Winter & Cold Tips
Winter can be a fun time of year, but it also has its challenges ... especially where skin care is concerned! Beyond drastic temperature changes from outdoors to indoors, there can also be extreme fluctuations in humidity levels. Although it's not so much dry-cold air that can be the main culprit as much as the dry-warm air emitted from some indoor heating systems. In other words, our skin requires protection whether we are indoors or outdoors in the winter!

Here are some tips to help your skin flourish even through the winter months. There are some key things we can do to protect our skin in the winter. First, and foremost, protection from the elements is most important. But, it doesn't stop there ... let's take a look at what our skin is up against in cold weather and what we can do to help it.

Dry conditions abound during winter months, which can be extremely stressful to your skin. If humidity outside is low, your skin can become dry and flaky, but this problem compounds when indoor environments are made even drier from many types of indoor heating. All of this can dehydrate your skin ... your eyes and forehead may feel tight, your lips chapped, or back, shoulders, and arms itchy. When this happens, your skin doesn't feel well and your overall health can be affected. So, it's very important to take special care of your skin during cold weather, as your immune system needs to be in "tip-top" shape in order to keep you well so you can do the things you enjoy.

Indoors, the use of a humidifier, which emits moisture into the surrounding air, can help counteract the drying effects of some indoor heating systems, especially forced-air heating, which decreases the humidity greatly. When this type of situation "zaps" the moisture from your skin, wrinkles will appear to be more prominent, which is where hydration comes in ... to "plump up" the skin, making it feel and look healthy again.

Keeping your body hydrated is also important, which means drinking fluids throughout the day ... juice, tea, cider, and water are best. The use of hydrating mists, including hydrosols and botanicals, such as aloe vera, can keep skin nourished and moistened. A lotion or cream applied afterward is very beneficial, as it helps to seal in the layer of moisture. Of note ... many toners may contain rubbing alcohol, isopropyl, which is very drying to the skin, so best to avoid.

However, although it's important to prevent moisture loss, the ingredients in your lotion should be non-comedogenic, meaning that it won't clog pores. Skin needs to "breathe" and smothered skin can become irritated skin, or even worse, infected skin. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that comodogenic ingredients may be part of their skin problem, which is a very "simple fix" and not the big problem they believe it to be. So it's important to read ingredient labels.

Some ingredients in face creams that are known to be comedogenic, are ones that are often referred to as "occlusive emollients" ... they make the skin feel silky, although this feeling is created by a "film" upon the skin. Some of these emollients are fatty acid alcohols ... they are not all detrimental to use, but some of them can be, depending upon your skin. A handful of them are: cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, isopropyl myristate, isocetyl stearate, and isopropyl isostearate. The list goes on, but these are some common ones. Also, ingredients such as cocoa butter, red seaweed known as astaxanthin, lanolin, and wheat germ oil can also clog pores. Others to avoid are mineral oil, petroleum jelly, and vegetable shortening, which create such a thick barrier that the skin is unable to "breathe," which smothers the skin. The ability of skin to eliminate toxins through the pores is vital to its health, and comedogenic substances can inhibit this natural process. This alone is a good reason to stay away from using products that can clog your skin. It's also a good idea to go easy on any foundation make-up that can clog pores, as it too has a way of trapping toxins rather than protecting.

Also, to keep skin in healthy condition, it's important to use mild soaps, as these will help your skin retain its natural oil content. Soaps that contain olive oil, for instance, cleanse your skin without stripping it of its protective natural oils. As for moisturizers, if they contain natural oils, you're likely to find that they are not comedogenic, allowing moisture to penetrate the skin and toxins to escape.

Encouraging new skin cells to emerge can be accomplished through gentle exfoliation. Fine sugars and jojoba beads, for instance, exfoliate, but are not radically abrasive. So, they make the skin soft, assisting the skin to renew itself, without causing irritation. Some scrubs can be too coarse, especially for delicate skin, such as "cleansing grains," or salt scrubs, which can also dry the skin. These are often best left for foot or body scrubs. Also, scrubs that include beneficial oils and butters are especially useful during the wintertime. Always remember to use a facial toner afterward and apply a bit of lotion or cream. If you have oily skin, the use of an oil-rich mild scrub may suffice.

Sun protection is important all year round, so remember to take precautions, such as wearing a hat or other sun protection, especially under snow covered conditions.

A hat and scarf also helps to defend your face and neck from the elements, which is very important. If the sun is shining on the snow, these really need to be considered, as the ultraviolet rays bouncing off of the snow can penetrate your skin, so similar precautions for summer sun protection are good to keep in mind even if it's cold out.

To protect from the wind, ointments or heavier creams which have a high oil content work well against the elements. For instance, lip balms that include, castor oil, nut butters, and beeswax, create a heavy barrier of natural protection. These types of heavy oils can also be used on the face, such as around the eyes overnight, and many of them do not clog pores. To prevent lips from chapping, always protect with a layer of lip balm. If you wear lipstick, you may wish to first apply a lip balm, followed by your lipstick or gloss. This will offer your lips full protection ... if you do not wear lipstick, either a ointment-type lip balm topped with a gloss (if desired) is a good idea, as a heavier "waxy type" of balm will stay in place longer than a gloss used alone normally does.

Protecting hands from the cold air and low humidity plays an important role in preventing flare-ups. Make sure the gloves are made from material that does not irritate your skin. If hands are very weary of the cold, try wearing layers of protection.

And, be careful around fireplaces ... although it may feel good for a few minutes to warm your hands next to the fire, remember that this can really bake the moisture right out of your skin, and has the potential of drying it out in a very serious way. When skin is so dry as to begin crack, the use of heavy ointments or creams made with natural oils and butters can be of great benefit. The only thing is that ointments and heavy creams can tend to feel a bit waxy on the skin ... in this case, if used on the hands, for example, simply dust some face powder or mineral face powder (which includes arrowroot powder and cornstarch) onto the area after applying the ointment ... this will lessen the waxy feel, as well as any shine from the oil and create a smooth feeling. This method can also be upon your face, if needed.

Where clothing is concerned, some people have problems when wearing heavy clothing in regard to perspiration, which can cause an itching cycle as the skin overheats and then dries out, so wearing layers of clothing which do not rest closely to the skin can aid in this area, as well as allowing you to remove layers of clothing, if needed, during warmer parts of your day. Also, wearing cotton undergarments can help, as the fibers draw the moisture away from your skin, and the acts as a barrier between you and your sweater.

Some other things you can do to help your skin through the cold weather is to take fewer showers than you normally do, as water, especially very warm water, can dry out your skin. Seal in moisture with the use of a bath oil, oil-infused bath salts, or an after-bath body milk or lotion. For showers, a large plastic tumbler can serve as a way to dissolve bath salts or oil for a final splash before exit ... just remember to rinse that shower very well, as it can become slippery very easily. And, when doing housework, always wear a pair of rubber gloves to keep your hands out of water and away from any detergents as much as possible.

And, let's not forget our feet! The use of a pumice stone can greatly help, and if your feet are very dry, you may wish to apply a heavy cream before bed, under a pair of socks. Just purchase some pretty socks to wear for this and it won't feel so goofy!

We hope some of these ideas will help you through the winter with flying colors ... one more thing that can help greatly is a bit of steam on the face, whether you place your face safely over a bowl of hot water, purchase a facial steamer, or simply allow your mug of herbal tea to float some steam up onto your face ... every little bit of moisture helps!

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