Protect your skin and prevent winter dryness with this easy skin care regimen…
Icy sidewalks, high-energy bills and failing car batteries are all to be expected during the winter season. But, here’s another cold fact: Your skin can suffer during the colder months, too, and, if left neglected, can begin to look like, and feel like, that proverbial dried-out fruit cake still in the box. Fortunately, a few simple precautions and initiating an easy skin care regimen can make all the difference in fending off winter’s worst skin woes.
Loss of moisture is the most evident problem for skin in winter. For the most part, this is due to a drop-off of humidity in your environment, depriving your skin of the ability to retain moisture. Outdoors, cold temperatures and drying winds do their part to lower humidity; indoors, arid central heating is the main culprit. Couple these issues with the fact that your skin produces less oil as you age, and it’s easy to understand how your skin can quickly become prone to dehydration. According to Lisa Stanford of the Green Beauty Guide, not only can this process lead to itchy, flaking skin, but it can become severe enough to leave you vulnerable to infection as well.
YOUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
The very first thing to consider for your skin during the winter months is how you clean it. Forget about harsh soaps and using very hot water; both of these will only strip away What natural oils you have and rob your skin of moisture even more. Instead, start and end each day by washing your face with a glycerin or vegetable-based cleanser. You’ll feel clean and avoid that feeling of tightness often produced by many detergent-type soaps.
Warm, not hot, baths or showers are better for your skin, especially during the winter season. Hot water doesn’t get you any cleaner and it strips the natural lubricating oils from your skin. Actually, soaking in a tub of warm water (90 degrees Fahrenheit or less) for about 10 minutes a day is the best form of bathing. For one thing, people tend to use hotter water when showering and, for another, the action of resting, not standing, in warm water is therapeutic in itself as a form of hydrotherapy. After bathing, always apply a moisturizing lotion or light off while your skin is still damp and gently pat skin dry with a soft towel.
If you work in a profession that calls for frequent hand washing, use a vegetable-based liquid soap that gently cleanses without over-drying. Follow up with a non-greasy moisturizer after each washing to prevent getting that “dish pan hands” look and feel.
NOT ALL MOISTURIZERS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Be careful about the moisturizers you choose to apply to your face and body. Many brands contain agents that can actually be damaging to skin or present other health hazards. For instance, the ingredients propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate (only one chemical bond removed from anti-freeze) are commonly found in many skin care products but are definite skin irritants. Petroleum-derived products (such as mineral off) merely adhere to the surface of the skin and actually form a barrier to moisture rather than help to retain it. Incidentally, glycerin, although often used in natural products to bind with with water molecules, can have the same effect by drawing existing moisture from the skin to the surface. So, when considering using a moisturizer that contains glycerin, make sure that it’s only listed as the fourth or fifth ingredient and preceded by a vegetable-based oil.
Other potential dangers exist in the combination of certain ingredients often found in moisturizers. Isopropyl myristate, a fatty compound used as an emollient and lubricant, and known to clog pores, has a suspected cancer-causing effect when combined with either di- or tri-ethanolamine to form the nitrate compound “n-nitrosodiethanlamine.” Diethanolamine is sometimes listed as “DEA” on the product label. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) National Toxicology Program (NTP) is looking into how much DEA is in cosmetics.
Look for natural ingredients that will help to retain moisture and protect your skin from environmental hazards, such as wind and sun. Some of the most favorable include wheat germ oil, shea butter (derived from the fruit of the Karite tree), lecithin (sometimes obtained from animal sources, but usually from soybeans), horsetail extract, carrot oil, green tea, farnesol (obtained from flowers), panthenol (a pro-vitamin B derivative), hyaluronic acid (a humectant occurring naturally in human skin), and other botanical extracts.
TONING AND EXFOLIATING WINTER SKIN
Using a toner, especially at night, will help to clear away excess grime and makeup. However, make sure that you use one that is formulated for your skin type and doesn’t contain drying ingredients, such as ethyl alcohol. If you have predominantly oily skin throughout the seasons, opt for a toner that contains witch hazel, instead. Other desirable ingredients for your toner might include extracts of chamomile, aloe vera, calendula or rose, among others. Another less well-known ingredient that acts as an emollient and humectant is sorbitol, a sugar-like crystalline derived from certain fruits, such as apples, pears and cherries.
Exfoliating your skin periodically to encourage new cell growth and a Smooth texture is just as important in winter as in summer, but you may wish to take a different approach. In summer, skin tends to be oilier in response to higher temperatures and humidity and can better tolerate “gritty” scrubs. But, in winter, usually less off is produced and skin responds better to a hydroxy product. Alpha-hydroxy lotions are like a natural chemical peel (obtained from fruits), only they are much more gentle on skin. If your skin tends to be dry, or is very sensitive, you can use a beta-hydroxy product instead, which is even milder.
PROTECT YOURSELF WHEN OUTDOORS
Although your bathing suit and sun block may have been packed away months ago, you still need to be concerned about sun damage to your skin during the winter months. Sunlight may not feel as intense during the winter as it does in the summer, but there is still a risk associated with photo-aging and melanoma-producing UV rays. While it’s true that there are less UVB rays (those that cause initial sunburn and damage the uppermost layer of skin) reaching the earth’s surface during the winter months, UVA rays (dubbed the “silent killers”) are still very much in force. Therefore, it is essential that whether you choose to wear a daily daytime moisturizer, or a tinted foundation, that it contains an SPF of 15 to 30. This goes for your lips too, which should be generously covered with an SPF-containing balm whenever outdoors.
Protecting your skin from the sun is especially important if you participate in outdoor sports in the winter, like skiing. At higher elevations, the sun is even stronger, and its rays are reflected back onto your skin from the snow-covered ground — sort of a double whammy! Take special care to use a sun block on all exposed areas of skin when engaged in winter sports or any activity that keeps you outdoors for a prolonged length of time. You can also apply a zinc-oxide ointment that not only shields your skin from UV rays, but forms a barrier against harsh wind as well.
Your body should also be protected from winter elements to prevent “winter itch” skin. Whether you’re training for an Olympic event or just tossing a few snowballs with the kids, you’ll stay warm and protected if you dress in multiple layers. This is especially important for young children, who usually insist on playing outdoors long after their parents have turned into frosty snowmen.
Looking out for yourself with these sensible precautions and using the best, natural skin care products will ensure that you’ll feel good in your skin this winter season and beyond. And, in combination with a balanced diet and adequate exercise, you can make dry winter skin a New Year’s tradition of the past.