Could the cold weather be responsible for the itchy rash that’s appeared on your arms? The connection might not seem immediately obvious, so let’s take a closer look at how colder weather can affect the skin.
Colder air means drier air
As the temperature drops, you might notice your skin reacting in various ways. Perhaps it feels tighter, a little drier, or itchy all of a sudden?
That’s down to the fact that air can’t hold as much moisture in lower temperatures. The moisture in your skin evaporates more quickly into drier air, leaving your skin dehydrated. But skin needs moisture to build an effective barrier against the outside world: without water to keep cells plump, the epidermis becomes thinner, more permeable, less resilient.
Dry skin problems
The knock-on effect of drier skin is that you’re more prone to all sorts of problems that end up in a vicious circle that’s hard to break. Dry skin is less resilient skin, so it’s more vulnerable to losing yet more moisture, letting in more irritants, triggering histamine release and suffering further damage. Cold weather can cause a perfect storm of skin problems.
So what exactly causes rashes? Well, that could be a number of things, singly or a combination. Let’s look at the possibilities.
Increased transepidermal moisture-loss (skin drying out, in other words) means that your skin is more susceptible to being irritated by things it comes into contact with. The soap, washing powder or shampoo you’ve been using all summer might suddenly be a problem, if your weakened skin barrier lets irritants through into your bloodstream. Perfumes and preservatives in toiletries can trigger a reaction from your immune system, leading to histamine release and itchy rashes. You’re more likely to be affected by contact dermatitis or allergic dermatitis in the winter if your skin is dry and fragile.
TOP TIP: you may need to switch to a winter skincare regime, using only natural emollients and hypoallergenic detergents for the colder months.
Eczema and psoriasis
Flare-ups of existing conditions such as eczema or psoriasis are more common in winter, because of the drying effect of cold air. You might even get a first instance of an eczema rash, set off by the cold weather.
TOP TIP: double down on your emollient routine in winter.
This is a specific condition that can cause a rash of hives in cold weather. It varies in severity but comes on within minutes of exposure to the cold.
TOP TIP: most cases of cold urticaria are mild and self-resolving but if it become debilitating, see your doctor to talk about your options.
Although it might seem strange, one cause of winter skin rashes is having a long hot bath. Unfortunately, given how comforting some people find them, baths deliver a double - if not triple - whammy to sensitive skin, as both prolonged exposure to water and heat can cause the skin to dry out, lose its precious oils and end up itchy and inflamed. Add a perfumed bubble bath with irritant ingredients to the mix and the skin is even more likely to get itchy and dry.
TOP TIP: That doesn’t mean you can’t have baths - just keep them shorter, cooler and free from bubbles! Add emollient oils to the water and moisturise as soon as you get out.
For more information on managing dry itchy skin in winter, read our blog What Helps Dry Itchy Skin In Winter?
Recommended products for itchy skin in winter:
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Cooling Cream
with shea, menthol, aloe vera & lavender
Bath & Body Oil
with lavender, hemp and olive
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.