When winter sets in, instinct tells us to hunker down and crank up the heat. But this quest for warmth brings on another set of problems. Not only does the air outside parch our skin, indoor heating toasts it dry. Add a penchant for long, hot showers that wash away protective oils, and you've got a recipe for dryness and flakes.
Dry, cold air batters your exposed face, causing inflammation, redness, and sensitivity. Since detergents in soap strip skin of protective natural oils, use a mild, milky cleanser. With your skin slightly damp, moisturize with a thick cream at night and a lighter lotion in the morning. Look for facial products with anti-inflammatory herbs like calendula, and avoid ones with alcohol and synthetic preservatives, fragrances, and coloring, as these can cause dryness and irritation. Exfoliate with a natural scrub (like sugar) to slough off dull skin, and use a hydrating mask once or twice a week.
Thin skin and lack of oil leaves lips naturally dry and extra vulnerable. Seasonal congestion often forces you to breathe through your mouth, which leads to chapping. Licking your lips when they're dry makes matters worse, since evaporating saliva can cause cracks. Before going outside or hitting the sack, apply a waxy balm to lock in moisture and protect against evaporation. By day, use a creamy or oily lip treatment with mainly edible ingredients (since you'll be ingesting much of what you put on your lips). Avocado, olive, or soybean soften and soothe, while vitamin A-rich shea butter promotes healing.
Long, hot showers and harsh soaps zap natural moisture that's already in short supply due to the weather. Heavily perfumed fabric softeners and chemical-laden laundry detergents clinging to your clothes can also aggravate parched skin. Instead, take warm rather than hot showers, and use a mild body wash with soothing ingredients like aloe vera. After patting your skin dry (never rub), apply a thick moisturizer, such as shea butter, while skin is still damp to seal in moisture. (Edible oils like coconut and organic olive oil work, too.) Use fragrance- and dye-free laundry detergents and avoid fabric softeners. Ease intense itching with a cool compress.
Apply moisturizers a few times a day. For maximum effectiveness, apply products after washing your face or taking a shower and when skin is still wet to lock in moisture. Ingredients such as petrolatum and silicone will help form a barrier against the elements. Whatever product you use during warmer months, go thicker: If you apply a lotion in the summer, get a cream for the winter. If you use a cream, upgrade to an ointment or emollient base. If you have eczema or psoriasis and are using a topical medication, ask your dermatologist to switch you to a thicker formulation for the winter months.
Because of their creamy consistency, body butters may take a few minutes longer than lotion to be fully absorbed, but the result is worth the wait -- even rough spots, like elbows and knees, stay soft throughout the day. And for cracked, scaly skin -- so common during fall and winter -- a good body butter delivers relief no regular lotion can match. For maximum impact, apply it when skin is still slightly damp from bathing, which will seal in the moisture. Take advantage of the fact that body butters linger on the skin and gently massage your arms and legs, using long strokes to work in the cream. Good body butters should be thick but not overly greasy; look for products that contain skin-nourishing herbs like lavender and calendula, vitamins C and E, aloe, and other naturally soothing ingredients.
Stop the itch and scratch of eczema with these naturally skin-soothing remedies, courtesy of naturopathic doctor Evie Katahdin.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Often deficient in those suffering with eczema, omega-3s can calm the skin with their anti-inflammatory action. In addition to eating fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel) at least twice a week, take 3 grams of omega-3s in supplement form daily.
A liver tonic, this daisy-family plant also fights off bacteria (particularly helpful for the infection-prone skin of people with eczema). To make burdock tea, simmer 3 grams of dried root in 1 cup water for 5 to 10 minutes; strain and drink 3 times daily. Or take 1 to 2 teaspoons of tincture 3 times daily.
Calendula and Chamomile
When applied topically, both botanicals moisturize while subduing inflammation. After soaking in a tepid bath for 20 minutes, rub inflamed areas with a calendula-chamomile salve or lotion, available at natural-foods stores.
Exposure to the elements, coupled with frequent washing to ward off seasonal germs, leaves hands dry and chapped. Boot-clad feet end up cracked and sore -- and the closed environment provides a hospitable place for fungus to grow. To counter these conditions, always pat hands dry and apply hand cream after washing them; wear gloves when you do the dishes. For intensive treatment, use heavy creams containing shea butter before going to bed to help repair cracks. For feet, try a balm with peppermint or tea tree oil at night to fight fungus, and cover your feet with cotton socks. Consider soaking feet in an Epsom salt solution once a week.
Cold feet are one of winter's most annoying -- and common -- afflictions. Don't plunge them into a hot bath, which can dry the skin. Instead, cover your tootsies into a rich blend of warm, wintry spices. Cayenne, cinnamon, and ginger are all circulation boosters and mild stimulants. Applied topically, they increase blood flow, relieving chill and numbness. Use them to make a simple foot mask, which combines spices, skin-soothing ingredients such as oatmeal and honey, and the invigorating essence of orange.
Almond, olive, grapeseed, coconut, and palmarosa are all natural oils that trap water inside the skin. When applied after a bath or shower, they dramatically decrease water loss. Plus, they make skin feel velvety. Try them alone or look for them as key ingredients in creams. For very dry skin that needs a serious moisture boost, look for hyaluronic acid (sodium hyaluronate), which is drawn deep into the epidermis where it keeps skin cells plumped.
Nominate your favorite products and you could win a trip to the Miraval Resort and Spa!Enter Now