Winter is here. And if you're like many you may have the dry, flaky, irritated skin to prove it. What's to blame? While there are a few factors that contribute, extreme temperature fluctuations and low humidity levels are the main culprits.
Our skin is confronted with a combination of cold, often windy outdoor weather paired with the drying effects of circulated indoor heat. Not only that, but during cold weather it is often harder to stay on top of water intake; our body's thirst response is triggered by heat and perspiration. During the winter we may find ourselves going hours without drinking any water. Coffee yes, good old fashioned H2O...not so much. The result? The perfect recipe for dry, dehydrated, lackluster looking skin.
So how do we get the skin plumped back up with moisture and glowing again?
1. Hydrate from the inside out
While your first instinct may be to reach for a thicker moisturizer (while praying for a little miracle...) it is important to focus on internal hydration first and foremost. Our skin cells draw moisture and nutrients from within our body; no amount of moisturizer will correct chronic internal dehydration. Not a fan of plain water? Try making your own “spa” water with fresh fruit such as cucumber, citrus or berries, or even herbs such as basil, mint, lemon balm or rosemary. You can also add a few drops of therapeutic grade essential oils to your water such as lemon, orange, or peppermint, just make sure to use essential oils only with glass, never plastic (*see note below). Invest in a good glass or stainless steel water container if you don't already own one, and keep it with you so you can drink from it throughout the day. Make a goal of drinking a certain number of liters every day and stick with it.
Aside from water, we can also benefit from ingesting more healthy fats during the winter. Skin hydration is a continuous dance between water and oil. Oils will actually help lock in moisture (water), preventing dehydration, softening fine lines and wrinkles, and giving the skin a glow from the inside out. Pay special attention to superfoods rich with omega 3 fatty acids, which are amazing for the skin (and brain too!)
Here are a few awesome plant-based fat sources to nourish you inside and out:
- Hemp Seeds (also high in protein)
- Chia Seeds (a great source of omega 3)
- Raw Nut Butters
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Cold Pressed Oils such as Olive, Hemp, Coconut and Avocado
- Superfood Algae: Spirulina, Chlorella, and E3 Live (another great protein source for vegans)
- Grass fed butter
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Salmon and other oily fish
- Krill and fish oil
2. Stop, drop, and exfoliate
Our skin is in a constant state of renewal. Fresh, young skin cells move upwards to the surface before eventually becoming the outer most layer of our skin. In order for our topical products to do their job, we need to first exfoliate that layer of dead skin which functions as a barrier. Try utilizing an organic fruit enzyme or alpha hydroxy acid-based peel (such as glycolic or lactic acid) a few times per week to gently loosen dead skin and stimulate cell turnover and renewal. Stay away from scrubs as they often contain abrasive particles that may damage or irritate the skin. For the body, a dry skin brush is a wonderful, affordable option, and as a bonus, it also helps detox the body by stimulating the lymphatic system.
Winter is actually an ideal time to use more intensive exfoliation products, or exfoliate more often, due to the lack of UVB rays from the sun (the rays that cause sunburn). However, UVA rays are present all year round - even if overcast - and these are responsible for deeper sun damage and the breakdown of our collagen (think UVA – 'A' for aging). Be mindful and make sure your skin is protected with a natural, mineral-based sunscreen, and get plenty of antioxidants – both internally and topically.
3. Use a targeted, concentrated serum
To plump up skin cells quickly, water-binding serums, or gels, can do wonders. Look for ingredients such as aloe vera, algae extracts or plant based hyalouronic acid - all of which act as humectants, helping to bind water molecules to the skin for instant hydration.
Seal in the moisture with a more emollient, oil-based serum containing nutrient rich plant oils like sea buckthorn, rosehip seed oil, hemp oil, baobab oil, and/or argan oil. These oils are naturally rich with antioxidants such as Vitamins A and C, which are highly anti-aging, protect against free radicals, help improve skin tone, and have a wonderful brightening effect. If your skin is particularly parched or irritated, try using a skin serum with organic hemp CBD, which has additional anti-inflammatory benefits. As a general rule, apply water-based products first, followed by oils to seal them in.
4. Upgrade to a richer moisturizer or balm
Skin balms are all the rage, and for good reason. A richer moisturizer or balm during cold, dry weather can feel like a comforting blanket over the skin – helping to create a barrier of protection from the elements and seal in moisture. If you have particularly dry skin, look for the term “night cream” - these are often richer and more emollient in texture, and can be doubled up as a day cream during the winter for those that need the extra moisture.
5. Apply a hydrating mask
If winter weather leaves you wanting to hibernate, embrace it and enjoy some indoor self care rituals that will both sooth and hydrate the skin. A hydrating facial mask offers the skin a deeper drink of moisture, and can be a wonderful step directly after exfoliating when the skin is prepped and primed to soak up that moisture like a sponge. It may not be as good as a facial at your favorite spa, but you may be surprised how good your skin can look and feel after exfoliating and masking.
6. Use a humidifier and/or adopt a house plant
Have you ever travelled somewhere tropical and noticed how glowy and dewy your skin looks? This is because the humidity in the air is actually binding with your skin's own natural oils to keep things plump and hydrated. While indoor heat is an obvious blessing this time of year, it can also zap the moisture out of your skin like no one's business. A cool mist-style humidifier can do wonders for balancing ambient humidity levels, which in turn will help keep your skin from becoming parched. Give your bedroom a spa like atmosphere by using a humidifier along with an essential oil diffusor. You will wake up feeling and looking brand new. Living plants will also help restore humidity to the air, not to mention help purify toxins, deliver fresh oxygen, and add natural beauty to your space.
By following a few healthy lifestyle tips and adjusting your habits a bit, hydrated, glowing skin can be yours to experience all year round.
*Certain essential oils can act as a solvent, breaking down things like plastics, which can leach petrochemicals and toxins into your water. If adding essential oil to your water, make sure to use only glass.