New insights from a study of seasonal changes in filaggrin and corneocytes add to the understanding of why some patients develop eczema and dry skin in the winter. These findings are published in the British Journal of Dermatology (Mar. 7, 2018, online ahead of print).
Investigators enrolled 80 healthy volunteers—40 males and 40 females. Of the participants, 40 were aged 18 to 40 years, and 40 were 70 years of age or older. Tape strip samples were taken from the cheek and dorsal hands of the participants in winter and in summer. The samples were analyzed for natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and for corneocyte surface texture (Dermal Texture Index, or DTI).
Researchers found that in cheek skin, NMF levels were reduced and DTI was elevated in the winter, compared to the summer. Older participants also had higher NMF levels than younger participants. DTI levels in the summer were dependent on self-reported ultraviolet light exposure as well.
In the hand skin samples, NMF levels were higher in the winter than in the summer, and the female participants had higher NMF levels than the male participants.
“This study shows clearly that the skin barrier is affected by climatic and seasonal changes. Both children and adults suffer from red cheeks in the winter in northern latitudes and some may even develop more permanent skin conditions such as atopic eczema and rosacea,” said senior author Dr. Jacob Thyssen, in a press release. Dr. Thyssen is a clinical professor in the department of clinical medicine at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark. “By the use of high magnification we show that the skin cells suffer from shrinkage and therefore change their surface. The clinical messages to individuals are that they should protect their skin with emollients in the winter and sunscreen in the summer.”
In the same release, Nina Goad, head of communication for the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “We already know that humidity can affect the texture of the skin and impact skin disorders like eczema, and humidity fluctuates according to season. In the winter, rapidly changing temperatures, from heated indoors to cold outdoors environments, can affect the capillaries, and prolonged exposure to wet weather can strip the skin’s barrier function.
“This latest study is interesting as it sheds new light on further reasons for seasonal skin changes, at a cellular level,” she said. “Given that skin problems are the most common reason for people to visit their doctor, any research that improves our understanding of skin disorders and how best to manage them is always a positive step.”