From scorching summer sun to dry winter wind, the elements take their toll on your skin. Extreme weather often aggravates common skin conditions, causing discomfort and, in some cases, pain. But even in the worst weather, you can take steps to prevent flare-ups and manage symptoms.
Click through for a look at how weather affects 10 common skin conditions, and learn what you can do about it.
Winter itch is a form of eczema that tends to flare up in late autumn. The shift to chilly, windy days often dries out skin, especially on hands and legs exposed to the elements. Scratching dry skin can cause a red, raised rash that leads to infection. People then scratch the inflammation, causing a painful cycle.
Eczema tends to run in families, but you can take steps to prevent or minimize it. Make sure to moisturize frequently and drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and scented and deodorant soaps, which often irritate skin. Use a humidifier in your home. If winter itch still strikes, take an antihistamine like Benadryl and soothe the irritated skin with an ice pack or cold compress.
Eczema flare-ups aren't exclusive to wintertime. Heat and sweating agitate eczema, so humid summer days can cause major discomfort. Along with sweating from playing outdoor sports, swimming in chlorinated pools and wearing itchy polyester team uniforms can also irritate eczema.
What to do? Wear breathable, natural-fiber clothing and avoid exercising during especially hot summer days. Wear fragrance-free sunblock and moisturize frequently. While there's no cure for eczema, medicated lotions and creams can help skin retain moisture and ease the inflammation.
With contact dermatitis (a type of eczema), skin becomes red and inflamed after direct contact with an irritant or allergen. A burning, itchy rash forms that can linger for days or weeks. In summer, people spend more time outdoors, increasing their chances of running into common plant allergens. The biggest offenders? Poison ivy, poison oak and pesticides. Irritating soaps, detergents and perfumes can cause contact dermatitis too.
While an individual may not have a reaction upon first encounter, sensitivity often increases with repeated exposure. Washing with soap and water can sometimes relieve the rash. If not, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream and oral antihistamines can help. When symptoms persist, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids or antihistamines.
The best way to avoid contact dermatitis? Stay away from those poisonous plants.
You're probably familiar with seborrheic dermatitis. It's also called dandruff. Pesky white or yellowish flakes form on oily areas like the scalp and inner ear. The condition often runs in families. Dandruff is caused by an overproduction of skin oil, but can be exacerbated by extreme weather, especially cold temperatures. It's not quite clear why dandruff worsens during the winter, but it could have to do with a lack of moisture in the air causing dehydrated skin.
It's not contagious, but it does tend to recur. A combination of topical treatments -- including antifungal, anti-inflammatory, sebo-suppressive or keratolytic shampoos or cleansers -- can minimize the symptoms.
If you've spent too much time exposed to UV rays, you know what happens: you wind up with red, painful skin that feels hot to the touch and sometimes even blisters. Intense exposure to the sun also increases the risk of skin cancer.
Lotions can ease the pain, but there's no cure for sunburn. While sunscreen can help prevent it, the best way to avoid sunburn is to cover up in the sun.
Rosacea is characterized by chronic facial redness. It's usually harmless, although pimples and burning or stinging also can occur. It can be triggered by extreme weather. Clear, windy winter days tend to be the worst.
Topical medications help to reduce inflammation, but avoiding the stresses of extreme weather is the best way to prevent irritation.
With Raynaud's disease, blood vessels spasm and constrict in response to cold temperatures or stress. Circulation slows, making some areas of the body -- usually the fingers, toes, ears or tip of the nose -- feel numb and cool. The skin usually loses color, but in extreme or prolonged cases turns deep purple.
People can avoid the effects of Raynaud's by layering clothing and shielding skin from the cold. Doctors also may prescribe medications that open blood vessels and increase circulation.
Acne can be a problem year-round, but winter can be especially tough for those prone to breakouts. There's often less moisture in the air, which dries out skin. Skin becomes irritated and can crack, allowing bacteria easy access, making you more vulnerable to acne.
Avoid products that contain alcohol or clog pores, remember to gently exfoliate, and hydrate with an oil-free moisturizer. Use a humidifier in your home to combat the dry air cause by central heating, and don't take extremely hot showers.
Cold uriticaria are hives caused by an allergy to cold temperatures. Itchy and swollen welts up to an inch in diameter form on the hands and feet. Those with a severe allergy can go into anaphylactic shock, and may need to carry an epinephrine pen in case of an attack. Although some inherit the disorder, most acquire it between ages 18 and 25.
To prevent cold uriticaria, stay warm. Unfortunately, antihistamines usually aren't effective, but warming the affected area can prevent the reaction from worsening.
Next: 10 Commandments for Healthy Skin
Skin normally grows and replaces itself about once a month. When a person has psoriasis, the process accelerates and dead cells multiply on the skin's surface. The result: Thick, flaky, red patches appear, most commonly on the elbows, knees, scalp and torso.
Winter aggravates symptoms because cold air dries out and damages skin. Also, days grow shorter, reducing exposure to sunlight, which can help the condition.
Psoriasis is treated with light therapy and by moisturizing, using topical medication and taking oral medication to affect the immune response.