How Seasonal Changes Impact SkinJan 22, 2024
Seasonal change is beautiful, but seasonal skin changes? Not so much.
Especially when you’re growing older and your skin seems thinner and more sensitive by the day.
The trick is to have a strategy for every season. So whether you deal with itchy, dry skin in the winter or heat rashes in the summer, here’s how to take care of your largest organ all year long.
Summer Skincare: Dealing with Sunburns, Heat Rashes, and Seabather’s Eruption
Ah, summer. The balmy weather brings everyone out to enjoy the sunshine, sand, and surf. What could be better?
But summer isn’t all swimsuits and sea foam. It can be hot, humid, and hard on aging skin. Here’s a short list of the different skin conditions that can affect our skin in the summer:
As you age, your skin becomes more susceptible to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Whether you’ve never had a sunburn in your life or you’re on what feels like Sunburn #257, now is not the time to slack off on sunscreen. Each burn increases your risk of skin cancer, so layer on the SPF 30+ sunblock each time you head into the sun.
These itchy, unpleasant bumps form when sweat gets trapped in your skin. Wear light, flowy clothing if you live in a hot and humid climate to help prevent this uncomfortable skin condition. Spend some time in shady or air-conditioned areas, and take cool showers when you can.
Caribbean cruise, anyone? If you love spending time in the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean in the summer, you’re not alone. Thimble jellyfish and sea anemones do, too. They're busy breeding nearly microscopic offspring during peak cruise-ship months.
When these larvae get stuck between your skin and your swimsuit, they sting you, causing pain and sometimes a rash. Your first order of business? Get out of the contaminated swimsuit before those little buggers can sting you again. Next, take a freshwater shower. Scrub yourself with soap and water. Wash your swimsuit in hot water and send it through the dryer before putting it on again.
If the rash continues to bother you after this, ask your doctor if you can use hydrocortisone cream or take an antihistamine to ease the itch.
Fall Skincare: How to Avoid Irritation from Ragweed and Mold
Autumn is the perfect season to cozy up by your favorite window and watch the rain come down. Or maybe it’s an excellent time to get outside and enjoy cooler temperatures with your family and friends.
Unfortunately, skin irritation can ramp up in the fall—especially if your skin is susceptible to mold and ragweed.
Ragweed, a member of the Aster family, grows throughout the United States but is most common in the midwestern and eastern states. Every single ragweed plant can generate up to 1 billion pollen grains. If these grains land on your skin, you can develop hives or an itchy rash.
And ragweed isn’t the only culprit when it comes to seasonal skin irritation. Cocklebur, Russian thistle, sagebrush, and mugwort pollen can all irritate your skin, too.
As for mold, well—it grows in those beautiful piles of decaying leaves. When your grandkids jump in and fling those leaves every which way, mold spores go flying, too.
Protect your skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Make sure to bathe at the end of the day, too. You don’t want to get in bed with all the pollen and mold spores that may have accumulated on your skin throughout the day!
Winter Woes: Dry Weather, Dry Skin
During the winter, the air in much of the country is cold and dry. To keep the chill out of our homes, we turn on the heater…which means more hot, dry air for the skin to contend with. These conditions are hard on even the most youthful skin.
For aging folks, the dry air has an even greater impact. Roughly 75% of people over the age of 64 live with dry skin—even when it’s not wintertime.
The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to combat excessively dry, itchy winter skin.
First things first: drink more water. You might not feel thirsty as often as you did when you were younger, but your body still needs the same amount of water.
Eight glasses a day is the broad recommendation. That said, your body weight and current medications may affect how much water you need to stay hydrated. Talk to your doctor to see how much water you need.
The next step is to take showers with water that’s warm but not hot, as heat can dry your skin out faster. Right after you shower, rub moisturizing cream into your skin.
Look for moisturizers that contain these three ingredient types:
- Humectants (moisture-attractors): Ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, lecithin, sorbitol, beeswax, and glycerin are all humectants.
- Emollients (skin-softeners): Look for lauric, linoleic, and linolenic acids, which help smoothen and soften the skin.
- Moisture sealers: Ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, lanolin, and silicone act as a barrier between your skin and the dry air, locking moisture in and keeping dryness out.
Just make sure you check with your doctor or dermatologist before using any skincare products for the first time.
Spring Fever: Allergies in Bloom
Spring is a delightful time…unless you have sensitive, aging skin. Everything is turning green and growing new buds. Which means pollen is everywhere, and if you’re sensitive to it, your skin can get irritated.
If you already have a condition like eczema, springtime allergies can make it worse. Hives might randomly pop up after you take a stroll at your local nature center.
Oh, and don’t forget the bug bites!
An easy way to keep your skin happy? Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when you go out into nature. Make sure you apply bug spray, too.
Is it the Seasons, Or Something Else?
If your skin seems irritated for no apparent reason, you may need to be checked for an underlying condition. Something as unassuming as your parathyroid glands—four rice-sized glands behind your thyroid—can wreak havoc on your skin.
This is because one of the hyperparathyroidism symptoms is elevated blood calcium, which can cause your skin tissue to calcify (calcinosis cutis). If you develop hard, white bumps over your joints and they itch badly, you could be impacted by hyperparathyroidism and its skin-related symptoms.
That’s why it’s so important to pay close attention to your skin all year long. If you notice anything unusual, like abnormal itching or irritation, make an appointment with your provider.