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Winter Is Coming: Coping With Rosacea as the Seasons Change

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rosacea-winter-skin-ocular rosacea-dry skin-protection

Dry skin and rosacea can affect skin both indoors and outdoors, as several factors cause damage to the skin’s moisture barrier. Learn some steps to be proactive against dry skin and rosacea flare-ups.

The only constant is change. Winter is coming, and it’s time to expect the unexpected. Not only do seasons, as well as weather patterns, change, but the needs of individual rosacea patients may be different, too. 

While sufferers may be accustomed to managing their rosacea in the summer and fall — avoiding their personal flare-up triggers, as well as being proactive in using protection where needed — each season introduces a different set of conditions. Whether one resides in the frozen north or the milder south, the coming of winter may pose difficulties for those with rosacea due to dry air and low humidity, both outdoors and indoors due to heating systems. Dry skin can be a problem because rosacea can cause a defective moisture barrier in the facial skin, which can lead to water loss from the skin and contribute to irritation and inflammation. 

Not only is the skin at risk, but ocular rosacea tends to get worse in winter as the eyes become more irritable due to dry, cold, and windy conditions. Common signs and symptoms include eyes that are increasingly irritated, have a watery discharge, feel gritty or very dry, are bloodshot, or develop a stye.

While environmental factors like wind and cold, indoor heat, and low humidity all rank high on the list of common triggers for rosacea flare-ups, changes in personal activities may also put rosacea sufferers in harm’s way. Sunny ski slopes and other outdoor winter activities pose an obvious flare-up risk, but patients should also remember to use sunscreen daily, as the damaging ultraviolet rays are present even on overcast days. Another lifestyle change that may be overlooked is heat from hours spent at the stove over the Thanksgiving and yuletide holidays.

Here are some steps to help prevent dry skin as the cold weather begins to take hold:

  • Dermatologists recommend applying moisturizer regularly to help prevent the burning, stinging, itching, and irritation associated with rosacea, and build a strong moisture barrier to help keep out irritants that may aggravate sensitive skin. For extra convenience, try a moisturizer combined with sunscreen, as sun protection is important for rosacea patients year round. 
  • If indoor heaters create a dry environment in your home, consider using a humidifier to keep the air moist. 
  • Minimize time outdoors. When spending time outdoors, even briefly, wear a scarf to help protect your face from the effects of harsh weather.
  • Protect eyes with UV-protected glasses, sunglasses, or goggles.
  • Limit time in the kitchen. When possible prepare some meals ahead on a different day, and take a break in a cooler room when cooking large meals.

Snowbirds should not discount warm-weather triggers — even those who are winter-ready should remember that summer-like vacation travel may call for renewed attention to preventing flare-ups.  

Finally, rosacea sufferers should be sure to comply with the medical therapy prescribed for their individual cases. In addition to using any oral and/or topical therapies as directed, complying with medical advice includes staying up to date on personal flare-up triggers. 

Individuals diagnosed with rosacea may wish to use the rosacea diary, including a checklist of the most common factors that trigger rosacea flare-ups. In surveys of rosacea patients who identified and avoided their personal rosacea triggers, more than 90% reported their condition had improved. The diary is available in the Patients section of the National Rosacea Society website at Anyone who suspects they may have rosacea should consult a dermatologist.

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