Learning More About Keratosis Pilaris, A Skin Condition That Can Worsen In Cold Weather

Weather associated with the Fall and Winter months can negatively impact your body in many ways, including how it affects your skin.  Jamaica Hospital Medical Center would like to share information about one such skin condition, keratosis pilaris, that is normally associated with cold, dry weather.

Keratosis pilaris is a common, chronic skin condition that causes small, scaly bumps on the skin where there are hair follicles. These bumps are the result extra keratin, which is a type of protein that’s part of skin, hair, and nails. Keratin forms under the skin, blocking the opening of the hair follicle. When the hair follicle becomes plugged it leads to tiny rough, red patches on the skin that often resemble goose bumps. These bumps can appear on the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. They can also appear on the cheeks and on the sides of the torso.

It is unknown as to why keratin builds up, but you are considered more at risk of developing it if you have a parent or sibling who has it. Also, those who already have eczema or atopic dermatitis are believed to have an increased chance of having the condition.

While understanding what causes keratosis pilaris is still somewhat of a mystery, we do know one factor that can exacerbate the condition – the weather. Even though keratosis pilaris is not officially considered a seasonal condition, it usually becomes worse in dry or cold conditions, typically associated in the Fall and Winter months. This is because cold weather breeds dry skin, which in turn seems to irritate keratosis pilaris. For some, thankfully, the rash will disappear once warmer temperatures return.

Although there is no cure for keratosis pilaris, for some the condition can improve with age and without treatment.  For others, symptoms can be managed through a few different treatment options, including the use of topical exfoliants or retinoids or, in severe cases, laser therapy. There are also many things you can do at home to reduce the symptoms of keratosis pilaris, including:

  • Using a moisturizer or a lubricating lotion
  • Not vigorously scrubbing the skin
  • Drying off gently after showering
  • Using a humidifier to eliminate dry air
  • Avoiding the use of harsh cleansers and soaps

It is important to note that treatment may improve the appearance of the bumps, but the condition often comes back if treatment is stopped.  You should speak with your doctor or dermatologist to determine the correct course of treatment for your skin condition.

To make an appointment with a dermatologist at Jamaica Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

ECZEMA

Woman Scratching Her Arm Sitting on Bench at Park

Eczema is a condition that causes patches of skin to become red, inflamed, rough and itchy.  Eczema is not a specific health condition; it is a reaction pattern that the skin produces as a result of a number of different diseases.

The specific causes of eczema currently remain unknown, but it is believed to develop due to a combination of hereditary (genetic) and environmental factors.

Environmental symptoms of eczema include:

  • Irritants – soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, juices from fresh fruits, meats, or vegetables
  • Allergens – dust mites, pets, pollens, mold, dandruff
  • Microbes – bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, certain fungi
  • Hot and cold temperatures – hot weather, high and low humidity, perspiration from exercise
  • Foods – dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, wheat
  • Stress – it is not a cause of eczema but can make symptoms worse
  • Hormones – women can experience worsening of eczema symptoms at times when their hormone levels are changing, for example during pregnancy and at certain points in their menstrual cycle

Since there is no cure for eczema, treatment for the condition is aimed toward healing the affected skin in an effort to prevent a flare up of symptoms.  For some people, eczema goes away over time, and for others, it remains a lifelong condition.

There are a number of things that people with eczema can do to support skin health and alleviate symptoms, such as:

  • Taking regular warm baths
  • Applying moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing to “lock in” moisture
  • Moisturizing every day
  • Wearing cotton and soft fabrics, avoiding rough, scratchy fibers, and tight-fitting clothing
  • Using mild soap or a non-soap cleanser when washing
  • Air drying or gently patting skin dry with a towel, rather than rubbing skin dry after bathing
  • Avoiding rapid changes of temperature and activities that make you sweat (where possible)
  • Learning individual eczema triggers and avoiding them
  • Using a humidifier in dry or cold weather
  • Keeping fingernails short to prevent scratching from breaking skin

Medication can also be helpful in treating or preventing symptoms.  These treatments are prescribed by a physician.  If you are experiencing symptoms of eczema and would like to speak with a physician, call Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center at 718-206-7001, to schedule an appointment.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.