damage. Dermeleve® also contains ceramides and vitamins C and E for antioxidant protection and to help repair skin damage.
Just as important as the ingredients that Dermeleve® contains are the ingredients that Dermeleve® does NOT contain. Specifically, corticosteroids like hydrocortisone and cortisol. These common topical steroids are known to cause serious side effects when used for prolonged periods. These side effects include skin thinning, which can lead to further irritation and discomfort.
Because Dermeleve® is completely steroid free, it is safe for frequent and long-term use.
With Dermeleve's® steroid-free formula specifically designed for itch relief, you can be sure that your skin is getting the relief it needs without the risk of further damage or irritation.
When should I see a dermatologist?
While most winter rashes should clear up on their own, you should keep an eye on it. You should see a doctor if your rash doesn’t go away after a few weeks or you have any symptoms of infection such as fever, redness, pain, or pus. If you notice any changes in size, shape, or color on your rash, it may be indicative of an infection. Additionally, if there is no relief even with topical treatments and antibiotics, you should see a dermatologist.
Winter rashes can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, but knowing how to prevent and treat them can help make it a lot easier to manage. Remember, the best way to prevent these rashes is to keep your skin moisturized and avoid exposure to cold temperatures.
When treating winter rash, opt for gentle cleansers and use a moisturizer throughout the day. Additionally, using a quality anti-itch cream like Dermeleve® can provide relief without the risk of side effects.
If your rash doesn't improve despite home remedies, persists after a few weeks, or does not respond to topical treatments, it is best to see a dermatologist for an evaluation. With the right preventative and treatment measures, you can get through the winter months and help keep your skin healthy and rash-free.