We are in the depth of winter and I wonder if you, like me, are experiencing a whole lot of dry skin? I’m glad I have quite a lot of tools on hand to help, because this desert dwelling mama knows a bit about how the dry winter air can suck the moisture right out of ya!
Each season brings its own beauty and challenges. As the seasons change, so do our body’s needs and hence so should our self-care. Learning to care for our bodies in relation to the seasons can be very helpful. Winter is a time for drawing inward, relaxing, reflecting, and learning. When it comes to our bodies, winter, for many of us is mainly about hydration and bringing forth warmth.
Since we all experience winter and I’ve learned a thing or two about how to care for skin during the cold months, I have compiled some information here for you. Read on, my friend.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Staying hydrated is the number one most important goal for winter, and for any time of year for that matter. Hydration is the most important element to maintaining healthy skin and it is also extremely necessary for the rest of your body. Our bodies are made mostly of water, but the dry winter months can cause that water to leave our bodies quicker than we would like. When not properly hydrated we are more prone to headaches, nausea, dry mouth, dry eyes, and dry skin.
Aim for 1/2 your body weight in ounces each day. So a 120 Lb. person would aim for 60 oz. of water per day. Adding a pinch of sea salt, real salt, or Himalayan salt will help you absorb more of the water and give you trace minerals.
Another great way to stay hydrated is with herbal teas. I have a cold constitution, so personally I love warming teas like chai, cinnamon, ginger, etc. in the winter. Moistening, mucilaginous herbs like marshmallow root and licorice are also beneficial for winter months because they coat dry mucous membranes.
Soak Up Some Steam
I love using herbal face steams in the winter to take care of my skin. Bonus– face steams can also have a beneficial effect on our sinuses. In most places, the winter air is extremely drying. Steam can help replenish some of our skin’s lost moisture through our pores.
Not only does steam hydrate the skin, it also promotes circulation, it’s cleansing, it can release acne-causing bacteria, it can release trapped sebum, and it’s easy and affordable!
My favorite way to do a face steam is to grab a big heat proof bowl and a towel big enough to cover my head and bowl. I place a small handful of herbs into the bowl, and then pour some boiling water over the herbs. Carefully (don’t want to get burned) put your head over the bowl and put the towel over your head to trap in the steam. Relax as the steam warms your face and take some deep breaths for the added benefit to the sinuses! Raise or lower your head for more or less heat and lift a corner of the towel to cool off if needed. Steaming for 5 to 10 minutes is usually a good amount of time.
A few of my favorite herbs for face steams are:
I have a packet of dried, organically grown herbs from our homestead available in the shop. These herbs – Rosemary, Eucalyptus, and Sage – are wonderful for sinuses and also wonderful for your skin!
Humidify The Air
If the air in your home is extremely dry, you may benefit from a humidifier. There are many different types, ranging from inexpensive $20 models to hundreds of dollars.
Keep in mind, if you have a humidifier in your home, it is important to clean it often to prevent mold and bacteria from growing on it. For people with mold sensitivities or asthma, a humidifier may not be the right option.
Ditch the Soap
Have you tried oil cleansing? Instead of using a soap based cleanser, you may want to try cleansing your face with oil instead. Does that sound counter-intuitive? Many of us have been taught that oil is bad for our skin and can cause break-outs but that’s not necessarily true. Here’s the deal…
Like dissolves like, so oil dissolves oil. While we typically think of soap as being the way to remove makeup, dirt, and grime, oil actually has the ability to dissolve sebum and oil, thereby replacing dirty oil with beneficial ones. Oil cleansing can actually clear the skin of issues like oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, acne, blackheads, and more, when done correctly! (This is a big topic and I’ll have to write up a new post about the different types of oils and how they affect our skin).
Soap based cleansers actually strip your skin of its beneficial oils and can leave you dry and irritated. What’s more, they can actually disrupt your skin’s microbiome, causing more problems in the long run.
To oil cleanse:
- With hands over the sink, pour about a quarter size amount of your chosen oil blend into your hand and massage it into your unwashed skin, without wetting your face first. Massage for a minute or two, leaving the oil on your skin for up to 10 minutes.
- Saturate a clean cloth with very hot water and wring it out. Open it and place it over your face, creating steam against the skin, leaving it on for about a minute until it cools. You can repeat this with the other side of the washcloth and then use another cloth or the corners of that one to remove any remaining oil. The thin layer of oil that remains on the skin is beneficial.
