by Priscilla Selgas
No matter how much we moisturize our skin in the winter, it still feels dry. We experiment with a variety of lotions, creams and ointments but they do little to change skin. Frustratingly, even the more expensive moisturizers don’t work the way we expect. When skin is dry and scaly, it makes it difficult for oils and lotions to penetrate. Exfoliating skin is a great way to remove that superficial layer of dead skin and allows new skin cells to surface so they can actually absorb hydrating moisturizers.
The reason skin is so dry during the winter is the lack of humidity in the air. Investing in a humidifier and placing one in the office and at home can help bring moisture to indoor spaces. Despite warm weather or the frigid outdoors, the skin consistently adapts to climate change. It breathes, stretches, contracts and absorbs everything we put on it. Cold climates can be brutal on the skin and cause it to dry out. Therefore, it’s important to keep it hydrated and moisturized.
“Dry skin is unavoidable during the winter season,” says Renee LeMasney, of Remarle Natural Skin Care, in Doylestown. “Reveal a new layer of skin by exfoliating with a natural sugar scrub, then immediately after use an emollient crème to seal in moisture,” she recommends. “This can and should be done on the lips, face, body and feet.”
Throughout the cold winter months, weather-beaten hair needs attentive moisturizing. Restore hair with a weekly deep conditioning treatment. Use one tablespoon of coconut oil, one ripe avocado (mashed) and one tablespoon of olive oil. Mix into a smooth paste and apply to hair from root to tip. Tie hair up neatly and leave in for one hour. Thoroughly rinse out the hair treatment and finish with a hydrating shampoo and conditioner to lock in moisture.
The drying, scaling and cracking of tender lips can be uncomfortable and painful, making it difficult to smile and talk. Harsh weather conditions and excessive lip licking all contribute to parched lips. Saliva consists of enzymes that aid in digestion, not the hydration of lips. Shea butter, coconut oil and a good lip balm are all very soothing to dried-out lips. A simple sugar scrub rubbed in a circular motion can help remove dry dead skin around the mouth. Mix one teaspoon of sugar with a little olive oil or almond oil into a paste and gently work that in. Apply an SPF 15 lip balm or moisturizer every two hours to keep lips happy.
Piercing cold temperatures can leave skin feeling raw and dry. Protect the face and skin this winter by bundling up with hats, scarves, earmuffs and gloves. Use heavier creams and oils like avocado oil, coconut oil or shea butter for especially dry areas such as elbows, knees and feet. Avoid long hot showers. Though tempting in the depth of winter, hot water can strip the epidermis of natural, skin-protecting oils.
While in the shower, don’t forget to exfoliate. Exfoliating with a dry brush or loofah sponge helps slough away layers of dead skin and makes room for new, healthy skin. It also opens the pores, allowing the skin to drink up much needed moisturizers. “The concept of moisturizing begins with water and is then fortified and sealed in with hydrating moisturizers,” says Carrie Wiedemann, of Bellabaci. “I find a delightful treatment to be the ritual of dry brushing with upward strokes to the heart, then using pure oils (sesame seed, grape seed or organic coconut oil), massaged into the skin, followed by a shower.” Furthermore, when selecting a topical moisturizer, look for ingredients that are pure and natural. Avoid products that contain petroleum, fragrances or chemicals.
To ease itchy skin, coat in a soothing layer of coconut oil and aloe vera. To prevent sunburn while outdoors, apply sunscreen every two hours to face, hands and any exposed skin. For sunburned or wind-burned skin, two drops of pure lavender essential oil along with aloe vera will help relieve the stinging. Candy St. Martine-Pack, of Green Street Luxuries, in Lansdale, adds, “Skin is more vulnerable to wind and sun burn, so use a total sun block with zinc. This is the only natural mineral that blocks UVA and UVB rays. SPFs do not and are chemically based.”
Nutrition also plays a key role in keeping skin vibrant. Lou Farrell, of Fresh Fun Foods, in Hatfield, recommends eating “lots of fruits and vegetables, simply prepared,” which he says is important for keeping skin looking great. “I always kept a bushy aloe plant in my kitchen to help moisturize my hands. Also, many chefs will rub light olive oil on their hands and arms at the end of a shift,” he shares.
Above all, be sure to drink enough water. Meenal Patel, of Healing Your Way, advocates plenty of fluids including flaxseed tea this winter tide. “Hair, skin and nails are the first to show outward signs of deficiency or weakened immune system.”
Cathy Windland, of Inner Spa, in Newtown, agrees. “Drink plenty of water each day—at least half your body weight in ounces.” She has several tips she typically gives clients, including, “Use a dry skin brush daily before you shower to get the lymph system moving as well as exfoliate the skin. Pay attention to your gut health so your immune system is responding properly. Use a good, organic moisturizer and exfoliator, as this is really food for your skin. Finally,” says Windland, “get plenty of rest so the body can replenish itself. When you take care of your body, your body will take care of you.”
DIY Body Scrub Recipes to Help Winter Skin
Lemon Rosemary Scrub
1 cup Epsom salt
½ cup grape seed oil
Zest of 1 lemon
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
5 drops lemon essential oil
Chai Sugar Scrub
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
4 chai tea bags (use the dry chai leaves)
½ cup coconut oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup ground coffee
1/3 cup Epsom salt
½ cup grape seed oil
½ tsp cinnamon
Orange Ginger Scrub
1 cup Epsom salt
½ cup jojoba, olive or almond oil
2 tsp fresh orange zest or 5 drops orange essential oil
3 drops ginger essential oil
Priscilla Selgas is a Licensed Massage Therapist and freelance writer in New Jersey and Florida. Her work includes backstage care at some of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s top rock venues and arenas providing therapeutic bodywork for bands and musicians. Connect with her at PennedByPriscilla@gmail.com. December 2014.