Reasons Why You Might Have Rough and Bumpy Skin In the Winter

Your bumpy skin and rough patches could be signaling a bigger skin condition.

With blisteringly cold and dry winter days come the usual chapped lips and flakey hands that no amount of ultra-moisturizing lotion could restore. But the harsh temps can also cause small, mysterious bumps to pop up on various regions of your body.

What gives? If these goose-bump lookalikes don't fade once you warm up, your rough and bumpy skin could be cluing you in on a larger health issue.

3 Reasons You Have Bumpy Skin (and How to Smooth It Out)

Keratosis Pilaris

If your goose bumps never go away, you might have keratosis pilaris, a condition in which small, hard bumps form, usually on the upper arms and thighs. Those bumps are actually hair follicles clogged with dead skin cells, says dermatologist Shari Sperling, D.O.

This bumpy skin condition can crop up or get worse during dry winter days. While your instinct might be to scrub the bumps away, a chemical exfoliator with urea, lactic acid, or glycolic acid like Paula's Choice Resist Skin Revealing Body Lotion 10% AHA (Buy It, $28, will break down the buildup and soften skin. (You're not alone in your struggle with Keratosis Pilaris; model Iskra Lawrence has spoken out about having the bumpy skin condition.)

Dryness and Eczema

Red, itchy patches are likely caused by dry skin and eczema—which often appear on the inner parts of your elbows and knees. Try to pinpoint what's triggering your flare-ups. Dry air? Plug in your humidifier. Sitting in sweaty clothes? Shower immediately after a workout. Stress? Try a meditation app.

To ease irritation and head off future bouts, "switch to lukewarm showers," Dr. Sperling says. "Hot water may feel good, but it really dries you out." Also, ceramides—the same ingredient that helps sensitized skin—seal in hydration and reinforce your skin's protective barrier. Apply Cetaphil Restoraderm Skin Restoring Body Moisturizer Unscented (Buy It, $16, right after showering, says dermatologist Morgan Rabach, M.D.


Raised, thick, scaly skin—the common symptoms of rough skin condition Psoriasis—can be exacerbated by stress and lack of sun exposure. "Psoriasis lesions occur from an overgrowth of skin cells in the area," Dr. Rabach says.

UVB light can slow down the growth of the cells and aid the body in producing vitamin D, which is an anti-inflammatory. Dermatologists offer light-therapy treatments, and getting outside for a few minutes in the sun can help—just don't forget sunscreen to prevent rough and bumpy skin in the future. (BTW, you definitely shouldn't try these trendy psoriasis treatments.)

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