Along with the holidays and attending festivities, the winter months also often herald something significantly less joyous: itchy, tight, irritated, peeling, cracking and possibly even red or rashy skin. Why? Because it’s too dry. During the cold winter months, skin is particularly susceptible to becoming dry as a result of lower humidity in cold air and indoor heaters that suck moisture from the air. Add to that the way our bodies react to the cold, by constricting blood vessel and reducing the activity of our sweat and oil glands, ultimately reducing water content in the skin and resulting in shrunken, dried out skin cells. Together, they create the “perfect storm” for super dry skin. So what’s the remedy?
You know this, but I’ll say it again. Drink. Lots. Of. Water. It’s harder to remember during the winter since we aren’t sweating and hot, so we often don’t feel thirsty. Drink water anyway. 8-10 glasses. Do it on the hour, every other hour, until you meet your daily quota.
Take essential fatty acids. I like Pure Matters Evening Primrose Oil, high in linoleic acid, and a high quality fish or flax seed oil, like those made by Nordic Naturals, to reduce inflammation and provide skin with support to maintain a healthy moisture barrier.
For the face, adopt a soap free cleansing routine. Try Dr. Hauschka’s Gentle Cleansing Milk, a mild yet effective cleanser that dissolves makeup and dirt while protecting the skin’s natural moisture barrier. For the body, use only mild soap in the bath or shower, or skip it entirely except perhaps for the stinky bits (ie: pits, privates and feet). For these, opt for a mild, moisturizing soap such as the handmade bars by Strawberry Hedgehog, which also happen to make your bathroom smell amazing. If you prefer a shower gel, the Sunflower Body Wash by Miessence is a good option.
Since your body’s not doing the trick, using good moisturizers is key. Steer clear of any containing petroleum based ingredients (mineral oil, paraffin, etc) as ultimately, these will make the problem worse by coating the skin and preventing it from absorbing moisture. Stick to natural, clean formulas, applied morning and night, right after washing while skin is still damp to help seal in moisture. Depending on your preference, there are some excellent butters, oils, creams and lotions to choose from. Here are some of my favorite options for face and body:
For Face: Easily absorbed with immediate benefits and no additives of concern, a high quality, pure facial oil can be skin’s best friend. La Bella Figura has a variety of incredibly pure, healing products ideal for dry skin, made using exotic, highly nutritive oils, butters and extracts, but I tend to keep it simple with their Barbury Fig Seed Oil, which is like liquid gold. Rich in Vitamin E, linoleic acid, and betalains, it also protects against free radicals, stimulates new cell growth, calms inflammation and can be used on face, body and scalp. Another savior for those with super dry, stressed and sun damaged skin or those with a tendency to develop Rosacea or Eczema is Celtic Complexion Cream, packed with shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil and beneficial essential oils. For lighter moisture, Weleda’s Iris Hydrating Day and Night Creams are formulated to balance skin’s moisture and are quickly absorbed.
For Body: A rich butter or balm can do wonders for your driest parts, such as hands, feet, elbows and knees, but can be warmed in the hands to apply all over as well for an extra dose of deep hydration and protection from the elements. Savvy Boheme’s Whipped Shea Butters provide intense, yet readily absorbed moisture and all of the benefits of unrefined shea butter, which contains natural sun protection, vitamins and is anti-inflammatory. They are available in a variety of delicious natural scents or unscented. If you’re picky about texture, then Get Creamed Body’s Whipped Body Creams are a good bet, with an easy to spread, luxurious texture and high moisture content that leaves skin well hydrated and super soft. For lighter moisture, EO’s Body Lotions are light, absorb quickly and provide good moisture with no oily film, and come in both scented (naturally of course) and unscented options.
All Purpose: Tay’s All Purpose Shea Butter is more of a balm or butter than a cream, and it’s all-purpose applicability, amazing rosemary scent and purity makes it a good pick for face, body and hair. Of course, you can use your facial oils on your body as well, but covering that much surface area with the aforementioned liquid gold can get a little spendy. I like to combine NOW’s Apricot Kernel Oil and Avocado Oil for an after bath body oil, and coconut oil is always a great DIY kitchen cabinet option.
For those of you who don’t struggle with dry skin or who happen to live in some lush tropical climate who’s high humidity levels and warm air keep your skin well moisturized all year long, I’m sure you have your own set of skin challenges. Perhaps we’ll talk oily skin solutions next. Here’s to finding balanced, happy skin somewhere in between!
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Image: Valokuvaaja Joonas Tikkanen