Winter in Georgia is a time when dropping outdoor temperatures cause us to turn up the heat and inadvertently turn down the humidity. According to the EPA, humidity should be kept between 30% and 50% for general health and comfort. Unfortunately, for people with eczema, lower humidity levels may be insufficient to keep skin from becoming dry, itchy and cracked. Dermatologists often suggest that patients with eczema set an indoor humidity target of at least 45-55%.
Humidity can be simply measured with inexpensive gauges picked up at a hardware store or online, and humidifiers and vaporizers are great additions as long as they are frequently cleaned and mold is not allowed to grow within units. More advanced central heating and air systems even have settings that can help help reach humidity and temperature targets, sometimes decreasing the need to purchase additional machines.
The most basic intervention for most patients’ dry skin is simply not to wash the areas that are dry and cracked with soap and water. Soap strips good oils from our skin, and hot water has the same effect. Our faces, chests and backs make a lot of oil and rarely develop eczema whereas the rest of the body makes less oil and is consequently susceptible to oil loss during bathing or washing. Unless you’ve been gardening and are muddy, you don’t need to scrub your legs and hands with soap in the shower. Just let the soapy water from your shampoo run down your body, wash your groin and armpits and rinse off in warm but not hot water.
Then, pat dry. Don’t scrub dry. Immediately moisturize. Moisturize at least once more during the day and before bed. When washing dishes, use gloves. After using the restroom, consider moisturizing antibacterial hand sanitizers instead of hot water and soap unless C diff or similar concerns necessitate soap and water.
Other creative interventions include getting a little bit of sunlight and decreasing allergen presence in your home and on the bed. Sunlight in excess causes skin cancer, but in moderation sunlight decreases inflammation in eczema-prone skin. Allergens like dust and dander can cause eczema flares for some people. An allergist can test for allergens and sensitivity to dust and dust mites, and for such people hypoallergenic bedding covers, frequent laundering and vacuuming can help decrease eczema.
For many patients, topical steroids, calcineurin inhibitors, antistaphylococcal regimens and other doctor-prescribed interventions may be necessary, and your friendly neighborhood dermatologist is happy to assist. In extreme cases, an extremely exciting new intervention (dupilumab) is advisable for the truly miserable eczema sufferer.
The average annual humidity at the North Pole is 65%, so as long as Santa doesn’t turn the heat on, the air at least starts out moist. Unfortunately, if one of those elves gets tired of working in the cold, heating the workshop will quickly cause the humidity inside to drop, so you can bet Santa has a humidifier or two hard at work during the coldest months, which incidentally (at the North Pole) is all of them except June and July.
If you or a loved one has skin cancer, a vein complaint, or other skin issue, consider Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta. Dr. Brent Taylor is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon and vein specialist.
At Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta, it is our pleasure to meet your skin care needs. Board certified and fellowship-trained, Dr. Brent Taylor is a skin cancer, vein and aesthetic expert honored to be of service.