- After your skin has adjusted to this cleansing method, you may not need any moisturizers, but if you still have dry skin try using a botanical face oil that contains other beneficial properties, face butter, or another moisturizer.
Note: Some people have an adjustment period when they first start oil cleansing where they notice more acne and eruptions surfacing. This can be part of the process where your skin is eliminating unwanted bacteria and dirt from your pores. It usually takes about a week or two for your skin to adjust. It’s best to resist using harsh soaps or facial cleansers during this time.
Enjoy Face Oils
Just as was mentioned about with the oil cleansing method, face oils can be extremely beneficial to winter skin. You may be able to use a face oil alone or add it as an extra layer of protection over a cream or lotion. I love first spraying my face with a hydrosol (rose is my fave) and then applying a face oil to help seal in that moisture.
Face oils do not contain their own moisture, but they do act to retain the water that has already been put into the skin. Face oils also help protect against free radicals, sun, and environmental toxins.
I have formulated three different face oils, all with unique properties. Each of these oils contains skin-nourishing botanicals that go far beyond a plain carrier oil. You may want to try my Elevate Ritual Oil if you need a little pick me up in the morning and love the scent of orange blossoms, or my Unwind Evening Face Oil if you could use a little extra soothing touch before bedtime, or my Harmonize Face Oil if you have sun damaged skin or acne.
All of the skin moisturizing techniques above are helpful, but if you don’t do them often enough you may still end up with dry skin and it’s easier to prevent a problem than it is to fix it. Prevention is the best medicine!
I like to make moisturizing a part of my daily rituals. I moisturize my skin in the AM as part of my morning ritual, and in the PM as part of my evening ritual. But I also love carrying a small bottle of hydrosol or mist in my purse or backpack to use throughout the day. It feels so good to mist your face and the aroma can be a wonderful sensorial grounding technique.
Pay attention to other parts of your body as well!! My hands are constantly in use and keeping them soft and supple is a challenge. Between washing dishes and digging in the garden, they suffer quite a bit of abuse. My go-to for my hands is Hand Jam, which was actually originally designed for rock-climbers but gardeners, crafters, and anyone who uses their hands a lot or struggles with dry hands will also benefit the same! Hand Jam is also wonderful for dry, cracked feet!
Dry skin can accumulate on the surface as flakey, dead skin cells which actually block new moisture from being absorbed into your skin. We know that skin cells dehydrate faster during the winter months, and shedding these old skin cells will allow new ones to develop and also allow more moisture back into your skin.
Don’t go crazy here, but exfoliating once or twice a week is a wonderful practice to give yourself more glow and allow moisture to better penetrate into your skin.
I love using powdered cleansers for exfoliating, like my Green Goddess Match Mint Cleanser (which also gives you a fresh feel and is loaded with antioxidants). If your skin is particularly dry, you can even add this powder to your oil in your cleansing routine once a week to prevent it from being overly drying. Or add it to yogurt or honey!
Eat For Healthy Skin
Our food may not be the first thing we think about when it comes to healthy, hydrated skin but our skin needs certain nutrients to maintain health, just like the rest of our body. Healthy foods, including healthy fats, work on a cellular level to keep your skin smooth and supple.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one skin-loving nutrient to look for because they help your skin to retain moisture, strengthen your skin’s barrier and help the body control the inflammatory process. Some of the foods highest in Omega 3’s are seafood (especially tuna, sardines, and salmon), walnuts, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, soybeans, chia seeds, tempeh and flax seed, grass-fed butter, and raspberries.
Nuts and seeds also have high amounts of Vitamin E which helps to protect the skin from oxidative cell damage and external damage from UV rays.
Avocados are also rich in Vitamin E and other antioxidants, but also monounsaturated fats which help keep the skin moist and reduce inflammation.
Beta-carotene-rich foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, and winter squash, contain a great deal of Vitamin A which is one of the most important nutrients for preventing dry skin!
Vegetables that have a high water content and are silica-rich, like cucumbers, celery, grapes, bell peppers, and spinach, will help increase moisture in your skin and improve elasticity.
I hope you stay well, hydrated, and healthy this winter and all year long. Stay tuned for more seasonal wellness tips to come!