Between the cold, dry air outside and the furnace-heated air inside, practically everyone is affected in some way by the extremely low humidity and harsh, cold winds characteristic of winter. Nosebleeds, scratchy throats, static electricity and itchy, dry skin are common concerns. Caring for our "winter skin" can really be a challenge this time of year.
People in general prefer the feeling of a relative humidity level of 40-60%. However, did you know if we kept that level of humidity inside our homes in winter, we would be way over-humidifying our home and seeing the buildup of condensation or frost on our windows, not to mention hidden dangers of mold, mildew, rot, etc. This is because cold air can't hold as much moisture as warm air. (For more information on appropriate levels of indoor humidity relative to the outside temperature, see this link at Home Energy Resource MN)
Given this fact that cold winter air is just plain dryer no matter what, caring for our "winter skin" can really be a challenge this time of year. So let's take a look at some cold weather skin tips and see just what we can do to deal with this challenge.
- Switch formulas. If you typically use a normal or oily formula, consider switching to the normal or dry formula for winter.
- Choose a gentle, mild cleanser. Strong, preservatives and harsh, artificial surfactants (to create an abundance of lather) can irritate and over-strip your face (check out My Daily Grains which is a gentle, 100% natural cleanser).
- Try cleansing once daily at night only. I know this can be a challenge to those of you who are in the habit of washing in the morning or twice daily, but his way you will still be removing the day's makeup, dirt, and excess oil. Then just splash warm water on your face in the morning, followed by a final cool splash to calm your skin and shrink your pores. If you feel you still must cleanse with something, try swirling a small amount of your moisturizer between your fingertips an using it as a "cleanser" on your dampened face and rinsing as above.
- (Again), switch formulas. While it is still important to tone your face to ensure the return of your skin's pH level to its preferred acid mantle state, switching to the next heaviest formula may help for winter.
- Choose a natural, gentle, alcohol-free toner. Alcohol can be very drying to the skin and even if you have oily skin do not use alcohol-based toners. You may think you're fighting the excess oil this way, but in essence, you are over-stripping your skin, causing your brain to send a signal to just make more oil! A toner like Tone Up Time is gentle, pH balanced and alcohol-free.
- Spray on with a mister or splash on with your hands. You can opt out of the cotton ball/pad method of application for winter if blemishes aren't too much of a concern for you this time of year.
- Switch formulas. As above, you may be able to get the help you need by just switching to a heavier formula. Make sure you use a quality moisturizer (like Go Green Tea), that doesn't contain silicone oils that although go on nice and slick initially, are unable to penetrate your skin. And remember, even if you have oily skin, you still need to moisturize, especially in winter. You won't win the battle against your body's natural mechanism to keep a healthy, protective amount of oil.
- Use more/often. This one maybe goes without saying, but people are creatures of habit and sometimes we get stuck doing things the same way day after day (season after season). Remember the amount that works for our skin at temps above 80 degrees is different than the amount that works at 50, 20, 0 or -10 degrees due to the differences in relative humidity. I'm using about 3-4 times the amount now than I do on a hot, humid summer day (when I use a fraction of the amount plus dilute it down with water in my hand)! If you're bummed about the increased cost, just tell yourself it all evens out when summertime comes back around and you can use so much less!
- Boost with facial serum. A high quality facial serum like Damage Control can give just the boost of protection and relief your skin needs by patting on a light layer over face/dry areas before applying your moisturizer.
- Avoid hot water. Resist the urge in these frigid temperatures to crank the hot water nozzle up a notch and linger too long in the balmy paradise you've created in your bath or shower. Hot water removes more of your skin's natural oils and the longer we're exposed, the greater the drying effect.
- Choose a gentle, mild cleanser. While we like the idea of killing off any kind of bug that might potentially threaten to take us down in this cold/flu season the experts say antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap and water and very likely hazardous in the long run (see this Mayo Clinic article for more info). I can just about 100% guarantee I will break out with an angry, itchy patch of eczema on my hands just by using antibacterial or some other harsh soap. So personally, I only use a high quality, handcrafted soap which is usually made without the harsh surfactants included in commercial brands. Plus they are typically made with higher levels of quality oils, helping to keep my skin better lubricated.
- "Squeaky-clean" = Over-stripped. I know what you're thinking...I too was taught to lather, rinse and repeat until I squeaked. Well that "squeak" is the sound of every bit of natural oil being stripped right out of your skin. Practice trying to find that balance between just getting the lather off and "squeaking". Then the oils in that quality handcrafted soap won't be wasted by being completely rinsed away and can provide some benefit to your skin. This goes for your hair too. Don't completely rinse away all the nice oils your conditioner just put in, leaving your hair dry and your scalp itchy and even flaky.
- Only use soap on the "necessary" parts. Your whole body doesn't probably need to be soaped up, especially in winter. Even the good soap can be drying, so save it for those really dirty parts (you know, like hands, armpits, genital area, visible dirt).
- Moisturize immediately after washing. Lightly pat dry and slather a good quality moisturizer on as soon as possible to lock in that precious moisture before the dry winter air evaporates it. Again, opt for a moisturizer with high quality natural oils to keep your skin smooth and protected for hours. In summer I can get away with applying moisturizer every few days, but in winter I apply Candy Cream or Second Skin daily to my whole body to effectively ward off itchy eczema flare ups.
- Use a skin balm on exposed, chapped skin. If you can't avoid exposure to cold, dry, windy outside air for prolonged periods, you can give your skin an ultra boost of protection with an all-natural skin balm like Rescue Balm. Apply a thin layer before or after exposure by swirling a small amount between your fingertips and lightly patting onto exposed, chapped areas as needed.
I remember one February when my daughter was 3 months old and I took her to the pediatrician for a rash that had developed all over her body. Although I used soap sparingly on her, the doctor told me she was dry and needed moisturizer! I wanted to use something natural, organic and gentle, so I bought Burt's Bees buttermilk lotion for babies, but the scent was so strong and stinky it made me sick and then she broke out from that too! I sure wish I had Candy Cream for her back then; I use it now on her after every bath from head to toe and she loves it.
Well I hope you found some helpful nuggets of information here. Now don't be shy, tell me what you think of this article or share some of your own tips.
(Go to skinkissednaturals.com website)